New Canterbury Rugby League CEO Duane Fyfe has only had his feet under the desk for a week, but he has hit the ground running in his return to the organisation and is relishing again being involved with the game that he loves.

Fyfe was Canterbury Rugby League’s General Manager from 2005-08 after a year as CRL Coach and Development Officer, and his acceptance of the CEO role extends his long involvement in rugby league.

A player with famous Auckland club Te Atatu Roosters, Fyfe cut his teeth in administration as president and team manager of Burnham Chevaliers, has managed Canterbury 18s, Canterbury Bulls, NZ Army, Junior Kiwis and NZ Residents teams, and was the Whangarei-based GM of Rugby League Northland from early-2015 until early-2018.

“My wife and I moved back to Christchurch from Whangarei in March to be closer to our adult children after being away for seven years,” Fyfe explained.

“I accepted a role leading Touch Canterbury shortly after arriving back and was enjoying being in a different sport and working with a very good team of staff. But rugby league is my passion so after much thought I threw my hat in the ring (for the CRL role).

“The timing was also right to leave Touch given that it was the off-season and a replacement had been identified.”

With more than two decades in the New Zealand Army followed by leadership roles in the not-for-profit and business sectors, both as a volunteer and in a professional capacity, over the past 15 years, Fyfe is excited to be back with Canterbury Rugby League at such a crucial juncture.

“The staff at CRL are hard-working and committed to our game and I’m looking forward to working alongside them,” Fyfe said.

“I’ve gained a lot more experience in and out of the game since leaving Canterbury and hope to add value to our sporting community.

“When I previously worked for CRL we were based at Canterbury’s spiritual home, Rugby League Park. With a new location for rugby league earmarked at Nga Puna Wai there will be the challenge to embed it as our home and start a new chapter in our history. This will take time, of course.

“Meanwhile, the continual pursuit for growth in our playing numbers and developing team management and volunteers is an ongoing challenge for our game with a changing society.”

Fyfe’s role with Rugby League Northland provided him with a new perspective of how the game operates around New Zealand, gaining valuable insights and experience as he prepares to lead Canterbury Rugby League’s bold new era.

“Northland is in interesting rugby league region – whilst a small zone geographically, it has big problems.

“There are a lot of social issues because of the local economy there. For example, perhaps only two or three players per senior team were in employment, so a lot of our work was community-based.”

The successes and trials of his CRL GM stint and a year with his nose to the grassroots grindstone as Coach and Development Officer in Canterbury during a pivotal period for the game also affords him a solid base for taking over at the helm again.

It’s a time Fyfe remembers fondly.

“We experienced good player growth during those years off the back of a lot of hard work when every other district in the country saw a reduction in playing numbers,” he recalled.

“The season-long Bartercard Cup was good for the game and saw the Canterbury Bulls become the most recognised brand in domestic rugby league. After seven years the Bartercard Cup competition was close to becoming semi-professional before it was axed.”

Fyfe, who was recently appointed Patron of NZ Army Rugby League, praised the motivation and work ethic of the local clubs and their volunteers in enhancing and upgrading facilities amidst the hardships and heartache of Christchurch’s post-earthquake era.

“Having returned to Christchurch after seven years away I’ve noticed a big improvement in the development of club facilities in the league community.

“The Hornby and Papanui clubrooms enhancements, and of course the rebuild of Northern Bulldogs’ clubrooms, is really impressive. New changing-room facilities about to be built at the Riccarton Knights and sand-stripped fields at Wainoni Park and Leslie Park will also be great for the game.

“You wouldn’t find another city in New Zealand where clubs have seen as much development in these areas – it’s a credit to the hardworking volunteers.”

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