Sakaio calls it quits
RUGBY league circles have been stunned by the sudden resignation of ARL Development Officer Jay Sakaio.
The highly-visible apostle of the sport over the past four years won’t be totally turning his back on football but will no longer be the first local contact.
“I’ve offered to remain involved on a casual basis as the last thing I want is to let slip all the hard work that’s gone on in recent years,” he said.
“Working with the Country Rugby League Academy players is still an option but with our kids growing up and work in my father-in-law’s pressure cleaning business booming, something had to give.”
While still a first-grader with Sawtell Panthers, Sakaio followed sister-in-law Cyndi Currie into the development hot seat.
He was no shrinking violet and where some previous holders of the position were accused of lack of aggression in the face of incursions by rival codes, Sakaio never feared speaking his mind.
It caused friction with authority figures but clawed back a great deal of lost ground and respect for the code at the grass roots level.
“Over the past couple of years we’ve managed to keep the game visible but things are still fragile and clubs can’t take their eye off the ball for a moment,” Sakaio said.
“I remember one club a few years ago patting themselves on the back for having 250 juniors and then losing 70 players over the next 12 months.
“The rise of AFL at junior level is relentless – it’s never going to go away – and nobody can sit back and think they are secure, anymore.”
Rumours abound the replacement officer will be a female appointee but whoever gets the nod, Sakaio maintains the new face must work over and above the requirements of the job description to have any chance of success.
“The terms of my job were mainly to take the game into schools,” he revealed.
“However, just as much effort went into supporting Graham Boland and the CRL staff dealing with club and Academy players.
“It’s possible the future commission will bring everything under one umbrella, which is the way I feel development has to go.”
As a sign of his effectiveness and ability to cut across boundaries, Sakaio was named ‘development officer of the year’ on the CRL’s influential Bush Telegraph website at the end of 2009.