Michael Collins to take up Chiefs CEO position 16 November 2017

Michael Collins has made the “incredibly difficult decision” to resign as Taranaki Rugby chief executive and take up the equivalent role with the Chiefs Super Rugby franchise.

Collins, 43, who has been Taranaki Rugby CEO for the past four years, will leave Taranaki Rugby on 15 December and begin his new position, based in Hamilton, on 18 December. He replaces former Chiefs Rugby chief executive Andrew Flexman, who left in September.

“It was an incredibly difficult decision to resign from the TRFU,” Collins said. “The connections that I have developed with the Taranaki Rugby staff, board, players and wider community really challenged my decision-making. However, the Chiefs CEO role is an exciting opportunity, and is too good to turn down.”

Collins joined Taranaki Rugby in 2008 as the union’s rugby development manager and was also the national provincial championship team’s scrum coach for several seasons.

In 2013 he was appointed Taranaki Rugby chief executive and has overseen success both on the field and off it, including the 2014 provincial championship victory, the 2017 Ranfurly Shield victory, regular semifinal appearances, the growth of the Taranaki Rugby Academy and women’s rugby in Taranaki, and the recruitment, development and retention of players who have gone on to play Super Rugby and represent the All Blacks, Maori All Blacks, New Zealand sevens and age-group national teams.

During his tenure, Taranaki Rugby took up an opportunity to invest in the Chiefs franchise, and through that agreement has hosted regular Super Rugby matches at Yarrow Stadium. Earlier this year, the All Blacks played a Rugby Championship test against Argentina at Yarrow Stadium – the first All Blacks test to be held in New Plymouth since 2013 – following a successful bid in 2015.  

Financially, Taranaki Rugby has been profitable throughout Collins’ tenure as chief executive, with funds generated allowing the union to invest in community rugby and continue to grow the game in Taranaki.

“It has been a privilege to work across a number of roles at Taranaki Rugby over the past nine years and rewarding to work with distinguished servants of the game in Taranaki, such as TRFU chairman Lindsay Thomson, Peter Crawford, Mark Robinson, Basil Chamberlain and the late Craig Norgate, plus legendary players such as the late Peter Burke, Ian “Legs” Eliason, Neil Wolfe, Michael “Joe” Carey, Craig Clarke and Kane Barrett,” Collins said.

“I believe that rugby in Taranaki will go from strength to strength. There are good people operating at every level of the game in Taranaki, from junior rugby to the Port Taranaki Bulls. The TRFU staff are an incredibly talented and hard working group of people, our clubs are driven by dedicated passionate people and our sponsors care a great deal about the success of the sport in Taranaki.

“I will truly miss the organisation and the people,” Collins said.

Taranaki Rugby chairman Lindsay Thomson said Collins had been a fantastic CEO and it was disappointing to lose such a high-calibre professional.

“Mike has done an exceptional job for Taranaki Rugby, becoming a proven and well-respected business leader during his four years as CEO,” Thomson said. “We are very disappointed to lose him, but part of Taranaki Rugby’s mantra is to grow people and we knew that with Mike’s expertise and ability he would be on the radar of other organisations.

“He has led Taranaki Rugby through a period of unprecedented success, which is a reflection of the great work he did resourcing the Port Taranaki Bulls, resourcing and growing the academy, managing staff and being visible around our club rugby competition.

“He will be greatly missed by Taranaki Rugby and the community, and leaves Taranaki Rugby in great shape for his successor. I have no doubt he will be highly successful in a new challenging role with the Chiefs, and we wish Mike, wife Sarah, and the family all the best for the future,” he said.

Collins has a close association with Waikato and the Chiefs, having studied at Waikato University before chalking up 73 appearances for the Waikato national provincial championship team and 81 for the Chiefs, including captaining the Super Rugby side in 1999.

His move continues Taranaki Rugby’s strong connection with the Chiefs. Colin Cooper ended his successful tenure with the Port Taranaki Bulls this year to become the Chiefs’ head coach from next season, while former Port Taranaki Bulls manager Nikita Hall is now the Chiefs’ manager. In addition, eight Port Taranaki Bulls players have been included in the Chiefs squad for the 2018 Super Rugby season.

Thomson said Taranaki Rugby expected to appoint a new chief executive by Christmas.

“As one of the best performing provincial unions in New Zealand, both on the field and off it, we would expect to attract a number of high-quality candidates for the role,” Thomson said.