Bert Prendergast

Right now I have the Dorne Cup sitting in the lounge room. It’s not in a prominent spot. It hasn’t been polished. It hasn’t yet been engraved to mark the winning teams in 2019 and 2022 (Scottish) (Note that WHAC is engraved for 2021). I did not contribute to winning the cup, but it’s in my lounge room anyway. One day if I get fit enough, there’s a chance I could be a part of a Dorne-winning team — I’m still optimistic enough that it might happen one year.

However, we have roughly 80 current members of our club that can never contribute towards winning the Dorne Cup, even if they all finished in the first 80 positions in the race.

The Dorne Cup and the Vosseler Shield are near-century-old trophies awarded to the winning men’s teams of the respectively named interclub cross-country races. The members of the winning women’s team at the Dorne each receive a certificate. The Vosseler Shield features an overall club award, and I’ll give a chocolate fish to anyone that can tell me what it’s called and who currently holds it without Googling first.

If you ask me, this is a fairly straightforward piece of marginalisation. The Dorne Cup and the Vosseler Shield are two races named after trophies that only people of one gender can win. Previously there’s been passionate debate regarding the distances that men and women race at these events, and I have opinions about that too. But I believe that this is the more urgent issue.

While Athletics New Zealand claims that its membership is 47% female, its registration figures show that males outnumber females in every age group, and it’s 2:1 in the seniors. I can’t see how you get 47% out of that, but I gave up on arithmetic long ago. When we encounter curiosities like this, it’s not hard to see how we get these kinds of membership figures in our sport.

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This stinks. A former boss of mine used to say, ‘problems down, solutions up’, so I have a solution that I think is straightforward and fun. The Dorne Cup and the Vosseler Shield should instead be awarded to the club with the best score across their top 4 finishers in each of the men’s and women’s races.

Under this new and cool criteria, we would have seen the 2022 Dorne Cup awarded to Wellington Scottish with 46 points over Wellington Harriers with 59. This is a smaller (and therefore more exciting) winning margin than the 28 vs 77 points that decided the senior men’s category and landed me with the Dorne Cup in the corner of my lounge room. If we go back through the last three Dorne Cup races, we similarly get the same winner each time, but by a smaller margin:

YearClubCombined Score (4 men + 4 women)Top 6 Men
Revised Dorne Cup results under the proposed scoring approach

For the Vosseler, we would have a change in the results. Using the combined score in 2021 would see the shield awarded to WHAC, on the back of their dominant women’s performance. Exciting!

YearClubCombined Score (4 men + 4 women)Top 6 Men
Revised Vosseler Shield results under the proposed scoring approach

There’d be increased interest in the men’s race from the women, and vice versa. It allows every club member to contribute towards winning the trophy that gives each race its name. It incentivises clubs to ensure they grow membership in the men’s and women’s sections. The benefits are guaranteed and huge, and I haven’t been able to identify any costs.

A bonus way to solve the ‘distance debate’ would be to allocate points across both the short and long-course options and tally up across all four races. This is admittedly more difficult to administer, but it would add a neat tactical element to the boring non-relay interclub races. Speaking of which, why not make the relays mixed-gender while we’re at it? The possibilities are endless.