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Profit for Highlanders

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Sportal.co.nz     25 Dec 2012     Getty Images

The profit of $71,000 for the year ending August 31 was an excellent outcome for the Highlanders who were in crisis, on and off the field, three seasons ago.

Chairman Ross Laidlaw attributed the improvement to big crowds at the new Dunedin Stadium and better results on the field.

The Highlanders averaged 17,000 for home games in their first year at the Forsyth Barr Stadium and, while they did not make the play-offs, they were in contention almost throughout.

Laidlaw said the small profit had been forecast. The Crusaders made a profit of $87,000 for the same period.

"The separation from the Otago Rugby Football Union in 2010 and the work done over the past two years by the board, staff, management and players have all contributed. We are now on track to deliver under our own independent business model.

"There is still a lot of hard work required but we believe the Highlanders have a sustainable business model out of Forsyth Barr Stadium."

Any thoughts of a profit seemed unlikely a few years ago.

The New Zealand Rugby Union were forced to underwrite the franchise in 2009 for the following two years as the Highlanders expenses far outweighed their revenue.

NZRFU chief executive Steve Tew said earlier this year they had pumped about $1 million into the Highlanders in those years.

The Highlanders are unlikely to seek private investment. The Hurricanes and Crusaders have both been awarded licences to private partners in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, several of the Highlanders are recovering from off-season operations are they break for Christmas.

Props Chris King (shoulder) and Ma'afu Fia (thumb), first five-eighth Lima Sopoaga (ankle) and flanker John Hardie (toe) have had surgery while wing Kade Poki has fractures in his spine and is on light duties.

Tasman prop Sam Prattley will reinforce the Highlanders when they re-assemble on January 7 while the All Blacks will link with the Highlanders on February 1.

The first pre-season game is against the Chiefs in Taupo on February 1 and the first Super 15 match is against the Chiefs in Dunedin on February 22.