College Sport Media is dedicated to telling the story of successful young sportspeople in New Zealand
Ryan Wood’s tearing up the track both in New Zealand and overseas.
The Hutt International Boys’ School student and Wellington KartSport racer recently defended his National Vortex Mini ROK class Schools' title in Dunedin, was competing in Melbourne last weekend, will be in Auckland this coming weekend and in October will be heading to Italy for the second consecutive year to represent New Zealand. College Sport Media caught up with Ryan about his exciting life on and off the track.
You recently travelled to Melbourne to race over there – please tell us about that race meeting and who your competitors were?
We raced at the Melbourne State titles on the Todd Road circuit, which is a big fast flowing track, unlike anything we race on in NZ. There were 25 in the field from all over Australia, I was the only international driver in my class, and the calibre of drivers was extremely high, with several of my fellow competitors being multiple state and Australian championship title holders.
How did you go in Melbourne?
It was a challenging but rewarding experience, unfortunately we were unable to practice on the track, I was in a different kart chassis, running on a harder tyre compound and smaller tyre size than what we run in NZ so the kart handled differently to what I was used to, but with great support from Tony Kart Australia, dad, and my mechanics Tony Chambers and Maurice Frost, we were able to make gains all day. From 12th in the timed practice session we went on and qualified in 6th place, finished 6th, 5th and 1st in the heats. I started the pre-final on pole, the crew tried a few tweaks before the final but they did not pay off resulting in a 3rd place finish in the pre-final then coming home in the final with a third place finish.
Please explain how you got to go to Melbourne and what series or events have you been racing in locally and in New Zealand?
I won the Bayleys WPKA Goldstar series which is a regional series, and Supreme Kart Supplies in New Plymouth sponsored the prize of a drive in Australia. In July I raced in Dunedin and successfully defended my National Schools’ title and this weekend I will be in Auckland competing in the Pro Kart series.
What class of Karting are you in and what are your goals?
I am currently in the Vortex Mini ROK class, my short term goal is to win the Pro Kart series title (which I am currently leading with two rounds to go). In December I will move up to the Junior Rotax class, which is a considerable jump in horsepower and I can’t wait! Medium term - I have been invited to compete in the Rotax challenge series in Australia next year and due to my National schools win I have the opportunity to represent NZ at the ROK Cup International final in Italy next October.
How did you get involved in karting and how old were you when you first started racing?
I loved going to the indoor go karts with Dad, one weekend we went to our local track at Kaitoke to watch a friend race and that was it I was hooked. I started when I was seven and have not looked back.
How much time does it take up; are you racing locally or nationally or training every weekend?
Because I am passionate and committed to karting, I am on a track most weekends, I also compete in an indoor karting league every second Wednesday and then I have strength and general fitness training on top.
Do you or have you played other sports?
I have always been keen on anything sports orientated. I have played club rugby which I really enjoyed, but my passion is karting so it is hard to commit to a team sport at this time when I am away most weekends.
How do you juggle school and your sport? Is there much overlap, or do you envisage there will be in the future?
It is hard to juggle at times, we try to limit days off, some times of the year are busier than others, like any sport when you are at the elite level there is a big time commitment required. HIBS have been really supportive and I am extremely thankful.
Are you the only HIBS student involved in your sport, or are there others? Do you have rival competitors in Wellington and nationally?
There are five students at HIBS that are also involved with karting, since I started karting I have raced with Ethan Donahue, and it has been good to move through the ranks with him and be able to share the successes and also the hard luck stories.
In Year 11 Jack Henry-Sinclair played basketball, volleyball, squash, water polo and was the leading goal-scorer for the Palmerston North Boys’ High School First XI football team.
He earned selection for the New Zealand Secondary Schools under-15 team that toured Malaysia.
Palmerston North is an accomplished football school. They have won the National title three times, most recently in 2010.
Surprisingly Henry-Sinclair left for Auckland Grammar School in 2014.
“I wanted to play First XI at a higher level against schoolboys”, he explains.
“In Palmerston North we played in the men’s grade. The players are physically stronger, but they aren’t as good technically as the boys in Auckland.”
Henry-Sinclair admits it was tough to leave behind his family and a girlfriend (which he still has), but the decision has paid off.
Henry-Sinclair will captain the New Zealand Under-17 team at the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in Chile.
New Zealand is drawn in Group F against France, Syria and Paraguay. All three group games will take place at the Estadio Chinquihue in Puerto Montt as the New Zealand side open their tournament against France on October 20 (NZ time) before meeting Syria on October 23 and Paraguay on October 26.
“It’s a tough group,” Henry-Sinclair admits.
“France are one of the favourites having come through the tough European qualifying zone, the African’s are unpredictable and Paraguay will be tough.”
New Zealand have had a tough path to the tourney. Coaches Jose Figueira and assistant coach, Paul Temple, were replaced suddenly by a pair of former All Whites captains in Danny Hay and Chris Zoricich.
In May New Zealand travelled to Qatar under-prepared for the Aspire Tri-Series. They were defeated by Qatar (0-1) and Croatia (1-4). Henry-Sinclair says Qatar was an interesting experience.
“It was very different to anything I have experienced before. The weather was extremely hot. In one game it was 48 degrees. There were cops with guns in the streets, but the facilities were outstanding.”
In January New Zealand won the Oceania qualifying tournament in the Cook Islands. Henry-Sinclair was injured in the final and had to leave the field in the tenth minute. New Zealand prevailed on penalties in oppressively hot conditions.
“We have had a tough build up, but that has brought the boys closer together. We have been working hard and I am confident we will perform will in Chile,” Henry-Sinclair insists.
Meanwhile the Auckland Grammar First XI is third in the Premiership with three rounds remaining. They have a Knockout Cup semi-final against Kelston Boys’ High School on Wednesday and have qualified for the Nationals.
“I think we have a chance of winning the Knockout Cup and Nationals, but it’s not looking good in the Premiership. We are six points behind Sacred Heart,” Henry-Sinclair says.
Henry-Sinclair plays senior football as well as school and rep football. Despite his busy he has passed all his major school exams and has an open mind about his plans in 2016.
At Scots College the prefects wear different socks to the other students. At the beginning of each year the prefects fittings are done by one of the mothers in the Pipeband.
This is usually a seamless process, but in 2015 there was a very big problem - Alex Fidow!
The following email was sent to the Headmasters office:
"We have a problem with one of the boys - Mr Fidow – his legs are way too big for any socks in the uniform shop. His calves are 52cm by 20 inches. I have walked to each menswear shop in town – no joy."
"Knitting looks like the only option. Around six balls of sock yarn would be required, maybe seven."
Fidow complains, "my socks still don't fit."
Fidow is 137kg. Last year he was selected for the New Zealand Secondary Schools rugby team and this year he was a member of the Hurricanes Under-18 squad that boasted a heaver forward pack than the All Blacks.
Fidow has been nicknamed Gloria (the hippopotamus in the cartoon Madagascar) by some boys in the Scots prep school.
Remarkably the free-running prop has scored 44 tries in 55 games for the First XV - including 17 tries in 17 games in 2015.
This has attracted the attention of the television show The Crowd Goes Wild. Fidow is big time at Scots, but the prefect is reserved and softly spoken.
"My favourite tries are the team tries, the ones of the maul," Fidow says when quizzed about his most memorable five-pointer.
Scots have scored plenty of tries in recent times. They have only lost once in their last 31 games and have been unbeaten in their last 24 games in New Zealand. They are 17-1 this season with their only loss happening at the Sanix World Youth tournament in Japan.
This Sunday at Porirua Park the National Top Four Champions will attempt to defend their Premier One Wellington title against St. Pats Town.
"It's going to be a tough game," Fidow says.
"If we play to our strengths I think we can win."
Fidow says strong set-pieces and getting lots of ball to the potent Umaga-Jensen twins are Scots strengths.
Fidow made his debut for the First XV in 2011, the year Scots made the Premier One semi-finals for the first time. Is Fidow surprised by the rapid progress the team has made.
"It's been really good, but it shows what can be achieved through hard work."
Scots have been well-served by quality coaching. Former Samoan international and Wellington Lions head Earl Va'a took the time last year. In 2015 he has been replaced by Filo Tiatia. What has the former All Black brought to the table?
"Filo has brought a slightly different perspective. We are better defensively, but we still like to attack lots," Fidow says.
The last side to successfully defend Premier One was Wellington College in 2009, the last year the top-ranked school in the round-robin won the decider.
The Premier One final kicks off at 2:15pm at Porirua Park.
If the Christchurch Boys’ High School First XV goes on to win this year’s UC Championship, it may not be the first team in their school to win some major silverware this year.
After taking on and beating top-qualifiers Lincoln University in last weekend’s semi-final, the CBHS Second XV is playing in the Canterbury senior club rugby Metro Colts Trophy final on Saturday - against the unbeaten Glenmark club Colts side.
Fielding a team of mostly Year 12s and some Year 13s, the CBHS Second XV has more than held its own this season, playing against older and bigger opposition week in-week out. The Metro Colts competition is the second tier U21s competition, but Colts rugby in Canterbury is recognised as being one of the strongest in the country. CBHS is the only secondary school team playing in CRFU senior club competitions.
“We beat Lincoln University 6-0 last week by scoring two penalties in the first 15 minutes,” said head coach Paul Stewart. “The week before we lost to Glenmark 5-0, conceding a try at the end, and the week before we beat Christchurch 9-6.”
As these results suggest, there’s a fair bit of commitment and team spirit going on.
Team spokesman and blindside flanker, Year 13 student Jack Owen, put it down to “hard work” and “guts.”
“We have a really good culture in our team, everybody gets along. We have got a great manager, Keith Laidlaw, who is really organised and it sets the tone for us,” Jack explained.
“The last couple of weeks we’ve come on a lot. The teams we play are always bigger than us and mostly three and four years older than us, so it’s just gutsy defence on our behalf that’s seen us through. We have got to be smarter than these teams we are playing.
“We don’t have any big names; we just have a lot of guys who are playing for each other.”
The First and Second XVs are tightknit said Jack. “We are closely linked and last week they had a bye so they came out and watched our semi-final. There’s always players going up and down and we train as one squad on Wednesdays.”
Glenmark haven’t lost a game this season, so what’s it going to take to beat them on Saturday?
“We’ve played them twice this season, the first time we went all the way up to Cheviot and we were understrength and they put 20 points on us.
“They beat us 5-0 recently. It was 0-0 the whole game but they scored in the last few minutes. We could’ve snatched it right at the end though, so we are up for it this weekend and we can beat them if we really work at it.”
Earlier in the season the CBHS also had a memorable win over the Otago Boys’ High School Second XV, which plays in the Highlanders First XV competition. Down 24-27 in the shadows of fulltime, CBHS were awarded a penalty. Instead of kicking a penalty to force a draw they opted for a lineout in the corner and were rewarded with the winning try and a 29-27 win.
“That Otago game was a massive game, and was a turning point in our season,” said Jack. “We went down there and snatched that game at the end. Like our local opposition, they were bigger than us but we stuck to our game.”
Jack said the team is looking forward to having plenty of support for the final against Glenmark. “All the boys from school have been saying they are going to come up, including the Third XV guys who have a bye this weekend. The headmaster has been watching us for the last couple of weeks and he’s really getting in behind us.”
“For me and most of the other Year 13s in the team, this match on Saturday is pretty much as big as it gets.”
CBHS made last weekend’s semi-finals after finishing fourth of 10 teams in the initial round-robin competition. From there the competition was split into two sections that were grouped on first round seedings and the CBHS team finished second to qualify for the top four.
The team heads into this weekend’s final with a record of 10 wins and five losses in 15 games. They have scored 275 points and conceded 190. Jack McLeod is the leading points scorer with 58 and Alex Buk has scored the most tries with six.
The 2015 CBHS Second XV squad is:
Bill Le - Pine
Harry Brown (C)
Brad Wang ( VC )
Paul Stewart - Head Coach
Nick Percy - Backs Coach
Nick Milne - Forwards Coach
Keith Laidlaw - Manager
Tom Caulder – Assistant Manager
College Sport Media is dedicated to telling the story of successful young sportspeople in New Zealand