A Hamilton Boys’ High School ID card appears to be a prerequisite for making the Waikato senior touch team. At the recent National Championships in Auckland 13 of the 16 squad members were from Hamilton Boys’ High School.
Raiki Willison was one of those boys and explains how such a lopsided selection occurred.
“The coach Mita Graham is a hostel master at school. He is also captain of the team and convinced lots of the boys to play.”
Graham’s faith in Hamilton is understandable given they are the present National Secondary Schools championships and have a decorated history in the code. Stepping up to open grade isn’t short of challenges though.
“There’s a big difference between school touch and men’s touch. Men’s touch is more intense and you fatigue quicker.” Willison explains.
Fatigue may have been an early issue in the round robin. Waikato was defeated by Auckland.
“We learned a lot form that loss. Some of our option taking wasn’t very good so we regrouped tighter. Willison says.
Both Waikato and Auckland topped the standings after Pool Play so had to play again. Waikato prevailed in that match to earn a straight passage to the final. Auckland was forced to play an additional fixture, but fought back to face Waikato in the final.
“We started shakily and fell behind by a couple of points. We fought back and got three points ahead. They came back again and with a minute to go it was 8-7 and we had the ball. We showed patience to keep possession and win a really good match.” Willison recalls.
Willison plays in the middle position which he describes as been like the “engine room” – defending strongly and coordinating plays. Willison has been a Waikato rep since the age of 10 and last year earned National honours representing New Zealand Under-18 in the Trans Tasman series against Australia.
In the winter Willison will be working hard to avoid becoming idle. Unfortunately the Condor Sevens winner from last year will miss the rugby season because he requires a shoulder reconstruction with surgery taking place in May. Raiki is the cousin of former Waikato and Maori All Black Jackson Willison who presently plays for Worcester in England.
Evidently Shauncy Waho (Year 13 at Te Awamutu College), Finlay Barnett (Year 13 at St Peter’s Cambridge) and Eugene Hepi (Senior) were the non Hamilton Boys’ players. Willison laughs “Hepi got no banter because he is too old.”
Waikato Senior Nationals Touch Results
Beat Counties Manukau 9-5
Beat Hawkes bay 12-6
Loss Auckland 9-7
Beat Bay of Plenty 10-9
Beat Auckland 9-7 (Major Semi Final)
Beat Auckland 8-7 (Grand Final)
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