Christchurch Boys’ High School have defied the conditions to thrash Christ's College 31-13 in the 145th annual traditional fixture at Straven Road this afternoon.
In front of a packed and rowdy home crowd, Christchurch would have been anxious at halftime turning against the stiff breeze with a slender 10-6 lead.
However a try to hooker Clayden Paranihi, from a quick tap in the 50th minute, stretched the hosts lead to a telling 22-13 as Christ’s wilted against an opposition boasting a more hungry pack and potent backline.
Christ’s enjoyed two thirds of possession and territory in the first-half, but fell behind 10-0 after 18 minutes.
In the 12th minute Christchurch first-five Ollie Lewis opened the scoring with a 45-metre angled penalty before No.8 Cam Henderson latched onto the back of an unstoppable lineout drive to claim the first try.
Christ’s were patient with the ball, but lacked the punch of the hosts. The visitors were able to punish ill-discipline though with Shun Miyake slotting two penalties before the interval. His second effort was a tough success from 35-metres out. Miyake scored 258 points last season.
Christchurch anchored themselves in the Christ’s 22 to begin the second-half and 11 phases of attrition and precision saw lock Jammie Hannah rewarded.
Down 17-6, Christ’s salvaged the kickoff and a long riposte concluded with openside Mitchell Cox entering the scorebook. Miyake’s conversion sliced the deficit to 17-13.
Much of Christ's play was hampered by panic and inaccuracy. By contrast the Christchurch backs became gradually more elusive. Second-five Keegan McGregor was especially threatening and tighthead Ben Lopas was a destructive battering ram.
The quick thinking Paranihi propelled Christchurch to a 24-13 lead at which point Christ’s resistance considerably weakened. Christchurch centre Callum Simpson applied the exclamation mark with five minutes to spare regaining his own chip and chase.
In addition to McGregor and Lopas, Lewis was faultless of the tee and grew in stature. Paranihi produced a strong shift and lock Fabian Holland was a workhorse.
Christ’s best were captain and lock Zach Gallagher. loosehead Liam Pratt and No.8 Fletcher Anderson.
Christchurch have won 17 of the past 18 matches against Christ’s and 92 of the 145 total games. Christchurch improves to 4-1 in the UC Championship.
In other traditional matches Hamilton Boys’ High School defeated Auckland Grammar School 19-17. New Plymouth Boys’ High School thrashed St Patrick’s College, Silverstream 35-8 and Nelson College trounced Marlborough Boys’ College 48-14 to achieve their fourth win in five UC Championship games.
Above: The Crusaders Region First XV points table after today's games in Christchurch and Nelson.
For more visit www.collegerugby.co.nz
New Plymouth Boys' High School has gained a spot in the national knock-out competition with a win over cross-town rivals Francis Douglas Memorial College 21-15 this afternoon.
The victory also locks away the Carroll-George Trophy for another year and continues the bragging rights between the two Taranaki schools.
Played in front of a packed Gully, tensions were high as Boys High formed a huddle after their haka that gave Francis Douglas no opposition during their challenge.
However, Francis Douglas opened the scoring early as first five-eighth Eli Kneepkens slotted a penalty kick from right out in front.
Francis Douglas maintained the pressure as Kneepkens scored himself and slotted the subsequent conversion to lead 10-0.
Boys High got back into Francis Douglas’ half with fullback Mason Milham, who was promising all day, scored a try in the corner as the defence opened up.
First five-eighth Jack Parker was in fine form as he slotted the first of three conversions, from wide out.
With a 10-7 lead at the break, Francis Douglas didn’t appear to be switched on in the opening minutes of the second spell. Parker stabbed a beautifully weighted kick behind the Francis Douglas defence that allowed wing Jone Rova to score.
After a solid build up by Francis Douglas and some missed opportunities, hooker Mathew Picard picked up a loose ball and scored for the visitors to take the lead. Kneepkens missed the conversion.
Boys High then scored with 10 minutes remaining as loose forward George Birkett slid over the line.
When time was up Francis Douglas attempted to win the game adding pressure deep in Boys High’s half, but that wasn’t enough as the home team won a turnover and kicked the ball into touch.
Francis Douglas, who beat Palmerston North Boys' High School last week, would have been disappointed with their set piece that turned over quality ball at crucial times. However, fullback Jeremy Gopperth kicked well in general play and showed his speed.
Along with Milham, William Guthrie was strong in the midfield and carried hard throughout the match.
New Plymouth Boys High School: 21 (Milham, Rova, Birkett tries; Parker 3 con)
Francis Douglas Memorial College: 15 (Kneepkens, Picard tries; Kneepkens one pen, one con)
Mid-table has an all too familiar ring to it for Whanganui Collegiate School rugby supporters.
The First XV has had five consecutive sixth placed finishes in the Central North Island (CNI) competition, but there are promising signs that the school can improve this year and push for a top finish in the competition that kicks off in just under a fortnight.
Last year Whanganui Collegiate made the final of the Quadrangular Tournament for the first time since 2004, beating Nelson College 19-13 – which was their first win in 22 matches at the quad stretching back to 2006.
Last week Whanganui Collegiate broke another duck stretching back to 2004 – beating New Plymouth Boys’ High School. At the famous Gully ground no less.
New Whanganui Collegiate First XV Head Coach Steve Steve Simpson was pleased with the school’s 32-26 win.
“We scored six tries to their four and we only managed one conversion, so it could have been more if our kickers had been on form,” said Simpson.
New Plymouth started the match with a try in the second minute, but Whanganui bounced back with three first half tries to lead 15-7 at the break.
The second half was tit for tat and a New Plymouth try with 15 minutes to play had Whanganui head 22-21. Whanganui’s Harry Godfrey latched on a loose ball and ran 50 metres to score to make it 27-21.
Now inside the last 5 minutes, New Plymouth scored again to cut Whanganui’s lead to 27-26, before Whanganui No. 8 Semi Vodoese drew in several defenders in a powerful burst before offloading to Joe Abernathy who ran hard for the corner and passed inside to the supporting Beau Hourigan who scored the match-clincher.
This win came off the back of a recent tour to Sydney.
“We had four matches in Sydney and we won three of them,” said Simpson.
“We played games against Newington College, Saint Ignatius' College, Riverview, Trinity Grammar School and Waverley College.
“The team we lost to was Waverley College, who was Australia’s representative at the recent Sanix World Schools tournament in Japan. They made the semi-final.”
Last year’s Top 4 champions St Peter’s College, finished runners-up to South Africa’s Paul Roos at the same tournament.
Simpson has taken over coaching the team this year with Mark Godfrey, after the pair had coached the school’s U15s for the past two seasons.
Previously, he was at Francis Douglas Memorial College for nine years up to 2013 before a three-year stint working and coaching in England.
So the recent win at the Gully carried extra meaning for Simpson.
“I had a win for Francis Douglas at the Gully when the match was on Sky Sport in 2012 – so for me it was great going back with another team and winning again.”
New Plymouth Boys’ High School play in the strong Super 8 competition, which kicks off later this month.
Whilst at Francis Douglas, Simpson coached some well-known players.
“I coached all five of the Barretts. When we flew to Sydney recently I bumped into Jordie and Beaudy and Du Plessis Kirifi and Ricky Riccitelli at the airport. They had just flown up from Dunedin from playing the Highlanders and we were heading over to Australia.”
In the first year of CNI, Francis Douglas were second to Lindisfarne College and in 2013 they won it, beating St Paul’s Collegiate in the final.
This year, Whanganui Collegiate have two scheduled pre-season traditionals against Te Aute and Hato Paroa Colleges over the next two Wednesdays (although at the time of publishing this the Te Aute College match is likely to match to be re-scheduled following a death in the Te Aute rugby community) before opening their CNI campaign away against Wesley College on Saturday 18 May. Wesley joined CNI in 2016 and as yet Whanganui hasn’t beaten them.
Some other CNI matches double as traditional fixtures – including against Francis Douglas on Queen’s Birthday Weekend in New Plymouth - while they will be heading to Wellington College from 1-3 July to play in the 93rd annual Quadrangular Tournament.
Whanganui Collegiate will be playing the host school in the first match, while Christ’s College and Nelson College will meet in the other on the opening day. Whanganui haven’t won Quad since 1991.
Simpson said that the Whanganui squad is well-balanced this year, with nine players returning from 2018.
“We have got a good forward pack and some exciting backs, so we feel we have got potential in our squad. Against New Plymouth, we scored six tries and I took Francis Douglas to the Gully a few times and we never scored that many.”
Blindside flanker Henry Kilmister returns to captain the team, while returning hooker Ben Strang is the vice-captain and No. 8 Semi Vodosese offers punch in the forwards.
Second five-eighth Ta Atawhai Mason and fullback Beau Hourigan, who scored two tries against New Plymouth, are two backs to look out for.
Many of the players have come off a cricket season with the Wanganui Collegiate First XI, while one is a Maadi Cup rower and others have been involved in the school’s strong athletics programme in recent years.
Ben Strang (V Capt.)
Henry Kilmister (Capt.)
Te Ana Profitt
Te Atawhai Mason
Are there some changes ahead for First XV rugby?
College Sport Media has obtained an email from Steve Lancaster, NZR’s head of participation and development, that outlines a tightening up of age and eligibility rules.
At the heart of the matter is that in NZR’s view, all open-age college competitions across the country
are classified as Under 19 competitions, mostly due to the fact that players who are already 18 as of
1 January are eligible to take part. While this is reasonable, other NZR rules then prevent Under 16
(or Year 10) players from playing in those same competitions.
To get around that, some unions and competition organisers have classified their competitions as
U18, with dispensations for players already 18 years old. However NZR’s directive would appear to
put an end to that.
The rationale for these rules are sensible. In an age where player safety is becoming an increasing
focus, addressing the physical and mental disparities that exist between developing and developed
bodies is at the forefront of that. Differences in size, like between props and locks, and half and
fullbacks, is an accepted part of the game but NZR’s view is that older players are better equipped to
deal with those rather than a situation of a 19-year-old prop versus a 15-year-old halfback.
While this is unlikely to have an effect in the major First XV competitions, an outright ban on players
who aren’t 16 when the school year starts could have dire consequences for the large number of
schools up and down the country that struggle to put out a First or Second XV each week.
When participation numbers are falling that could be a further death knell for the game in some areas.
Fortunately, with the college season almost underway, NZR have for this year decided to enforce an
interim solution requiring players already 18 to obtain a dispensation to play while they investigate
options for future years. But it seems likely that changes will be in place for 2020. Whether those are
enforcement of the current rules – e.g. Under 16s cannot play – or dispensations required for those
older than the norm for school will have to be seen.
CSM’s view is that all players should have five years of school eligibility, and those returning for a
sixth year (so-called year 14) should really be playing rugby at club level. That would take care of the issue in the main part, but whether its an option is over to NZR to consider.
Dreams of wearing the black jersey are a lot closer to becoming a reality for Wellington’s 18-year-old Dhys Faleafaga (St Mary's College, 2018), who has today been confirmed as a contracted member of the Black Ferns Sevens squad for the remainder of 2019.
Following in the footsteps of her older sister Lyric, who was in the team in 2017/18, Dhys joins the Black Ferns Sevens on the back of impressive outings for the national development team over the past two months.
Her inclusion bolsters the squad that is managing a number of injuries mid-way through their 2018/19 season.
Faleafaga said joining the Black Ferns Sevens has been a dream come true.
“I still find it a bit overwhelming; these are players that I have looked up to and now I am training alongside them.
“I didn’t realise how much there was to learn as a professional athlete. At the moment I just want to soak up everything and work towards making my debut,” said Faleafaga.
Faleafaga was one of 28 players who were the first to ever earn Black Ferns contracts, while still at school. Although still uncapped for the Black Ferns 15s team, her impressive history included taking St Mary’s College to a first ever national 1st XV title, and debuting for the Wellington Pride in the Farah Palmer Cup.
High Performance Sevens Manager Tony Philp said being able to bring in a player with Dhys’ potential was a great opportunity to create further depth in the programme.
“Dhys has been identified as having a big future in the game and has been involved in both the Black Ferns and Black Ferns Sevens environments.
“Bringing her in fulltime into the Black Ferns Sevens squad will expose her to the professional side of the game and give her access to the best coaching and conditioning as she develops her game.”
Faleafaga’s elevation is the latest in a number of players who have graduated from the development programme to the full Black Ferns Sevens squad.
“We can’t stress enough how important our development programmes are in identifying and nurturing talent. Dhys is the perfect example of a player that has stepped up from provincial sevens into the development programme and showed she has the ability to take that next step.
“It’s also another example of how the Black Ferns and Black Ferns Sevens programmes can work together as we develop our players across both formats,” said Philp.
Faleafaga joins the 20 fully contracted Black Ferns Sevens players that are based in Mt Maunganui. She is one of four players in the squad that finished school in 2018.
The unusual nature of St Peter’s season was best exemplified by an absurd incident en route to the National Top Four in Palmerston North. Niko Jones captures the drama.
“We pulled up on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere because there was snow on the ground. Most of us Polynesians have never seen snow before so we rushed off the bus in bare feet and started a snow fight. We were giggling like schools girls. It was the funniest thing.”
St Peter’s was a team with a habit of defying conventions and Top Four weekend was no exception.
“That was honestly one the best weeks I’ve had. I remember meeting the boys from Rangiora on Saturday, most of whom were Pakeha. When our Poly boys started singing they all joined in. They were really gracious and cool,” Jones enthused.
Song, brotherhood and what Jones called “street rugby” are distinguishing features of St Peter’s triumph.
“We weren’t a picture prefect team. We had guys who would turn up late, would fall behind the eight ball during games, but we had a lot of raw talent and a licence to express ourselves. When we got on a roll it was a lot of fun,” Jones explains.
At times Jones appeared to be picture perfect talent. The inspirational skipper was the only member of the team selected for the New Zealand Schools’ - starting in the 26-12 win against Australia in Brisbane. However, Jones was plagued by an ankle complaint throughout much of the year and admits he often leaned on others for support.
“The senior leadership group were all experienced players and the first guys I’d approach if I had a problem, but everyone was a leader at some point. Semisi Tapa was a big talker while guys like Zyon and Chris led by example with their actions.”
Jones personal philosophy to captaincy is simple.
“I try to lead by example in all facets. I like to get involved with the ball in hand and try and use my speed and power to carry effectively. I try to inspire with both my actions and words.”
Jones said clarity and confidence combined with an innate trust in one another proved to be a formidable combination.
“I’ve played with most of these boys since Year 7. I think that made a big difference in the tight games. We enjoyed a strong brotherhood and though we weren’t always professional we had a lot of faith in each other.”
The faith of the team was most tested during defeat. Heading into the 1A semi-finals, St Peter’s hadn’t beaten the three sides above them.
“I knew we had the ability to do great things, but we had to get meaner. Our mantra was to attack and defend like wolves and we weren’t doing that,” Jones reflects.
“After we lost to King’s we beat Auckland Grammar which is huge for us. The first time we played St Kent’s I thought we played alright, but a few things went against us. We were the better team against Sacred Heart, but let that one slip.”
After the near stumble against Westlake in the Blues Regional Final, Jones said St Peter’s was at their resolute best against Hamilton Boys’ in the Top Four semi-final.
“The Hamilton game was our best performance of the season. When you look at schoolboy rugby in the last decade Hamilton has been the benchmark, consistently the most successful team. We were really hard-nosed on defence and managed to win the physical battle.”
“The wind was unbelievable. AJ and Sam controlled things really well given the conditions.”
Conditions appeared to be stacked against St Peter’s in the final, but Jones was reassuringly calm at halftime.
“We talked about having fun. It was more serious than that, but we knew if we could get the rub of the green and get on a roll that things could turn and they did which was awesome.”
Jones second half try collecting a lineout fumble at halfway and striding clear provided the Saints with a lead they never lost.
“It happened very quickly. I got the ball from the lineout and instinct took over. I beat a few playing with an instinctive fend. It was only when I was clear I realised I still had a long way to go,” Jones laughed.
Dave Thomas was in awe of what he witnessed.
“I’ve never seen anyone single-handedly dominate a game like Niko did in the Top Four final. There’s always been a lot of pressure on Niko because he’s the son of the great Sir Michael Jones. Last season Niko Jones established himself as Niko Jones. He was always respectful, positive, calm and energetic.”
Typically Jones would expend his energy on a Sunday at church where he is actively involved in his Kelston community parish.
“I try and help out as much as I can. I teach at Sunday school, help set up, help tidy up. I do anything I can to contribute.”
After being crowned national champions church was out on September 9, but some churchly restraint remained. There were no snowy shenanigans on the way home.
“It was one of the quieter rides of the season actually,” Jones confirmed.
“It was surreal in that there was a huge sense of relief the job was done. Sure there was jumping and singing, but I think the guys were just happy in a more reflective way than usual.”
St Peter’s arrived back to Auckland at 2am Monday morning. A few hours later Niko sat a Cambridge exam. He is presently in Tauranga with the New Zealand Sevens program.
St Peter's College will soon head to Japan to represent New Zealand at the Sanix World Rugby Youth Invitational tournament. College Sport Media has helped the school produce a book documenting their extraordinary season which can be purchased by following this link. The book features match reports, stats and profiles with the team:
Milly Mackey is year 13 at Newlands College, but about to start to second year of club rugby in the Wellington Women’s competition.
Milly is one of two current schoolgirls in this year’s Wellington Rugby High Performance Academy, also joining Wellington’s contracted Black Ferns including former Newlands College srudent Marcelle Parkes.
Here is some more about her and her rugby career to date below.
Tell us about your rugby journey so far?
My rugby began at age five when I started playing rippa rugby. I then progressed through the grades to tackle.
I started off as an openside flanker, which I enjoyed because of I always got to be involved in the game on both attack and defence. I Played all my junior rugby for the Wellington Axemen, except for my last year which I played for Johnsonville due to the Axemen not having an U13 team. In U13’s I made the Western Bays team as an openside flanker (boys and girls, although there were only two girls in our team and one other from the other two teams Hutt and town) which I was co-captain of.
In year 9 I made the positional switch to halfback due to my size (or lack of). I was young enough to be able to play my U13 year of rugby whilst I was in year 9. In year 10 we managed to get a combined Newlands-Onslow college team which I played for. Unfortunately we didn’t have numbers the next year when I was in year 11 so instead I was able to play for Tala Misky at Wellington East Girls’ College. Last year in year 12 I played my first year of club rugby for Paremata-Plimmerton.
What position are you now and what strengths and weakness do you bring to the game?
I’m a halfback. Strengths would be my passing of both hands for my age, box kick, game understanding and ability to get around the paddock. weaknesses is my strength which I am working on in the Academy.
What have been the biggest highlights playing rugby?
The people I’ve met along the way. Making my debut last year at regionals and nationals the Wellington Women's 7’s team (pride 7’s) and my first year of women's club rugby (which was last year)
Have you had injury setbacks?
If so when, where and how? I’ve had a couple niggles here and there but thankfully nothing that’s kept me on the sidelines for more than a game or two.
When do you train with the Academy? Who do you train with and what’s involved?
At the moment for the women’s academy we train 4 mornings a week, which consist of two strength trainings and 2 conditioning and skill trainings. The women’s academy is currently made up of 14 players which involves Black Fern’s 15’s players, Black Fern’s 15’s wider training group members, Black Fern’s 7’s development players and two college girls Harmony Ioane and myself.
You’ve just moved from Paremata-Plimmerton to Petone for your club rugby? What are your expectations for their season and who are the leading players?
This season I have made the move to Petone so that I could learn more from the players around me. Being able to play at halfback between Jackie Patea-Fereti at No. 8 and Acacia Te Iwimate at 10, will enable me to learn and develop as it will be like having two coaches with me on the field when we play. Other layers to look out for other than the obvious Jackie and Acacia would be Fai Auimatagi and Hope Hakopa.
Who is your favourite player and why?
Aaron Smith because of his bullet passes, the way he controls the game and drives his forwards around the paddock.
What other sports do you play at school?
I’ve played basketball for the past six years but had to drop it this year due to other commitments. I played touch and 3x3 basketball for school this year.
Three recent school leavers have been selected in the Black Ferns Sevens squad.
Jazmin Hotham and Montessa Tairakena (both Hamilton Girls’ High School - above left and right) and Mahina Paul (Saint Kentigern College) have finished their schooling and moved to the High Performance Sevens centre in Mt Maunganui as part of the 21-strong Black Ferns Sevens squad for 2019.
Coach Allan Bunting said the three teenagers have already impressed.
“They are three players with massive potential. We are looking towards Tokyo at the moment, but these are the sorts of players that can look towards the 2024 Olympics and beyond.
“All three were involved in the Youth Olympic Games set up which gives us more opportunities to see them play but more importantly give them the opportunity to get out on the field, to train and get quality coaching.
“We’ll look to develop them this year, we play a lot of in-house matches and that will be great experience for these players," said Bunting.
Jazmin Hotham was involved in the Black Ferns Sevens set up in 2018 on a training contract and was originally named to captain the Youth Olympic Games sevens team before withdrawing due to injury.
Montessa Tairakena captained the Hamilton Girls High First XV to a National title last September before starring in the gold medal-winning Youth Olympic Games team.
Mahina Paul, also a member of the Youth Olympic Games team, has previously represented New Zealand in touch. Originally from Whakatane, Paul completed her schooling at St Kent’s in Auckland.
With more than half of the squad under 24 years old it is balanced with some of the most experienced players in the women’s game.
Captain Sarah Hirini (nee Goss), Tyla Nathan-Wong, Kelly Brazier and Ruby Tui have played in every World Series since its inception in 2012. Hirini is the most capped player in the history of the Series.
“We have a great balance to the squad. There is a really good bunch of experienced players and now this younger group of new players that add real excitement to the mix.
“This year we need to qualify for Tokyo. We have started the season well but that just means more eyes are on us. The first focus is Hamilton, which is awesome for us to play at home for the first time and you can see all the players can’t wait to get there.”
Bunting said 2019 training contracts will be offered to players after this week’s development trial. Those players will be involved in the development team programme and train alongside the Black Ferns Sevens squad for 50 days throughout the year.
The Black Ferns Sevens squad is;
Shakira Baker (Waikato)
Michaela Blyde (Bay of Plenty)
Kelly Brazier (Bay of Plenty)
Gayle Broughton (Taranaki)
Rhiarna Ferris (Manawatu)
Theresa Fitzpatrick (Auckland)
Huia Harding (Waikato)
Sarah Hirini (nee Goss – Manawatu)
Jazmin Hotham * (Waikato)
Tyla Nathan Wong (Auckland)
Mahina Paul* (Bay of Plenty)
Risi Pouri-Lane (Tasman)
Alena Saili (Southland)
Montessa Tairakena* (Waikato)
Terina Te Tamaki (Waikato)
Ruby Tui (Bay of Plenty)
Stacey Waaka (Waikato)
Kat Whata-Simpkins (Wellington)
Niall Williams (Auckland)
Tenika Willison (Waikato)
Portia Woodman (Counties Manukau)
The boycott of the Saint Kentigern College First XV is a landmark stance in the debate about poaching, recruitment and scholarships in college sport.
Do these sporting acquisitions provide greater opportunities for students or do they become mere mercenaries in an institutions attempt to win a championship?
Dalton Papalii, from a league background in Howick, is perhaps the greatest vindication of St Kent’s rugby programme. Papalii was on a scholarship from Year 9, became First XV captain in 2015, and was recently selected for the All Blacks at the ripe age of 21. Those who witnessed Papalii play could see the benefits of St Kent’s coaching and conditioning.
By contrast Isaiah Punavi, a New Zealand Secondary Schools staring centre at Christ’s in 2017, shifted to Auckland for his final year of schooling in 2018.
Already a member of the Crusaders Academy, it’s hard to see what benefit Punavi derived from his move. St Kent’s failed to win the 1A championship and though Punavi was appointed New Zealand Secondary Schools captain, St Kent’s claiming they bolsted his already considerable talent is a tenuous claim at best.
A lot of the sensitivity in the debate appears to be around who fosters the talent. St Peter's College headmaster James Bentley told Stuff. “You get so much satisfaction from seeing a team of your boys who have grown through the school, you galvanise the community because they've known these kids growing up and then when you get to a final it means so much.”
“Schools that try to short-cut that by bringing in players who aren't familiar to the community in their last year will lose that aspect.”
In the original Hearld story breaking the boycott there are three letters published highlighting the correspondence between the 10 headmasters and St Kent’s. In one of those letters a Mrs Suzanne Winthrop is alleged to have said St Kent's needed to ‘top up’ by offering scholarships to senior students because sometimes those offered scholarships at Year 9 did not develop as expected.
Doesn’t this ‘top up’ admission reveal the program to be flawed? Why are those taken in at Year 9 not developing as anticipated? St Kent’s comes across as having little regard for players who aren’t the finished article, remembering as a private school St Kent’s can already accept whoever they like.
Mark Reason wrote in Stuff, “the Auckland Ten's decision to refuse to play 1st XV rugby against St Kentigern next season is about far more than rugby. It is about teaching kids that money can't buy your soul. It is about loyalty. It is about keeping rugby in perspective. It is about not fostering an arms race that will end up in young men injecting themselves with steroids.”
This sentiment has been echoed by the head of Sport New Zealand Peter Miskimmin and rugby players association chief Rob Nichol.
It's not just rugby though where widespread movement for sporting reasons occurs.
From National champions in 2017 to defaulting a local competition fixture less than 12 months later. What happened to the St Mary’s College senior basketball team is a cautionary tale.
The collapse in their fortunes was caused by three leading senior players and a coach moving to private school rivals Queen Margaret College (QMC).
Coach Junior Hunter and representative standard talent Grace Hunter, Te Araroa Sopoaga and Rosie Campbell all departed at the end of 2017.
The Hunters were the first to go, Grace for “academic reasons,” followed by Sopoaga and Campbell.
QMC charges $5097.90 per term compared with St Mary’s annual fee of $1,915 per year. It's hard to believe no financial assistance was being provided to the girls.
Despite their acquisition QMC failed to win the Wellington, Zone 3 and National titles which Hunter, Sopoaga and Campbell achieved at St Mary’s.
St Mary’s improved from 12th at Nationals in 2015 to 9th in 2016 and champions the next year. Staying together and building a strong team culture was far more beneficial for the girls.
St Mary’s was so depleted that on July 27 they defaulted their Sharp Cup fixture against QMC.
The Tauranga Boys’ College First XI football team have long been ripe for poaching despite being coached by a former New Zealand Secondary Schools assistant coach Neil Howard who receives no salary for coaching Tauranga.
In 1998 five players left to attend Westlake Boys’ High School. Their intention was to be located in Auckland who were hosting the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in 1999. Tony Lochhead and David Rayner who kicked onto become All Whites were apart of the exodus, but Tauranga actually beat Westlake 4-2 when the two sides played. Ironically Clinton Boyle scored a goal for Tauranga in the game concerned. His brother Shane Boyle was playing for Westlake.
In 2015 the First XI had lost the services of the following boys who had not just attended the school but had played in the First XI in previous years. Dylan Bull and Connor Probert where at Sacred Heart College, Luke Johnson was at Westlake (and St Kent’s in 2016) and Dylan Morris was also St Kent’s.
In 2014 Bull and Probert were in a Sacred Heart team that beat Tauranga 2-1 at the Nationals, Sacred Heart went onto win the tournament. This year, for the first time in five, Tauranga didn’t lose a single player and unsurprisingly achieved their best finish in five years.
Tauranga Boys’ College First XI Football National Placings 2014-2018
Carlos Price and Peni Lasaqa were Tauranga Boys’ lost to the St Kent’s First XV. The Hynds Trophy, a long standing traditional fixture between the schools is no longer contested.
It would be easy to apply a laissez-faire approach and simply allow an unregulated flow of sporting talent to go wherever they like. However sport is one of the few professions in the world where salary caps are applied in many codes to try and maintain some equality.
Sport is a genuine career path, but it’s a short term one that comes attached with considerable risk. Only two players from the National championship winning Hamilton Boys’ High School First XV in 2013 are playing regular first class rugby. Paul Cully stressed on Stuff the debate shouldn’t be about “winning, but the outcome for boys.” Cully poses the questions
“Are (boys) being best served by being put through almost professional-level programs at a young age, only to realise later in life that they peaked at 17?”
Guardians of sport have an obligation to make sure their games are competitive and enjoyable for its participants. Tellingly in 1A this season 42 games were decided by 20 points or more compared with 22 five years ago. Could it be the growing inequality between the top and the bottom teams is a reason for the widening margins?
Despite their extensive recruitment King’s College haven’t won a single grade out of a possible 38 finals in the past two years. Why the clamour to go to King’s?
It’s not simple issue, but it's bigger than me, myself and I.
A coalition of schools have agreed in principle to boycott playing Saint Kentigern College First XV in the 1A competition next season. Ten schools have issued a letter to St Kent’s refusing to play them on the grounds of a recruitment policy being deemed morally and ethically reprehensible. Such a stand is extraordinary and has generated considerable attention and debate.
Why has such a stand taken so long?
St Kent’s have been actively recruiting since at least 2010 when they went from fifth in Auckland to National Top Four Champions two years later.
What incentive exists for local fee paying students to rugby at St Kent’s?
Conversely, what happens to the scholarships of the “five senior elite players from rival 1st XVs” if St Kent’s have no competition next season? At this stage these boys have been led up the garden path.
St Kent’s and King’s have had the same rugby director involved with their First XV’s. Is this individual the person causing concern rather than the entire First XV program? Has this person done anything wrong under College Sport Auckland rules?
Tasesa Lavea has coached both the St Kent’s and King’s 1st XV’s. His twin brother Tai coached St Kent’s. Both coaches are open about the benefits of distributing scholarships and haven’t broken any specific rules though Tai was forced to stand down in 2010 after a season earlier being found guilty of luring a player away from Aorere College.
If 10 schools refuse to play St Kent’s don’t St Kent’s automatically win the 1A competition?
Five points is gained for a default and unless King’s (the only school at this stage willing to play St Kent’s) makes the final and beats St Kent’s, St Kent’s would automatically qualify for the Blues regional finals series. The ten other schools would have to lobby to have the blues zone finals restructured. St Kent’s would have to conform to the rules of the National competition. How would their prospects be affected by this?
Who will St Kent’s play next year if ten teams from 1A refuse fixtures?
Could St Kent’s play Colts rugby in the Auckland club competition? The Presbyterian Quad is an annual schools event. Will this continue? The World Schools Championship is set to be played in South Africa again. Could St Kent’s consider Australia for a series of games or would they just tour New Zealand, doing what Gisborne Boys’ have done for years and hit the road. Gisborne is of course in the Super 8 who supports the stance of the 10 boycotting Auckland schools. If outside sanctioned school competition, St Kent’s would be entitled to distribute as many scholarships as they like. With careful planning and sponsorship could they become similar to an international youth academy in time.
Is the National Top Four a problem?
Going to the “right school” has become increasingly important in reaching the elite level of New Zealand rugby. This fact was best illustrated in the naming of the New Zealand secondary schools development squad when 21 players were selected from six private schools. Similarly there are perhaps only a dozen schools nationwide that consistently enjoy a genuine shot of winning the National Top Four title. Does the Top Four need to be done away with to subdue some of the championship fervor within schools? Strengthening representative competitions, could help keep more players within their communities. What about a National U18 competition based on the U19 model?
Will schools similarly aggrieved by widespread recruiting in other competitions follow suit?
Scots College, Wellington had eight boys on scholarship in their National Top Four winning starting XV in 2014. St Andrew’s College, Christchurch and Otago Boys’ High School are just two other schools who have attracted criticism for their “recruiting.”
What does all of this say about the governance of Secondary School Rugby?
Schoolboy rugby is essentially governed by schools themselves who are elected board members to local College Sport organisations and the New Zealand Secondary Schools Sports Council (NZSSSC). Schools pay a fee which goes into a collective pool to support operations, additionally trust funding is provided.
The New Zealand Secondary Schools Rugby Council (NZSSRC) is supported by NZSSSC and New Zealand Rugby (NZR), but is largely independent of NZR. The NZSSRC runs the National Top Four. If NZSSRC sided with the ten schools boycotting St Kent’s and refused to allow St Kent’s entry to the National Top Four qualifying tourney St Kent’s could launch a human rights case on the basis exclusion. However in 2015, Rotorua Boys’ High School won the National First XV championship, but were demoted to last in Super 8 because the rules regarding player eligibility were different in each competition.
Could a centralized authority with robust selection criteria be better placed to govern schoolboy rugby. Shouldn’t rules on player eligibility, competition structure and the like be consistent across the country to ensure clarity and fairness?
The head of St Kentigern College David Hodge claims he has a letter from a senior NZ Rugby staffer endorsing St Kent’s rugby program. If so does this have potential to colour any outcomes of their ongoing review into secondary schools rugby?
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