The Youthtown Condor Sevens at Sacred Heart College, Auckland this weekend is a massive showcase of leading age group rugby talent in New Zealand. Who will claim the boys and girls open titles? The following individuals will be essential in the fortunes of their respective teams.
Chay Fihaki (Sacred Heart College) - An abrasive, goal-kicking halfback in the fifteen-a-side code, Fihaki is a Blues Under-18 rep and his quick distribution, size and creativity will be vital in the hosts giving a good account of themselves.
Luke Glen (St Bede’s College) - St Bede’s First XV had an awful year and an early season to Luke Glen didn’t help. A classy fullback with agile footwork, pace and vision, Glen is the captain of St Bede’s and his leadership and talent will be instrumental in the Southerners’ fortunes.
Kini Naholo (Hastings Boys’ High School) - It’s impossible to leave the giant NZ Schools wing of this list. Naholo was a sensation in the fifteen-a-side game this year scoring 41 tries, including seven hat-tricks. Naholo has flourished for Hastings in the summer, vital in their Hurricanes and Napier Sevens victories to.
Hayze Perham (Rotorua Boys’ High School) - Rotorua underwhelmed in the Bay of Plenty qualifiers finishing third, but they have been perennial contenders at the Youthtown Nationals in recent seasons making the top four every year since 2013 and winning the title in 2014. Hayze Perham is a National age group rugby and league rep with searing speed, smarts and experience. If Rotorua are going to threaten the top four again, Perham simply has to fire.
Johnny Sanft (Botany Downs) - Botany Downs First XV won 13 games on the trot to win the 1B title for the first time in their history in 2017. Imposing midfield back Sanft was an integral part of their success. Powerful and pacey with ball in hand, Sanft is also a devastating defender.
Jaylen Tuapola (Scots College) - The Hurricanes Under-18 rep was the leading try scorer in the WelTec Premiership in 2017 and has been in impressive form in sevens. Tuapola scored the winning try in the Wellington qualifying final in October and is the captain of Scots with his management and creative flair an obvious feature of Scots play.
Raiki Willison (Hamilton Boys’ High School) - The cousin of Maori All Black Jackson Willison, Raiki missed the First XV season after undergoing shoulder surgery in May. The New Zealand age group touch rep is back to full fitness and his speed and elusiveness shapes as a key part of Hamilton’s title defense. Willison was extremely unlucky not to be named on the Condor’s tournament team last year.
Emma Brown (St Mary’s College) - As well as sparkling attacking play, big defence will also be key to winning the Condors Sevens tournament. Much of St Mary’s College’s recent success has been built on their powerful defensive screen and Emma Brown is at the forefront of that. Much of the work she does allows others such as Ana Puleiata, Cheyne Copeland and Dhys Faleafaga to shine on the counterattack.
Carys Dallinger (Manukura) - Manukura loom as a dark horse contender at this year’s Condor Sevens and the former Feilding HS utility back Carys Dallinger could impress along the way. Helped win the recent Hurricanes Youth Council Sevens tournament for Manukura and a new member of the Manawatu Women’s Sevens squad.
Amy Du Plessis (Southland Girls’ High School) - Two tries for Southland GHS in their 2016 Top 4 final win, impressing again in this year’s fifteens nationals at first five-eighth given fewer opportunities. Also a netball and touch player, captain Du Plessis is dangerous in space and a potential catalyst for her side to go deep in this year’s Condors.
Rosie Kelly (Christchurch Girls’ High School) – Look out for CGHS to surprise. Along with Grace Brooker, Rosie Kelly is coming off a Women’s NPC title win with Canterbury. Understudy to Kendra Cocksedge, the halfback has been learning off the best and should be full of confidence. Captain and goal-kicker of her school’s 15s team and a Canterbury women’s sevens player at the start of this year.
Iva Livani (Howick College) – Two years ago Howick College won the U15 Condors and Iva Livani was Player of the Tournament. Last year they made the quarter-finals of the senior tournament and will be hoping to go one better. Year 12 player Livani’s dash and enterprise could prove hot to handle for opposing sides.
Montessa Tairakena (Hamilton Girls’ High School) - Hard running midfield back in fifteens rugby, Montessa Tairakena has the vision and creativity to trouble most opposition on the sevens field. Look out for her combination with teammates such as 2016 MVP Jazmin Hotham and Kiriana Nolan as last year’s runners-up look to go one better in 2017.
Tynelle Fitzgerald (Trident High School) – Key player for the Bay of Plenty Condors champions, debuting at this tournament at this venue. Trident will look to their BoP Women’s squad member to add spark and hope to spring a day one surprise on defending champions St Mary’s College.
Plus six of seven players in our 2017 Champion of Champions Girls Rugby will be at Condors this weekend (not included above). View the list here