“There’s a sense of excitement building. We have a talented team that's progressing well,” Niko Jones enthuses when reflecting on the fortunes of the St Peter's College First XV.
St Peter's are third in the Auckland competition 1A standings and recently toppled fierce rivals and neighbours, Auckland Grammar School for just the 12th time in 60 matches. Captain Jones captures the last play drama.
“It was an amazing game, any game against Auckland Grammar is a big occasion, but this game was on their home ground and required a last-minute penalty kick for us to win. Year 11 Ajay Faleafaga, in his first start for the First XV, kicked the winning goal from about 15-metres in 30-metres out,” Jones reflects.
Earlier Zyon Holo had scored two tries and Jones had impressed with his leadership and powerful carries. The loose forward is very explicit about his approach to the game.
“Being the captain 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 reveals.
These are attributes Niko’s father, legendary All Black Sir Michael Jones (Henderson High School) had in abundance. How does Niko feel when he is compared to his World Cup winning dad?
“There’s some pressure that comes with it, but at the same time, it's a privilege. Dad is an amazing man in rugby and away from it. I try not to look into it too much, but it's great to have his support.”
Niko emphasised St Peter's is a “well-balanced” team and the likes of hooker Narayan Strickland, flanker Chris Halaufia and fullback PJ Tonga were among those enjoying a fine season.
The best season St Peter’s ever had was in 2000 when they won the Auckland and National Top Four titles undefeated. Can the 2018 Saints match that effort?
“The goal is to make the top four first and then the final which we haven't made since 2000. Our game against King’s College which we lost heavily proves we have a lot of work to do. We have to stay grounded and keep working hard," Jones responds.
Saint Kentigern College have won 17 1A games in a row. Their last defeat was 11-10 to St Peter’s. Josh Loveday kicked a last play dropped goal and Jones played a starring role.
“The St Kent’s game last year and the Grammar game this year are my two favourite games at St Peter's. The close, fast games in front of big crowds are the ones you want to be involved with," Jones reveals.
In addition to rugby, Jones plays sevens, touch and basketball. Niko is actively involved in his Kelston community church, explaining faith is a big part of his life.
“I try and help out as much as I can at Church. I teach at the Sunday school, help tidy up. I do anything I can to contribute,” he says
What about playing rugby on Sunday? Michael Jones famously missed the 1995 World Cup due to his conviction of not playing on the day of Sabbath.
“I haven't had to address that question yet, but when it comes up I will,” Jones concludes.
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