The Wanneroo Districts Rugby Under 15’s and their coach Tus Watene made the trip across the ditch to prepare themselves for the season ahead but also to see how a promising group of young men would stack up against our Kiwi opposition.
This trip was 12 months in the making and would not have been possible without some steely eyed and determined parents that participated in every fundraising event known to man to see their boys make the trip of a life time. There is suspicion the parents just wanted the boys out of their homes for 10 days which is understandable after spending 10 days together in a Marae.
The team was based in Hamilton at the Hui Te Rangiora Marae, sleeping (snoring) together, eating together and playing Rugby together. The team had organised 3 games against the Hamilton Boys High School, St Johns College & Ponsonby Rugby Club in Auckland throughout our 10 days in NZ.
Upon arriving at the 1st game in unexpected sunny and warm conditions, we were quick to find out that Hamilton hadn’t seen any rain since Christmas and advising our boys to bring their boots with 20mm studs was a clear oversight of the conditions. With the pitch looking like we were playing on the set of Mad Max the boys played their hearts out for 60 minutes against a bigger(one boy told us he weighed in over 120kg) and well-rounded team from HBH that ended up winning the game by 9 tries to 3. The Wanneroo boys now understood what they were up against in NZ carrying grazes, cuts and bruises from the resulting game. The two standouts were the Captain Tini Watene at no.8 and open side flanker Kian Saus who don’t care much for reputations and size and lead from the front all game trucking the ball up to their larger opposition. Nathan Tahu lead the backline cutting through in attack keeping the Hamilton High Boys in check all game. The HBH put on some food after the game where the boys got to know their opposition and presentations were made between the captains.
The 2nd game against St Johns College and was again played in Sunny conditions (isn’t this NZ?) on another hard picturesque field. The team still bruised and grazed understood they needed to come out firing and front up they did. The team again coming away with their second loss 50-7 but another step in the right direction in bringing physicality to the game saw our forwards play traditional rugby to get across the gain line. St Johns were not ready for the pick and drive and the Wanneroo team scoring a fantastic cross field kick try which showed our capabilities out wide. It was excellent to have the electrifying Tyler Ward in the backline to add some spark and Rubin Baker to give size and strength to our front row who were delayed because of State League trials and did a fantastic job of making up for missing their first game against HBH. St Johns also put on a Kai (Meal) after the game and were great hosts. They did mention that anyone touring to Hamilton should ask them for a game as they seem to get overlooked in place of Hamilton Boys High and are always happy to play touring teams.
The 3rd and final game included the drive into Auckland against Ponsonby Rugby Club, which I believe was a mixture of Kelston Grammar School and Auckland Grammar School. The Ponsonby Rugby Club gave us a tour of their historic facility with memorabilia covering the walls, making us feel welcome. Primed with Rugby stories and the great players that had played for this club the boys were primed for the final game. The rain gods delivered and our 20mm studs were brought for a reason. The team now understood what we were up against physically with the team taking another huge step in fronting up to Ponsonby. They saved the best for last even though the scoreboard will show another loss; the boys gave everything and scored 3 tries to 0 in the second half. The highlight of the game was Connor Byrne the stand in captain for the game scoring a try after suffering flu days before .This was a great reward for a player who took on the captaincy and threw his body into everything. Another highlight was our scrum walking over the top of Ponsonby early in the game which caught them by surprise. Irrespective of the score the team had improved in the 3 games over the 10 days and should be extremely proud of them-selves.
Yes we did our share of site seeing fitting in a living Maori Village, the Sky Luges, Hot Springs but it was the Rugby related events that left the biggest imprint on the team. After the Hamilton Boys High game, the Waikato Development Officer Vince, invited us to do a tour of FMG Stadium the next day which was incredible. The History of the Club and the Springbok head sitting in the cabinet from the victorious game over the Springboks many years before was interesting and walking the boys through the facilities and onto the ground to throw the ball around should stick with them for many years to come. Bumping into the Two Blues from NSW at the Chiefs Vs Lions game and swapping stories was good to hear they were taking scalps and enjoying their trip.
We were incredibly lucky to have a visit from All Black Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi who discussed his journey through his teens to becoming an All Black fielding questions from the team and spending nearly 2 hours selflessly. This was one of the highlights for my trip and then to spend another 10 minutes with a couple of our half backs was priceless handing out some little nuggets of gold for them to keep.
At the end of the day the relationships this team has developed by living together in the Marae will be a trip they’ll all remember. The cooking of food and washing of clothes were our major challengers but with the help of the touring parents, it was never an issue. Everyone should be extremely proud of how the tour went and how the boys behaved and is another stepping stone in developing these young boys into young men participating in our fantastic game.
Thank you to everyone that made this NZ trip a reality for our boys. You know who you are!
Standard Tedge scrum gif