Francis Douglas Memorial College duo represent Fiji in rugby league
2 Feb 2017
It's safe to say anyone who dreams of playing sport professionally has hopes to one day pull on their country's colours.
Francis Douglas Memorial College students Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens and Mairenga Laapo got to do just that last week, representing Fiji in the inaugural Pasifika Youth Rugby League Cup held in Auckland.
"We started tournament and the jerseys came a day late. It was real good because the kits were band new and it felt real good to represent the country," Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens said.
Both Laapo, a utility player, and Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens, a half, had strong showings in the tournament, each finding their way across the stripe, with Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens slotting the most conversions and finding himself in the tournament team at the end of the week.
"Scoring a try for your country just feels amazing. It's different to just another Saturday game," Laapo said.
The tournament provided a good learning experience for the duo, who said they found it a hard slog facing up against Tonga and Samoa who had big, strong teams.
The 15-year-olds both started playing the game around the age of seven but had only got back into it after a short break over the past two years and we part of the year 9 and 10 team who won the Jack Knucky trophy for the first time with a 38-0 win over New Plymouth Boys' High School.
This year, they were set to line up in Francis Douglas' first 13 this year, with the school looking to qualify for their fourth trip to the national secondary schools tournament.
Laapo said in recent years the school's league program had been getting better and better, with more students interested in playing.
"Numbers are increasing. Even if it's not club, everyone wants to get into it. All their mates play so people come along. I think it's building," he said.
Teacher in charge of league at the school Robyn Wackrow said the national tournament provided the players with some exposure on a bigger scale and, with the team having to qualify, they get more chance to play.
"We have to finish first or second in the Issac Luke Cup [the mid-central zone secondary schools competition] to qualify, whereas there are some schools that just go straight in," she said.