More than just a game
3 May 2017
Some of the best young rugby talent in the province will be on display in the curtain raiser to the Chiefs taking on the Reds when New Plymouth Boys' High School and Francis Douglas Memorial College meet for the Max Carroll-John George Trophy on Saturday.
Played since 1996, the contest is as much about the growth of young people as they deal with their emotions on the big stage, as it is about the result.
Staying composed, playing to their potential and enjoying every minute of such an occasion will demonstrate their true value to the team.
With the two schools endeavouring to promote quality young men, who in this case just happen to be talented at rugby, the result is important but not the main priority. Winning with modesty and losing with dignity are all part of the learning process.
Loose forward Michael Loft, all the way from Ohura, will lead the Boys' High with a couple to catch the eye so far this season being centre Josh Setu and loose forward Melakhi Falaniko.
The Francis Douglas squad is sprinkled with players from all over the province with co-captains Brad Saxton and Mason Porteous. Two players showing early season form have been lock Jordan Roylance and utility back Isaac Kneepkins.
For some of these boys it will be a case of playing against good mates to the extent that there is a group who play in the same touch rugby team in the summer months.
Interestingly, both head coaches are in their first seasons with their teams and are former St Pat's College Silverstream boys. They have also played provincial rugby in the front row and are now preaching from the same rugby and player gospel. Their attitudes are refreshing and positive.
Sam Moore, deputy principal at Boys' High and formerly a successful coach at Feilding High School, was excited with the opportunity to play on the big stage, just as Shane McDonald, a Taranaki centurion, and in charge at Francis Douglas can't wait to see his charges run out on his favourite turf.
Adding an extra ingredient for these young players is the fact that nowadays there is the added enticement of turning rugby in to a career.
Two of last year's Boys' High team, Bradley Slater and Tom Florence, are attending Waikato University while being part of the Chiefs development programme which is their first step in to professionalism.
Recent Boys' High stars Lachlan Boshier and Mitchell Brown will be down here with the Chiefs squad while Francis Douglas old boys playing Super Rugby include Beauden, Scott and Jordie Barrett, Ricky Riccetelli, Teihorangi Walden and Liam Coltman. These players were all nervous first XV members not so long ago.
What the boys will discover is that there are no guarantees in rugby but there are opportunities that only a few will crack it.
This game is just one of those occasions, as the rugby world lies in waiting for those who really want it, learn how to enjoy it and maintain a high standard while still being a team member.
Good luck to everyone.