The stage is set for Oamaru’s biggest schoolboy rugby match of the year.
St Kevin’s will play Waitaki Boys’ High School next Friday for the Leo O’Malley Memorial Trophy.
Bragging rights went to St Kevin’s last year, after the first XV beat Waitaki Boys’ 56-15. It was the most points scored in a game by St Kevin’s and a record winning margin.
St Kevin’s coach Justin Fowler expected this year to produce another competitive game of schoolboy rugby between the two sides.
“It’s the game of the year – everybody looks forward to it,” Fowler said.
“Both teams try to play some attractive rugby, so hopefully that will happen again this year.”
It was about more than just the rugby however, it was about the atmosphere of the occasion.
Fowler sent the players out with one key message – “enjoy yourselves”.
“Just have some fun, try to find friends and family in the crowd, and just throw the ball around really and express yourself. Last year proved it was a great day for the community.”
Thousands of pupils from both schools, families and members of the community pack into Whitestone Contracting Stadium for the match each year, and Waitaki Boys’ coach Mark Wilson agreed it was important all players took the time to revel in the moment.
“This may be the biggest crowd and biggest occasion that some of these kids ever play in,” Wilson said.
“You’ve got to enjoy it and you’ve got to lap it up – it is an experience that’s talked about for many, many, many years.”
Following on from last year’s match, Wilson expected St Kevin’s to carry on its form, and Waitaki Boys’ would be doing what it could to shut it down.
While the rivalry between the two sides was “huge and fierce”, the players were “good mates” off the field, he said.
Waitaki Boys’ rector Darryl Paterson said the game was played with a great deal of passion and emotion.
“It would appear that that teams are more evenly matched this year and I hope it is an exciting game to watch with the team wearing black scoring more points that the team wearing blue.”
It was great to see other sports getting their “chance to shine”, with Monday’s basketball match having a great atmosphere and football and hockey attracting their biggest crowds of the season, he said.
St Kevin’s principal Paul Olsen agreed it was a great a great way to bring the schools, and past pupils, together. St Kevin’s would host reunions of players from its 1970-71, 1986 and 1990-91 first XV sides and the 1990-91 senior A netball team during the interschool week.
“Our students see this as a week to get behind each other and support all of the different codes with great enthusiasm,” Mr Olsen said.
“This fixture is an opportunity for all secondary students in Oamaru to celebrate their school spirit and engage in healthy competition.”