Scholarship will let Rhys follow his dream to England

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Picture this.
You are a talented young cricketer from North Otago, and you get an opportunity to spend six months in England, live at a country house that looks straight out of Downton Abbey, and play the sport you love in the nation that invented it.
You can understand why Rhys Petrie can’t keep the smile off his face.
Petrie (18), a year 13 pupil at Waitaki Boys’ High School, has been awarded a Willows Cricket Club scholarship.
In April, he will head to England to spend six months at Matfen Hall, a luxury venue near Newcastle that includes 300 acres of parkland, an award-winning restaurant and a 27-hole golf course.
Petrie will live at the establishment, play midweek and weekend cricket, and even dabble in a bit of coaching.
“I’m pretty excited. I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet,” Petrie said this week.
The scholarships were established in 2002 as a partnership between Matfen Hall and Willows, the picturesque country club near Christchurch that fosters relationships with secondary school teams.
Only year 13 pupils may apply, and just two are successful each year.
Petrie, along with a St Thomas’ of Canterbury pupil, got the nod after an interview process that focused more on his character than his not inconsiderable talent as an opening batsman.
“Quite a bit of it is on personality and sort of more how you could be an ambassador for the sport, not on how good you are.
“I was just myself, really. I talked about cricket and how I would handle certain situations.”
Petrie, the eldest of four sporty children, has been to Australia twice but venturing to the other side of the world will be a new experience.
His parents, Weston farmers Tim and Leigh, were “pretty proud” about his scholarship, he said.
“Mum’s a bit nervous because of the distance, but I think they’re both excited.”
Petrie’s other immediate cricketing goal is pushing for selection in the Otago team for the national under-19 tournament.
He said the two highlights of his career so far were winning the Borton Cup with Waitaki Boys’ in 2015-16, and combining with century-maker Thomas Hutton in a good partnership at the Willows.