The Old Golds created history for the first time on Saturday, with three schoolboys selected in the 22-man squad that defeated East Coast.
Backs Loni Fisiihoi, Siosiua Ngalo and Matthew Vocea, all 19, made it onto the paddock on Saturday in what was the first time three schoolboys had been selected for the Heartland team.
All three boys were standouts for the North Otago Development team and their school First XVs. Fisiihoi was a co-captain for the Waitaki Boys High School 1st XV, while Vocea and Ngalo were part of the St Kevin’s College 1st XV.
Vocea, who started on the wing against East Coast before moving to fullback later in the match, said it was awesome getting the chance to play for North Otago.
“It’s a great opportunity for us being able to play for the Heartland team and we just go out there and do our job the best we can,” he said.
All three of the boys are boarders at their school hostels and were amazed they had been selected to play for North Otago.
“We were a bit shocked and couldn’t believe that we had been selected to play for North Otago,” they said.
They put their success down to the work of their first XV coaches and being able to play for the development side, as well as getting the chance to play some club rugby before school rugby started.
“It’s really opened some doors for us and we want to all play rugby professionally,” Vocea said.
Playing for North Otago wasn’t on the boys’ radar originally, but Lemi Masoe talked them into having a crack at it.
“He just told us that we should have a go for the team,” Fisiihoi said.
Everyone has players they look up to and these three boys are no different, although two of them idolise a league player and former league player.
Matthew is a huge Jarryd Hayne fan, and loves the way he attacks and plays the game and tries to play like him. Loni Fisiihoi is a fan of Sonny Bill Williams, while Siosiua loves the way All Black midfield back Malakai Fekitoa plays the game.
Vocea and Ngalo have managed to find the try-line in their games for North Otago, while Loni is still searching for that elusive first try.
“It will come eventually.”
They hope to play for North Otago for a few years, before making it as professional rugby players.
‘We want to represent North Otago and then hopefully become professional rugby players and represent whoever we can,’ the boys said.
While all three of them hope Heartland coach Mike Mullins selects them again this weekend, Vocea and Ngalo have an added incentive to this weekend’s clash.
“Hopefully we are picked because the first five for South Canterbury Kurt Rooney has been our backs coach at school for the last two years, so we’d love to play him,” Vocea said.
“We will try to smash him,” Ngalo said.
The boys have been letting their parents know who are back in the Pacific Islands how they’re going and said their parents are really proud of them.
North Otago Rugby Union chief executive Colin Jackson said it was fantastic for North Otago rugby.
“It’s fantastic. It’s credit to the schools and the Highlanders’ competition and how strong that’s become, but it’s also pleasing for North Otago rugby.”
By BRAYDEN LINDSAY
PHOTO: BRAYDEN LINDSAY
PROMISING: Siosuia Ngalo, Matthew Vocea and Loni Fisiihoi, all still at school, were selected in the North Otago rugby team for the first time.