Peter Breen knows the value of pursuing a passion.
Early in his career, the former Otago and Northland back fell in love with goal kicking and after channelling all his energy into it, it opened doors for him as a player, led to him creating his business, Rugby Bricks, and presented coaching opportunities in Australia.
The former Waitaki Boys’ High School pupil returned to his old school this week to share his knowledge with aspiring athletes.
Breen (33), who left Waitaki Boys’ in 2006, fondly recalled playing every sport the Oamaru secondary school had on offer.
After school, he moved to Dunedin, joined the Otago Rugby Academy, and pushed for the Otago NPC side. He missed selection for four years, and came close to giving up, but he decided to ‘‘stay in the fight’’.
In 2011, he shifted his mindset — and when he started focussing all his energy on his ‘‘obsession’’ for goal kicking, he was finally picked for Otago.
While he was proud of the work he put in, he acknowledged the importance of accepting help from people along the way. A lot of people had been willing to help Breen — even people he did not know.
A great example of that was when he was in Dunedin. After his club training, Breen would move to a different rugby ground to practise goal kicking under the lights until they turned off at 8.15pm. As weeks went by, the lights started staying on until 9pm, without him knowing why.
After playing a ‘‘blinder’’ for Otago, a security guard at the grounds, who Breen had never met, came up to him, and said his good form must be down to all of his late-night practising. The security guard had been leaving the lights on to give Breen extra time at the grounds.
‘‘There’s a dude that I didn’t ask for help, I didn’t want anything from, he saw me working really hard at my skill and decided, ‘I’m going to help that kid’,’’ Breen said.
‘‘There’s people in your life right now, coaches, family members, helpers, teachers who will help you as soon as they see you become obsessed.
‘‘Allow that to happen and sort of get out of your own way a little bit.’’
After four years with Otago, Breen joined Northland for the 2016 and 2017 seasons. In 2017, he stepped up his training, trying to make a Super Rugby franchise, but Bryn Gatland was selected for the Blues over him.
‘‘I can look back now and not be disappointed with that. There’s a lot of players that can’t look back and be super proud of the effort they put into their game to be ready.
‘‘You’re allowed to be obsessed to go as hard as you can.’’
Then, Breen began focusing on other avenues, and in 2018 created his business, Rugby Bricks, providing online content, training programmes and kicking tees for goal kickers around the world.
When Rugby Bricks started, it had 36 Instagram followers and people used to ‘‘mock’’ him. It now has 155,000 followers, with more than 10 million video views.
Growing up, Breen found rugby too simple and wanted to bring the game’s details to life with Rugby Bricks. Once he decided to focus on goal kicking, Breen knew other players would be searching for material to use.
‘‘I was like, that was my experience, surely there’s kids like me that want guidance, so that’s why I’ve decided to do it.’’
Rugby Bricks started as a 12-month project, before he realised projects could be turned into a career.
In 2018, Breen moved to Melbourne with his wife, Jay Maoate-Breen. From 2019 to 2021, he was the kicking coach for the Wallaroos and he has been the kicking coach for the Melbourne Storm in the NRL since last year.
He also spent time helping players across the world, and the pandemic allowed him to review videos remotely.
‘‘It’s almost as good as in person, which is the cool thing about technology.’’
Returning to Waitaki Boys’ this week had been special, and a chance to reflect on his journey.
He was proud of his hometown and encouraged players to make the most of their opportunities.
‘‘I think about Oamaru with cricket nets, basketball hoops, with fields, with goal posts — the sporting opportunity is actually huge for people that actually want to get good atsport and that’s been a cool thing to see coming back to New Zealand, and Oamaru.
‘‘It’s there if you want it.’’