Club rugby is under way, and secondary school rugby is soon to follow. Kayla Hodge tracks down the Waitaki Boys’ High School and St Kevin’s College coaches to find out how the teams are looking this season.
WAITAKI BOYS’ HIGH SCHOOL
Waitaki Boys’ High School’s First XV had a stand out season last year.
The school side narrowly beat St Kevin’s College twice — 21›19 to take the Leo O’Malley Trophy and 26›23 in the middle four final for the Otago Secondary School Ritchies Cup.
Coach Mark Wilson was proud of what his team produced and hoped this year’s side would bring something similar.
‘‘I think we’ll continue along the vein that we started because we’ve got kids that are in crucial positions . . . [but] every year’s different,’’ Wilson said.
Waitaki Boys’ has lost 13 players from last year’s squad, but flanker Lochie Mavor, halfback Alex Wilson, utility back Tyree Manaia, who was ‘‘crucial’’ for driving the back line, and No 8 Lotu Fifita, who had a ‘‘storming’’ 2021 season, have all returned.
Front rower Olive Willie also returned to New Zealand from the Cook Islands for his second year at Waitaki Boys’.
‘‘He’ll be massive, ’cause he’s just such a cool kid. It was crucial for us to have him back in the squad and the hostel.’’
Waitaki Boys’ and St Kevin’s College first XVs will both line up in the Otago Secondary Schools top grade this season, against Otago Boys’, King’s and Southland Boys’ High Schools and John McGlashan College.
Wilson could not wait for the season to get under way on May 14.
‘‘Any time you get to play the big boys, so to speak, is always a great experience for everybody.
‘‘I just think that for the size of a town like Oamaru to have the two high school teams in the top . . . is aphenomenal effort by both schools. We punch way above our weight.’’
Wilson, who will coach alongside Jason Mavor again this season, wanted to instil ‘‘brotherhood’’ in the team last season, and would push that again this year.
A good team culture was important, he said.
‘‘[Culture’s] a massive part of it. On the field, off the field, the community of supporters we gathered as well, I think that makes any sort of team.’’
The squad, featuring players from year 9›13, had been training for several weeks, with Waitaki Boys’ director of boarding Scott Mayhew, a former North Otago Heartland player, helping out.
ST KEVIN’S COLLEGE
St Kevin’s College is packed with potential this season.
The wider squad has been training for several weeks and the players’ dedication and positivity had been strong from the outset, coach Justin Fowler said.
Seven players from last year’s first XV have returned, including standout loose forward Ben Kay and back Beau Beadle.
‘‘That’s very critical,’’ Fowler said.
‘‘They’ve all got good work ethics and passing that on to the younger boys is really important for us to carry that sort of good team culture through.’’
The first XV features several year 12 players, and while it was ‘‘early days’’, Fowler believed in the team’s potential.
‘‘It’s got some real potential. . .certainly there’s some talent there, it’s just how we go about injuries and managing their load, I suppose.’’
St Kevin’s had a decent front row but was lacking in size in other areas on the field.
‘‘Which is a bit of a draw back when you’re playing those bigger schools — especially in the backs, we’re fairly small.’’
The team will start the season in the top grade. St Kevin’s dropped down after the first round last year but clawed its way back in after some good performances, only narrowly losing to Waitaki Boys’ in the middle four final.
Playing against those bigger schools would be ‘‘a bit of an ask’’, but the team would rise to the challenge.
The 28-player wider squad would be cut down to 20 before the start of the season, on May
The team was yet to set goals for the season, but Fowler said St Kevin’s would aim to be in the top six come the end of the season.
St Kevin’s also competes in the Otago and Southland Co›ed Cup grade. Winning that grade was a goal every season, he said.
This week St Kevin’s and Waitaki Boys’ both played in the annual school holiday pre› season tournament, at St Kevin’s. It was a good hit-out for both, against Rangiora High School, Mid Canterbury combined, Selwyn combined, and Whanganui Collegiate School.