Rugby rank­ing on­line

Central Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By JESS LEE

A RUGBY en­thu­si­ast is us­ing on­line tac­tics in a bid to bring young tal­ent to the at­ten­tion of se­lec­tors.

Her­schel Fruean has set up his High School Top 200 web­site to pro­file great play­ers from tra­di­tional rugby strongholds and less­es­tab­lished teams across the coun­try.

The Mt Eden 29-year-old has been rank­ing first XV play­ers on the site since last year in a bid to get them on the radar of se­lec­tors and into pro­fes­sional rugby.

The site’s Face­book page was launched two months ago and has picked up more than 4300 ‘‘likes’’.

First XV rugby is a se­ri­ous busi­ness and dom­i­nant Auck­land schools spend thou­sands of dollars on their teams.

The New Zealand Sec­ondary School Sports Coun­cil was forced to in­tro­duce tough anti-poach­ing rules to crack down on richer col­leges lur­ing star rugby tal­ent from poorer ones.

Fruean’s ef­forts are spurred on by the num­ber of first XV play­ers who never make it past the school gates.

‘‘You’ve got so many kids around the coun­try that peo­ple don’t know ex­ist,’’ he says.

‘‘I think ev­ery kid in rugby right now wants to be an All Black, or at least wants to play for the Blues or the Chiefs, and how do you do that?

‘‘You just ex­po­sure.’’

Fruean gave up a full­time job ear­lier this year to ded­i­cate his time to the site.

He spends his week­ends and many week­nights trav­el­ling to matches around the coun­try, of­ten at the re­quest of young play­ers who want to up their game.

Play­ers send in videos of matches he can’t at­tend so he can still give feed­back.

‘‘I want to see th­ese guys de­velop in to pro­fes­sion­als. My big­gest day is go­ing to be when I see a kid from my list make it to the pros.’’

The for­mer Hamil­ton-

give

them based Church Col­lege First XV player watches the game from an an­a­lyt­i­cal stand­point as op­posed to that of a fan.

His long-term goal is to ex­pand the web­site and Face­book page to in­clude other sports like net­ball and cricket.

Fruean takes into ac­count the schools play­ers at­tend when putting to­gether his rank­ing sys­tem.

He also looks at their skill sets, per­for­mance on the field, age and po­ten­tial.

He says his sys­tem isn’t pop­u­lar with ev­ery­one.

‘‘I’ve heard from some schools that unions have told them not to talk to me and that’s fine.

‘‘They just don’t know what the site is for and the rea­son for my ef­forts are only go­ing to start to show with the first group of guys over the next year or so.’’

Then they will have to sit up and take no­tice, he says.

Auck­land Rugby high per­for­mance man­ager Ant Stra­chan says any­one fol­low­ing the site should keep things in per­spec­tive and see it for what it is.

The sys­tem also re­lies on in­put from stu­dents which has po­ten­tial to in­flu­ence re­sults, he says.

‘‘It seems to be a bit of fun for kids and it keeps peo­ple talk­ing about rugby and stu­dents en­gaged with the game.’’

Photo: JA­SON OXENHAM

Game­plan:

Her­schel Fruean is work­ing to get great young col­lege first XV play­ers from tra­di­tional rugby strongholds and less-es­tab­lished teams na­tion­wide no­ticed.

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