Schools clash is Eden Park de­but

Central Leader - - SPORT - By ALAS­TAIR LYNN

In rugby, noth­ing is ever cer­tain, but if Charles Napa’a has his way a long ca­reer in the game stretches out in front of him.

The Mount Al­bert Gram­mar School First XV cap­tain is pre­par­ing his squad for the open­ing match of the 2015 Unitec 1st XV com­pe­ti­tion to­mor­row at the holy grail of New Zealand rugby, Eden Park.

Step­ping on to one of world rugby’s big­gest stages is enough to send most to dizzy­ing heights, but the hooker re­mains grounded about the op­por­tu­nity.

‘‘I’m ex­cited, the boys are ex­cited.

‘‘Your first ever game at Eden Park, it’s go­ing to be a hum­bling ex­pe­ri­ence for all of us,’’ Charles says. ‘‘With all eyes on you the pres­sure is prob­a­bly go­ing to get to us.’’

Play­ing as the cur­tain raiser for the Blues v West­ern Force Su­per Rugby clash, Mount Al­bert Gram­mar will be up against Sa­cred Heart Col­lege in the lime­light for thou­sands of avid rugby fans.

‘‘It re­ally gives us a chance to show what we have to of­fer for the sea­son,’’ Charles says.

Com­ing up against Sa­cred Heart Col­lege, Charles and his team have been work­ing hard to iron out any kinks in their pre-sea­son per­for­mances.

‘‘It’s just about stick­ing to the ba­sics,’’ he says.

‘‘We need to play our game, we’re just go­ing to try beat our­selves in­stead of try­ing to be bet­ter than an­other team.’’

Hav­ing a suc­cess­ful run in the up­com­ing sea­son is an im­por­tant goal for Charles, but he says it’s not all about win­ning.

‘‘Keep­ing our cul­ture is one of our main goals.

‘‘Be­ing able to stick as a team through­out the whole sea­son is one of the most im­por­tant things. ‘‘It’s like a brotherhood.’’ The omi­nous first steps on to Eden Park will be an im­por­tant mile­stone for Charles.

A strong pas­sion for rugby cou­pled with the right at­ti­tude could pro­vide the foun­da­tions for many more steps on to the very same pitch.

‘‘I prob­a­bly just need to be play­ing the best at my level, just be­ing the best player on the field.

‘‘Im­prov­ing my skill as well is im­por­tant.

‘‘I love the sport and it’s pretty cool that you can get paid for do­ing some­thing that you love.

‘‘Living in New Zealand it’s what all the boys dream about, play­ing for the All Blacks.

‘‘It’s an awe­some sport. just love play­ing it.’’

In the long term that black jer­sey is a goal that could be achiev­able, but right now there are some more ur­gent mat­ters to at­tend.

There are a num­ber of strong teams in Auck­land First XV com­pe­ti­tion, but Charles says in their mind Auck­land Gram­mar is the one to beat.

‘‘It’s the battle of the lion,’’ he says.

‘‘We’re the two gram­mar schools so there’s a mas­sive ri­valry be­tween us.’’

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Photo: ALAS­TAIR LYNN

Mount Al­bert Gram­mar School First VX cap­tain Charles Napa’a is ready to take on the chal­lenge of Eden Park.

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