Re­gion’s best rugby play­ers pool tal­ents

Central Otago Mirror - - NEWS - By JESSICA MAD­DOCK

The cream of Up­per Clutha, Wakatipu and Cromwell schoolaged rugby play­ers played their first game in the High­landers’ first XV com­pe­ti­tion at the week­end. Coach Hamish Cros­bie, a Mount As­pir­ing Col­lege teacher and the school’s rugby ad­min­is­tra­tor, said the squad is made up of 18 play­ers from the col­lege, five from Wakatipu High School and five Cromwell Col­lege stu­dents. They are aged 16 to 18 years. Un­til this sea­son, the Up­per Clutha un­der-18 team – or Mt As­pir­ing Col­lege’s first XV – com­peted in the Otago-wide com­pe­ti­tion, which it won the past four years. When the num­ber of teams in the Otago-wide com­pe­ti­tion dropped from 11 in 2009 to four last year, the High­landers First XV board in­vited Up­per Clutha to join its com­pe­ti­tion, which is open to any un­der-19 player south of the Waitaki River. ‘‘We thought the best thing for our boys was to step up a grade and play in the High­landers First XV com­pe­ti­tion, which is the best teams in the lower South Is­land. ‘‘We needed to be chal­lenged.’’ Mt As­pir­ing Col­lege in­vited Wakatipu and Cromwell sec­ondary school play­ers to also take part in tri­als for the team. ‘‘It is the cream of the crop – hope­fully we have the best play­ers in the South­ern Lakes.’’ The team played its first com­pe­ti­tion game on Satur­day, against Otago Boys. Cros­bie said the score of 99-nil was not a sur­prise. ‘‘Otago Boys first XV was the sec­ond best team in New Zealand last year. ‘‘It’s a mas­sive change from play­ing against Otago Boys’ third XV last year, to their first XV this year.’’ The team played three warmup games, solidly beat­ing a Melbourne school and los­ing to a squad made up of sec­ondary school play­ers from New South Wales. They also lost a warmup match to Dun­stan, a team com­pris­ing play­ers from Dun­stan High School and Man­iototo and Roxburgh area schools, which has com­peted in the High­landers First XV com­pe­ti­tion for sev­eral years. It is also the first time the Mt As­pir­ing and Cromwell col­leges and Wakatipu High School play­ers have rep­re­sented their schools. Un­til now they were in­stead af­fil­i­ated to the lo­cal rugby club. The team has ben­e­fited from the ex­per­tise of high pro­file coaches Mike Cron and Aussie McLean. They re­cently spent two days coach­ing the squad, while they were in the south work­ing with the High­landers. The new team’s games have been at­tract­ing good crowds and on Satur­day they will take on St Kevin’s Col­lege in Oa­maru at 1pm.

Photo: SUP­PLIED

Player elite: The best high school rugby play­ers from Up­per Clutha, Wakatipu and Cromwell had their first game in the pres­ti­gious High­lands First XV com­pe­ti­tion at the week­end.

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