Welcome to our fourth but vastly different special First XV issue. We have changed the format this year to acknowledge that schoolboy rugby has leapt the ITM Cup as a development competition.
Super Rugby teams are now recruiting directly from First XV. The standard is so high that more and more we will see players turn out for the leading schools one year and Super Rugby the next.
The speed of that transition is such that we decided it would make sense if we worked in association with the New Zealand Rugby Players’ Association to produce what we hope is the ultimate guide to helping First XV players prepare for a possible professional career.
The reality is that anything from 20-40 boys playing First XV this year will be offered a contract to play semi-professionally or in some cases, professionally, next year.
Take Chiefs first-five Damian McKenzie as an example. He captained Christ’s College in 2013, played superbly for Waikato in 2014 and then made a polished debut for the Chiefs in 2015.
Rieko Ioane is another: a week before the Top 4 semifinal last year, he was offered a full contract with the Blues to start in 2016. Barely three months after leaving Auckland Grammar, he was starring at the Wellington Sevens for New Zealand.
A career can take off suddenly and boys and parents need to be prepared if they do. The NZRPA have hired former All Black Kevin Senio to work directly with schools and their pupils to offer invaluable practical advice on how best to pursue a professional rugby career.
Much of that advice is in this publication and it would be a good idea to put this magazine somewhere safe and use it as a reference guide throughout the season and beyond. In case, for some inexplicable reason, anyone is confused by the core messages the NZRPA are tying to get across – let’s summarise right here.
Whatever your ambition or likelihood of becoming a professional – take your education seriously and make plans to continue it beyond school. That’s the most rock solid piece of advice any young player can take on board. World Player of the Year 2013, Kieran Read will confirm that for anyone who asks. Read is enrolled at the University of Canterbury as he feels the study not only helps him now – by providing an alternative and challenging focus – but will also leave him better prepared for the day he can no longer make a living playing.
Good advice is imperative so find a reputable, accredited and experienced player agent. These guys know what they are doing and they don’t wheel and deal and just clip the ticket. The best agents here offer holistic career advice, financial planning and brand development.
Take concussion seriously. Play hard and be hard – but if you take a knock to the head, it’s not hard to play on – it is dangerous and ultimately stupid. Don’t do it – follow the steps given in our safety section.
And be ultra careful about taking supplements. There are so many bogus and illegal products out there promising miracles. Remember, if something seems too good to be true, it is most likely because it’s not true. If in doubt – walk away, don’t take anything you are unsure about. Ignorance is no defence in the eyes of the law.
Lastly, NZ Rugby World would like to acknowledge and thank Land Rover for the investment they have made in not only this publication, but First XV rugby in general. The game needs corporate backers and Land Rover have been a critical part in helping First XV in New Zealand make such a big footprint.