Dreams can end in harsh life les­sons

Marlborough Express - - FRONT PAGE -

con­tracts must surely be vex­ing New Zealand Rugby as it weighs up its ap­proach to school­boy rugby.

Player ‘poach­ing’, or ‘re­cruit­ment’, is part of a much broader is­sue but it is a symp­tom, not the malaise it­self.

The big­ger is­sue is the in­tense pres­sure to win be­ing put on young ath­letes, whose minds and bod­ies are still grow­ing.

When­ever some­one pipes up these days about the game go­ing soft then my re­sponse is: go and stand on the side­lines of a high­qual­ity school­boy rugby game.

There, you can hear the bo­neon-bone crunch of well con­di­tioned, pow­er­ful ath­letes. It is bru­tal. On a bad day you may see a boy – and they are still boys – in the arms of his fam­ily, close to tears after a painful in­jury as plans are made to head to hos­pi­tal.

Some of this is part and par­cel of a rough sport that is prob­a­bly get­ting rougher in terms of the vol­ume and in­ten­sity of con­tact.

But surely we are near­ing a point at which we ask what school­boy rugby is try­ing to achieve, and who it is best serv­ing.

Those ques­tions are equally rel­e­vant to the ‘win­ners’ in this de­bate, the tal­ented young­sters who are be­ing handed schol­ar­ships.

In­deed, the out­stand­ing player in Gat­land’s HBHS team was an ath­letic young lock called Sam Chongkit, who looked like an All Black in the mak­ing.

‘‘Sam picked up a shoul­der in­jury and then dis­ap­peared, then I saw a cou­ple of pho­tos pop up of him play­ing in Ja­pan,’’ Gat­land says.

At least Chongkit is still ac­tive, still play­ing the game he loves.

But how many sad­der vari­a­tions of this story are there up and down the coun­try?

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