While the squad is training full-time to get the most output before Christmas, our High Performance Team is welcoming in the next generation of developing players to the Blues community.
47 young players arrived at Alexandra Park on Saturday for the first of an initial two-day Under-17 Blues camp to introduce the talented youngsters and their families to the Blues purpose and values, professional rugby pathways and opportunities.
The players travelled from the far north and from around Auckland to hear from Blues trainers, coaches and medical staff. The key focus was to involve the players’ parents with the workshop, helping each family understand what it takes to pursue rugby beyond high school.
The programme is led by HP Manager Tony Hanks who oversees the selection process with Provincial Unions Talent Identification staff and facilitated the day’s activities.
Blues CEO Michael Redman opened the day with a organisational overview including the new facility and Head Coach Tana Umaga was on hand to speak about the expectations the coaching staff have for players during the season, as well as the pressures that a lot of young players face.
“Off field development is a key focus for the Blues and we are committed to the players developing themselves holistically. Our squad commits four hours to organised personal development each week and modern rugby involves a lot of classroom work with a lot of learning to do,” said Tana, addressing the parents and players. “The transition of our first year players is well planned; study and rugby workloads are managed so the players can adjust to the demands of professional rugby.”
He continued by sharing his personal observations of the profession and how it’s easy for players to end up with very little to show for their work at the end of a rugby career.
“Rugby is a great game, but it most likely won’t provide for you for the rest of your life. We want to make sure all our players understand the value of self-sufficiency.”
Also present were current Blues players and previous Under 17 camp attendees Sam Nock and Rieko Ioane.
Sam attended the 2013 Under 17 camp and returned this year to share his experience with transitioning from amateur to professional rugby. The halfback left his family and high school in Kerikeri to attend St Kentigern College for his final three years of schoolboy rugby. The move proved successful; he earned a Northland contract straight out of High School. But it wasn’t without cost, as Sam explained to the young players.
“Leaving home and leaving my mum by herself was probably the hardest thing,” he said to the camp attendees at Alexandra Park. “Leaving home behind is what kept driving me to be the best I can be.”
The players also participated in mental skills, nutrition, team building, communications and strength and conditioning, sessions with Blues staff and finished the day with a run out on the new Blues training field.
The parents also participated in a full schedule of sessions including pastoral care for young athletes, nutrition, welfare support and important concussion and wellbeing information from Blues Doctor Stephen Kara.
Scott Gregory, a year 12 first five-eighth from Whangarei High School who attended the camp, said that his biggest take-out from the camp was how hard players need to work.
“A lot of the guys who’ve talked have emphasised hard work and that to go forward you need to work really hard,” said Scott. “Things like that are good to take out and I’ll be bringing that back to my 1st XV team.”
The second day of the camp will take place in January.