It’s no secret that the Blues region produces some of the most sought-after rugby talent.
Take the success of Mount Albert Grammar Schools First XV for example. The team, coached by Geoff Moon and featuring a number of Blues Under 18 Development players, took out this year’s 1A First XV final when they defeated Sacred Heart 15-13 at Eden Park.
The team then travelled south to the Top 4 Boys Competition in Palmerston North, which featured a team each from Blues, Chiefs, Hurricanes and South Island regions.
MAGS easily progressed through the semi-finals, defeating Southland Boys’ High School 41-0, before coming up against Hastings Boys’ High School in the final.
In an unusual twist, they were deemed the underdogs heading in to the final – their 18-1 record for the season was one win behind HBHS’s perfect record – but MAGS came away the national champions after a nail-biting 14-13 victory.
Aorere College also represented the Blues finishing 2nd in the Co-ed Competition, and Kaipara College finished 3rd in the Girls’ Competition.
Then there’s the recent NZ Secondary Schools training camp. Of the 55 students named, almost one-third were involved in this year’s Blues Under-18 squad.
Rob Cobb – Prop – Mount Albert Grammar School
Michael Palmer – Prop – Mount Albert Grammar School
Waimana Reidlinger-Kapa – Lock – Mount Albert Grammar School
Paul Roache – Second Five – Mount Albert Grammar School
Caleb Clarke – Wing – Mount Albert Grammar School
Niven Longopoa – Fullback – Mount Albert Grammar School
Damon Abraham – Prop – Sacred Heart College, Auckland
Hoskins Sotutu – Loose Forward – Sacred Heart College, Auckland
Tevita Mafileo – Prop – Saint Kentigern
Tanielu Tele’a – Second Five – Saint Kentigern
Cameron Suafoa – Lock – St Peter’s College
Harry Plummer – First Five – St Peter’s College
Sione Havili – Loose Forward – Auckland Grammar School
Ajay Mua – No. 8 – King’s College, Auckland
Ciarahn Matoe – First Five – King’s College, Auckland
Scott Gregory – Second Five – Whangarei Boys High School
Caleb Clarke, co vice-captain at MAGS and NZ Secondary Schools representative for the second year running, has been part of the Blues’ development programme for the past two years and cites it as key to his leadership abilities.
“There were characteristics that we learned at camp, like how to lead the boys and put the team first,” said Caleb, who’s in his final year at school. “I’ve learned that you can’t stay quiet.”
The 17-year-old wing and centre is the son of Blues and Auckland Rugby great Eroni Clarke, a fact that has been challenging in the past.
“When I first started high school, I didn’t know what my identity was and I was known as Eroni’s son,” he said. “When I made the NZ Schools team last year, I saw this list of players and thought ‘how did I get here?’”
Over the past year, with assistance from friends, his parents and the Blues development programme, Caleb has seen how much of an impact mental strength can have on performance.
He’s planning to study psychology and sports science, after seeing the work that Mental Skills Coach Kylie Wilson and Personal Development Manager Victoria Hood do with the team.
The strength of Auckland’s schoolboy rugby has resulted in a competitive selection process for the Blues’ development programme, and the amount of players selected for the NZ Squad further emphasises the depth of talent in the region.
Blues High Performance Manager Tony Hanks, who heads up the Blues Development squad, said the recent results are a credit to the schools involved and their coaches.
“The quality of all the teams involved in local secondary school competitions is strong, highlighted by the competitive regional finals where Westlake Boys High School and Massey High School pushed MAGS and Aorere close,” said Tony.
“Not only are our local schools producing excellent rugby players but quality young men who we are very privileged to work with. We are proud of all the young men who have been named in the NZ Secondary Schools Squad and look forward to seeing them in action later this year.”