Touch: Backyard games pay off

By Kelly Exelby

They've been jinking, jiving and sidestepping each other in the backyard for years, and now Te Puna's Bidois brothers, Lyall and Tyler, are set to inflict a bit of the same on the Aussies.

Lyall, 19, and his 15-year-old sibling Tyler have been selected for New Zealand teams preparing to take on the might of Australia in a three-test series here and over the ditch.

Tyler, in Year 10 at Tauranga Boys' College, is in the New Zealand under-15 mixed touch team taking on Australia in Sydney in October. Lyall is a surprise selection in the national under-21 men's team who have a slightly longer lead-in with the Aussies coming here early next year.

The boys' father, Aaron Bidois, said they had sharpened their skills in the backyard of the family's Te Puna home for years.

"Tyler has picked up a lot from his older brother. We don't have the [internet] at home so the boys have always spent a lot of time outside instead of sitting in front of TV or the computer."

Tyler is also a gun rugby player who has played Tai Mitchell and Roller Mills for Bay of Plenty, although with the touch series so close he's swapped his boots for rubber cleats, not wanting to risk injury.

He started playing at Tauranga Intermediate and, remarkably, was elevated to the Tauranga Boys' College elite senior team for the school touch nationals in his first year there.

His older brother, who won two national schools titles with Opotiki College, has clearly been an influence, but in true sibling style isn't given a lot of credit.

"We mix it in the backyard and he tries to put it on me, if he can," Tyler said of his brother's input.

Lyall, a builder, will have a weekend training camp in Auckland in October and another one in January, as the New Zealand team will play in the annual invitational touch tournament in Whakatane against the likes of Piri Weepu and Benji Marshall.

He thought he was in line for the New Zealand under-19 team but was bumped up a grade.

"Lyall's grade is extremely hard to get into," Aaron said, "and his coach didn't have a clue where Te Puna was. We quickly filled him in though and now he knows it's the capital of Tauranga!"

Tyler's team will take on Australia in three tests under floodlight in Sydney, his brother, dad, and mum Victoria all flying over to watch him. He has been schooling up on the Aussie style of play, their touch reps enjoying decent capital investment in a national academy programme that has reaped multiple World Cup titles.

"They're fit and quick, and watching some of their older teams play they're also well structured," Tyler said.

The New Zealand under-15 mixed team, which also includes Whakatane's Mererangi Paul and Tuhoe Thrupp of Ruatoki, have had to kick in $3500 each to represent their country.

With the team spread from Southland to Northland, the first time they'll meet as a squad is at the airport before they fly out.

"It's a pretty limited build-up," Aaron said, "but the coach didn't want to load more cost on families by getting them together for training camps.

"This grade is probably the best chance New Zealand has of a win, because although they have big academies set up for their top players at under-15 level they haven't long been in the system."

Despite not having a summer module out at Te Puna, supportive parents have ensured Lyall and Tyler haven't lacked competition. Between them they've played in nine national championships, the Maori nationals and weekly modules at Rangataua and Greerton, Aaron also committing to driving them to Whakatane each Thursday for games last summer.

"Summer's all about touch and, win or lose, it's about giving the boys experience and expanding their skills. It was a trek each week to drive to Whakatane and back but it's paid off in spades for us with both boys making the New Zealand team.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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