Former Northland rugby stalwart Brad Miller is championing a new initiative at Kamo High School in 2013 that focuses on nurturing and holding on to young talented local rugby players.
The Rugby Centre of Excellence programme will focus on the holistic development of students, working towards the ethos of 'good people make great players'.
Students in the programme will have access to initiatives and tools aligned with the current New Zealand Rugby Union High Performance programme.
An integral part will be involving mentors such as Super Rugby and Northland legends Justin Collins, David Holwell, and Hayden Taylor. Other mentors joining Miller are ex-New Zealand sevens player Nick Collins, New Zealand Maori and Chiefs hooker Scott Linklater, and Northland stalwart Brad Taylor.
Miller, who is a physical education teacher at Kamo High School, said there is a need for an initiative such as the Centre to stop local players from being poached by larger unions.
"Over the last few years I have been a regional rugby selector at the under 17 level for the New Zealand rugby union. I have watched our Northland sides struggle against the larger centres, such as Auckland, and feel we need to do something to raise the standard of play among our secondary students and the Rugby Centre of Excellence is one way to do this.
"Also, I have seen a number of Northland players in these Auckland representative sides because they are attending school in Auckland.
"This initiative can give our local Northland players a strong rugby programme with excellent support ... and will be a viable option to stay local instead of heading to Auckland," said Miller.
The Centre aims to bring a level of professionalism to players through individual performance plans, with the aim to lift their overall playing ability, something Miller believes is needed.
"I know that our secondary school rugby players want an organised rugby programme which will challenge them and progress their skills, fitness, and tactics."
Kamo High School year 11 student Swayne Rakete agrees with Miller, adding it will be a privilege to meet and work with the mentors. "I want something that is professional, will make me a better player and hope that it may open some doors for me in the future. I believe it will help me to become a better player and learn new skills," Rakete said.
Currently Miller is seeking sponsorship and applying for funding to help towards travel, equipment and training diaries. Miller said he is keen to kit out players from the Centre so they are recognisable at school and within the community as leaders.
The Centre has established a link with the Northland Rugby Union and will use their resources, coaches and trainers to help young people become professional rugby players. Secondary school students of all ages are invited to contact Brad Miller at Kamo High School for more information about joining the programme.