Outstanding 2 years for side


A former Kaitaia College 1st XV player is planning to write a book about a particularly purple patch in the mid-80s when the secondary school team was the toast of the town.

Leon Busby called in to the Age earlier this week announcing his intentions to detail two glory years for the Far North secondary school team, in particular 1985 when they were unbeaten in Northland age-grade rugby, and 1986 when they hosted and drew with the best secondary schoolboy team in the country.

"In terms of the college rugby history, Kaitaia has always had a successful team but those two years were pretty special. I have got a real good story about that experience. It was the whole journey, a really good story to share, especially with all those following us at the time. When I told my mate he asked me, 'when are you going to do the movie?'," he laughed, before adding, "I've been thinking about doing this for quite a while and if I don't do it now ..."

Busby noted the side "won everything" they contested over the two years and the triumphs galvanised the school team for many years afterwards. Holding down the No.7 blindside flanker role at the time, he, like many, felt the side's greatest achievement was the famous 12-all draw with St Stephen's, the national 1st XV champions, which was played out in front of an Arnold Rae Park packed to the hilt on April 26.

The outcome eventually became a moral victory for the hosts and has since become entrenched in Mangonui rugby lore. At the time, it was referred to as the "best game in decades" by then sports reporter Ted Bagshaw who Busby still remembered fondly: "Every one of our games, he [Bagshaw] was always there taking photos, did all our match reports."

The creation of a remarkable team began the previous year when, tired of dominating the local competition, coach Mat Radich and manager Frank Vinac announced they were entering the team in a Whangarei competition (presumably now known as the Northland under-18 comp) with the endorsement of the Mangonui Rugby Union. This meant travelling away every Saturday for two months because - surprise, surprise - the Whangarei teams simply refused to leave their comfort zone and travel to the Far North in return. Oh well, "If the mountain won't come to Muhammad", as they say, although it's likely this attitude backfired by strengthening the resolve of the Far North schoolboys.

"We weren't cocky, we were just a really good team but the Whangarei people kind of disliked us. Maybe because we showed up all their best teams. We won everything in those days."

Busby described those two years as being, "really something special". In some ways, he drew similarities with the Super Rugby campaign by the Crusaders who were forced to play all their fixtures away from home due to the damage inflicted to Jade Stadium by the February earthquake.

Back to the present, Busby was adamant he didn't so much want to write the story himself but rather provide a compilation of experiences and anecdotes from all the players who were part of the side for those two remarkable seasons. Now a school teacher at respected rugby institution, De La Salle, Busby returned to Kaitaia on Tuesday where he delved deep into the Age archives for old articles and photos. He's also in the process of contacting every player as his extensive research continues.

Anyone who can help is invited to contact Leon Busby at 021 212 3577, email lubzlubz@gmail.com.

- Northland Age

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