College Sport: St Peter's new rugby institute pays dividends in boys' attitudes

By Campbell Burnes

The good work of the St Peter's Rugby Development Institute over term one and the tail-end of last year appears to be paying off. Photo / Getty Images
The good work of the St Peter's Rugby Development Institute over term one and the tail-end of last year appears to be paying off. Photo / Getty Images

The good work of the St Peter's Rugby Development Institute over term one and the tail-end of last year appears to be paying off.

Already the 7As and 6As are having much more success on the field than they did last year, but the institute is about far more than just redressing the win-loss ratio.

Three parents - Sandy Hodge, Mike Maitland and Glenn Patterson - got their heads together last year after what was a challenging season for some of the St Peter's junior sides.

"We weren't turning up fit or with skills, and were turning up too close to the season. The boys weren't 100 per cent into it," said Hodge.

With the blessing of the school and, in particular, director of rugby Mark Wilson, and tapping into the coaching resources of Auckland Rugby and the College Rifles and Marist clubs, the institute saw around 35 boys from Years 7 (St Peter's middle school) to 10 having skill drills, such as honing their technique in the tackle and at the breakdown, and working on their fitness twice weekly at The Cage.

They have been to see the Blues train and had an enlightening session with Auckland Rugby referees boss Smudge McNeilage on the rules. Waisake Sotutu broke down the catch-and-pass for them.

It arrested the player registration decline at St Peter's and, in fact, increased it by 13 per cent this season.

Hodge has seen a seismic shift in the mentality and enjoyment levels of the boys.

"It's completely different from previous years," she said.

"These boys are confident, they are winning more and they don't drop their heads if they have a reversal. Sometimes they just need reminding that they're good.

"You don't know if you have got the next Richie McCaw or Damian McKenzie because the boys grow at different rates. This way we have a pool of boys who are being given the time and space to mature."

Do not confuse the development institute for a rugby academy, which some schools run. While this venture will no doubt help the pool of senior players in a couple of years for the first XV - who are a on a high after two stirring wins over King's and St Kentigern - Hodge says this is not about elite athletes.

"We want to extend our areas as far as possible for all those who want to play rugby and get fit."

It's about having a good experience and giving parents clear notice as to what weight grade their boy might be in, rather than leaving it to the last minute.

The institute will not stop here. Mid-season skills sessions are being planned and the aim is to build on this in term four and term one next year.

- NZ Herald

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