A conversation two years ago has come to fruition this year, with 40 Hawke's Bay teachers and principals from 26 primary, intermediate and secondary schools strapping on rugby boots and taking to the field.

The original discussion was about starting a Hawke's Bay Men in Education (MiE) rugby team to play against the Tairawhiti MiE - a group for teachers to use sport as a way to become role models to their students.

Last year the challenge was thrown out once again by David Milne, deputy principal of Makarara School in Gisborne, and at last August's Hawke's Bay Principal's Conference the principals of Mayfair, Heretaunga, Maraekakaho, Richmond and Porritt Schools decided they would take it on.

Starting with training on Sunday at Heretaunga Intermediate, the group of five expanded to 10, adopting the name Role Models in Education to be inclusive of the female teachers and principals who are also role models.


"In January, we decided to get serious," says Heretaunga Intermediate principal Michael Sisam.

"We came up with a vision, a mission and a plan for the rugby season that was supported by a long-term plan for the year."

The vision is to develop outstanding educators in the Bay. The mission is to use sport as a platform to promote collegiality and inclusiveness, professional development for educators, and role models for students by being active in the community.

All primary school principals in the Bay were emailed and by May the group had 40 members - 39 primary school teachers and principals and one secondary school teacher, some of whom have played rugby nationally, while others are new to the game.

The rugby team has been christened Hawke's Bay - Education and they have confirmed fixtures to play Tairawhiti, Waikato and Counties MiE teams, as well as having already played a game against Clive RFC, keen supporters of the concept.

"We don't have many sponsors and are currently self funding the team," says Mayfair School principal Ricardo Fox.

"But it's an area we are developing. ASB are supplying bags, drink bottles and bottle crates, Hawke's Bay Technologies are supplying our rugby balls and we have the support of most schools and principals - vital in our mission to be positive role models for our Hawke's Bay kids.

"We have about one new member joining each fortnight. They love the concept of professional development, collegiality and sport rolled into one, with the paramount focus on being out there, doing it, for our kids and schools."

A longtime player and coach, Mr Fox says teachers and principals make ideal role models.
"The kids see us on a daily basis and we are out there coaching their sports teams and teaching them how to be great Kiwis and learners. They know who we are and when you connect someone you know to being involved in a important sports event, interest and pride comes to the fore.

"Traditional sports role models are people they see on TV. Not all our tamariki are able to get to local sports games or afford tickets. They know who their sports heroes are but they don't know them personally, the way they know us.

"When we announced the new team at the Mayfair School assembly last week there was a lot of interest and excitement, as we have three teachers playing. Students were asking for tickets to come and watch when we play Waikato here in the Bay.

"We had students watching the game against Clive and it was cool to see them running on to the field and hugging their teachers.

"As we get our posters and tickets for the games into the schools the interest will continue. "It's going to be great to play in Gisborne in front of 500-plus kids supporting their teachers. Our students will be able to watch the game on Grassroots Rugby and there will be a live feed on Facebook for the game."