Local Dannevirke lad Elyjah Crosswell was selected for high honours in New Zealand rugby when he was picked in the NZ Barbarians Under 18 squad in the middle of the school holidays.
Following involvement in the regional development camps that took place across the country in the first week of the holidays, New Zealand Rugby (NZR) announced 50 players to assemble as the 2020 New Zealand Barbarians Under 18 squad.
The players assembled in Hamilton in the second week and formed two teams named after New Zealand and Barbarian Rugby legends Andy Haden and Alan Whetton.
The teams were coached by Mark Hammett and Tom Coventry as they prepared for a one-off fixture on Friday, October 9.
The players selected represent 29 schools from 12 Provincial Unions, spanning from Dargaville High School in the north, to King's High School in Dunedin. King's College (Auckland), Hamilton Boy's High School and St Andrew's College (Christchurch) have the biggest representation.
Elyjah, son of Paul Crosswell and Belinda Forbes, began his rugby at Huia Range in Dannevirke before going to Palmerston North Boys High where he has been in the first 15 for three years.
He was selected after a Hurricanes Under 18 Camp in Napier in the first week of the holidays. He had an excellent week in Napier, learning a lot from the coaches playing as a flanker.
It is great reward for his persistence in fighting a shoulder injury all last season which resulted in only a few games for the Palmerston North first 15 team.
Returning fully fit to school in 2020 he was made captain of the first 15 in addition to his demanding roles as head boy of both the school and hostel School House.
Despite a Covid-disrupted season, the team played seven games in the national Super Eight competition and with several inter-school fixtures managed a pretty full season.
Elyjah signed with the Manawatu Rugby Academy for 2020 and 2021, a move which has already paid off getting help for his rehabilitation and he is looking forward to playing for a local Palmerston North club and the Manawatu Under 19 team at the National Jock Hobbs Tournament in Taupo 2021.
For Elijah the amazing week training under Mark Hammett and the game at national level was the best experience. He played No 8 for half the game, preference being given to the Auckland players who had not had game time due to the level 2 lockdown, but he really enjoyed the game and played well.
A paper Under-18 NZ Team is expected to be announced this week. The team has no games due to Covid.
NZR high performance player development manager Matt Sexton said the selection was a fantastic reward for what had been a disrupted 1st XV season for many.
"Our talent identification network has done a great job this season in finding talent right across the country and we are really pleased with the group that has been selected.
"While we would usually have teams preparing for international fixtures, this performance camp will be great development for players and the one-off match will be an exciting encounter.
"The aim is to have these young players excited about what is ahead, and prepare them for what will be needed at the next level of the game," said Sexton.