Dan Waenga has pulled on a few different rugby jerseys over the years including several at first class level and some overseas.

The New Zealand under-20s, Chiefs, Magpies and Bay of Plenty Steamers are among them. But Waenga, 32, now a first-year referee in Hawke's Bay, is adamant which jersey he enjoyed pulling on the most.

"The sky blue one of Napier Boys' High School's First XV and that 2002 season was my best year in rugby," Waenga said after squeezing into his old No 10 jersey again this week.

His passion for that sky blue jersey was reignited last night when more than a dozen members of the side assembled for the start of the first reunion weekend for the team which tasted national top four glory when they shared the crown with Rotorua Boys' High School.


"There was never any pressure on us and while we knew we had a pretty good team because a lot of us came through from under-15 level together the focus was always just on the next game," Waenga recalled.

"We did the hard work together and we made it fun."

The father of four and former Taradale premier team assistant coach is enjoying refereeing.

"It keeps me involved in the game and keeps me fit. It's time to give back to the code."

One of the team's wingers, Ryan Hambleton, who has worked as Sport Hawke's Bay's commercial manager for two years after returning from a 13-year stint in Wellington, said he had an inkling the team could do well when they beat Kelston Boys' High School 29-24 during a pre-season trip to Auckland.

"They were huge. I'm sure they had a few fourth-year seventh formers," he joked.

Father of three Hambleton, 33, believed the away bus trips for Super 8 fixtures every second week were a key factor in the team's success and contributed to a tight group.

"We gelled together pretty good as a group. We loved playing together, there was consistency in selection and we were encouraged to play attacking rugby by our coaches," Hambleton said referring to co-coaches Stu 'Wiremu' Gourdie and Del 'Rupeni' Whyte.

Hambleton ranked marking future All Black Hosea Gear when he was playing for Gisborne Boys' High School as one of his highlights.

"I remember Hosea making this massive run down the sideline towards me and his huge tattooed arm coming out to fend me off. I managed to get my arms around him and Colin sprinted across to finish him off with a superb covering tackle," he said referring to No 8 Colin Bourke.

"We go down to watch the First XV games now which follow the haka and it's memories like those which flood back. You never forget them," Hambleton said.

He had no doubt the school would taste national top four glory again in the near future.

"It will only be a matter of time ... there's so much proud rugby history at the school for it not to happen.

"Maybe if Rupeni and Wiremu made a comeback to coaching the team," Waenga quipped.

Their national top four final against Rotorua Boys' High School, played at Auckland's Eden Park, was drawn 6-all.

Coach Gourdie said there was no extra time because of time constraints with television coverage and two other curtainraisers before an Auckland NPC game.

Lock Robbie Schaw, who later became a first class cricketer, captained the NBHS team and a future All Black loosie, Liam Messam, captained the Rotorua side which was co-coached by Hawke's Bay age group product Andre Bell and Chris Grinter.

One of the Rotorua props, Dylan Hartley was a future England captain and hooker while NBHS player Karne Hesketh represented Japan at the 2015 World Cup.

The 2002 NBHS side played 24 games, won 22 including all seven Super 8 fixtures, lost one and drew one. They scored 1086 points and conceded 185.

Future All Black lock Bryn Evans and future All Black Sevens rep Bourke both made the New Zealand Secondary Schools team. Bourke was also selected as captain of the New Zealand Secondary Schools Sevens team.

Bourke and Evans were among six NBHS forwards named in the Hurricanes team. Fullback Ricky Blunsdon scored 336 points during the season and winger Johnny Robin was the next best with 120. Waenga scored 101, Bourke 85 and Hesketh 70.

Evans' brother and current Highlanders and Magpies loosie Gareth Evans was a regular ball boy for the team.

"There were never any problems with the boys ... they just got on so well," Gourdie recalled.

"While there weren't too many academics among them they never let us down at school."

The side's only loss was their second game, a 16-15 loss to Palmerston North Boys' High School, and the First XV went on to win 40 consecutive matches before losing their 18th match in 2003.

The reunion began with a get-together at East Pier last night. Today the team will attend the Super 8 fixture between their former school's First XV and New Plymouth Boys' High School in Napier.

Tonight a reunion dinner will be held at the school.

The journey: b Manu Tech Colts 33-5, lost to Palmerston North Boys' High School 16-15, b Westlake 74-0, b Kelston 29-24, b Christ College 32-5, b Havelock North High School 95-5, b Taradale High School 121-0, b St John's College 76-0, b Central Hawke's Bay College 71-0, b Te Aute College 71-0, b Wellington College 48-7, b Wairarapa College 20-5, b Gisborne Boys' High School 18-3, b Hastings Boys' High School 10-9, b Tauranga Boys' High School 59-7, b Hamilton Boys' High School 29-13, b Rotorua Boys' High School 19-5, b New Plymouth Boys' High School 38-32, b Palmerston North Boys' High School 43-14, b NOBM Colts 43-5, b Wanganui City College 77-5, b Palmerston North Boys' High School 27-7, b Otago Boys' High School 32-13, drew with Rotorua Boys' High School 6-all.
Where are they now? Ricky Blunsdon - living in Wellington working as a plasterer, Johnny Robin - playing for Otane in division two after more than 150 games for Havelock North premiers, Karne Hesketh - playing in Japan and the hero of Japan's upset win over South Africa at the 2015 World Cup, Ryan Hambleton - Sport Hawke's Bay's commercial manager for the past two years after 13-year stint in Wellington, Joe Utiera - living on the Gold Coast working as a foreman for a contract maintenance crew, James Warren - living in Gisborne and is a former Poverty Bay rep, Lee Stewart - farming in Central Hawke's Bay and aiming to play his 200th game for the Central premiers by 2019, Dan Waenga - working in the Bay as a sales rep for Laminex and a first year referee after playing for the New Zealand under-20s, New Zealand Divisional team, Chiefs, Magpies and Bay of Plenty, Scott Williamson - living in Melbourne and working for the Victoria Police, Peter Sciascia ('Phil G Nome') - living in Wellington where he has played more than 200 games for the Marist St Pats premiers, Colin Bourke - former All Blacks Sevens rep, Magpie and Bay of Plenty player who still plays in the Japan Top League for Ricoh Black Rams, Matt Head - living in Singapore working as a financial adviser, Simon Bremner - living in Hamilton working as a car salesman, Adam Bradey - a former Magpie who retired after more than 150 games for Havelock North premiers and works as a builder in Hawke's Bay, Ally Paine ('The Pain Train') - living in Wellington where he manages the Poneke Premiers, Tom Sanson - living in Gisborne, Bryn Evans - former All Black, Hurricane, Blues player and Magpie who is playing for the Sale Sharks in the UK, Robbie Schaw - former first class cricketer who farms in Hawke's Bay, Peter Stevens - works as a branch second-in-charge for Laminex in Napier and plays for Napier Pirate Rugby and Sports senior thirds, Dennis Puia - working as a scaffolder in Hawke's Bay, Nick Marshall - coaching in Spain where he is also a successful entrepreneur, Jerome Ruhi - living in Hawke's Bay and working as a roofing contractor, Leon Head - living in Christchurch working as a business banker.
Co-coaches: Stu 'Wiremu' Gourdie - head of maths at NBHS, Del 'Rupeni' Whyte - senior master at NBHS.
Manager: Julie Gourdie - office staff at NBHS.