A meeting of the Manaia and the Taniwha proved a great match for the young members of Whangārei Heads School's Summit Club on Thursday.
Players Tom Robinson and Aorangi Stokes didn't play later that night when Northland Rugby's Taniwha took to the field - and were soundly beaten - in a match against Auckland's premier side in Whangārei. Robinson and Stokes had taken knocks in the Taniwha's winning game against Southland the week before.
But earlier in the day, the two were sporting enough to tackle Mt Manaia with members of Whangārei Heads School's Summit Club. The players accompanied the Year 7 and 8 class' mountain-running pupils a short way up the track, but their mentoring and advice could yet prove a game changer for the sporty kids who weekly run up the mountain chasing their own personal bests.
''Being a match day, the players were on a pretty tight time frame and could not go all the way up the mountain with us so they cheered us off and timed our count down,'' Summit Club leader Sara Robinson said.
''Big Red'' Robinson and the affable Stokes took the pupils' through the pre-run warm up, taught them new ways to stretch and how to get warm before they head off. They also answered questions from the ambitious pupils about achieving personal goals.
Importantly, Robinson said, the players gave good advice about ''pushing through those difficult and down days in sport''.
It's the second time Taniwha players have taken an active role supporting the school, which is nestled at the base of Manaia.
The children were disappointed with the Taniwha's loss that night but will keep supporting the side. Many of them regularly attend home games with their families, a school spokeswoman said.
The Summit Club has been going for six years and is open to members of the senior year 7 and 8 class as something to aspire to. Members meet every Thursday at 8.30am and race up to the summit of Manaia in an attempt to improve their time, goals and fitness, week on week.
''We go all weather and all seasons and the kids are rewarded with a morning tea back at school where we record our times and positions. Each member has the opportunity to nominate a fellow Summit Club 'person of the week' award which we present at the whole school assembly on Mondays.''
Come next Monday, there might two persons of the week. Here are some comments from the Summit Club kids after their visit from Robinson and Stokes:
Faith: ''They helped us do a more professional warm up."
Caden: "I got my personal best time today."
Lucca: "The guys inspired me to get to the top after two years of trying."
George: "They taught us some fun new warm up games using a buddy."
Trinity: "It was really fun to meet some real sportsmen and there was a sense of achievement in the air!"