Several successful New Zealand sportsmen have come on board to help the Kaitaia College 1st XV fundraise for a tour to Rarotonga next year.
1st XV coach Clendon Pene said the squad of 26 players, which includes two teachers and a manager, is preparing for a three-game tour where it will play two under 18 sides, town and country, and the Tereora College 1st XV in July.
He encouraged the wider Far North community to get in behind the team's fundraising drive, saying the 11-day trip represented far more than just playing rugby and having a vacation. All the equipment the side is taking over will be left behind for local schools to use.
"As well as leaving behind rugby balls, cones etc, we will also be doing coaching clinics in primary schools, teaching rugby skills - basically spreading the gospel."
The team is already well into a concerted effort to raise the target of $30,000 for the upcoming tour while each player is also required to contribute $2000 for their own flights, accommodation and insurance.
"We've been doing little things like sausage sizzles, raffles, garage sales," Pene said. "[All] goes towards food, breakfast, lunch and dinner, our transport, the whole time we are there. We are working for it. Boys are out there getting jobs for the holidays, parents have been doing payment plans.
"Our kaupapa is about putting our hand up and trying to do things for ourselves as opposed to putting our hand out. That's why we are doing things in the community, why we are out in public, walking our talk. We could apply for funding but what's the reason? May as well get out there and get on with it anyway."
The team organised a successful dinner and auction night at the college last month with former New Zealand Rugby Sevens star Zar Lawrence from Whatuwhiwhi featuring as a guest speaker.
The evening event on Saturday, October 28, included a buffet meal, seafood platters, salad bar and dessert, along with a number of big ticket items up for grabs at the auction.
A signed All Black jersey fetched $1700, while two accommodation packages for the Edgewater Resort in Rarotonga went for $1700 (five days) and $2400 (seven days) respectively.
Pene has not hesitated in deploying his influential connections within the New Zealand rugby and rugby league community to get high profile players like Lawrence to help. He also managed to get Anthony Gelling from Super League champions Wigan Warriors and the Cook Islands national team to visit.
"[He's] Been in to talk to the boys and support our tour. He spoke about what it took to be a professional and doing the work to get to the next level," said Pene. Gelling also presented the side with a signed Wigan jersey to auction.
The team is also planning to hold a major fundraising golf day, dinner and auction at Ahipara early next year.