Plenty of talent in Maori u18s

Players picked from Condor national sevens tournament and got together three days before world tournament.

Players picked from Condor national sevens tournament and got together three days before world tournament.

ONE FOR THE BUCKET LIST ALBUM: The New Zealand Maori under-18 rugby sevens squad at Te Tahawai Marae at Edgewater College, back (from left): Mihaere Emery (cultural adviser), Tera Whata, Brady Rush, Matene Ruawai, Tamaiti Williams, Rob Rush, Grayson Whitman, Will Ngatai and Mark Seymour (manager). Front: Dwayne Russell (assistant coach), Ariki Hood-Kaitapu, Nikau Graham, Trent Hape, Matangireia Yates-Francis, Jackson Borchet, Kieran Lee and Rico Gear (head coach). Picture by Tom Martin

POVERTY Bay Heartland Championship team assistant coach Dwayne Russell ticked an item off his “bucket list” when he and Rico Gear coached the New Zealand Maori under-18 team at the inaugural world schools rugby sevens tournament in Auckland.

“It’s been a long-term goal of mine to coach alongside Rico (a former All Black, Maori All Black and Gisborne Boys’ High School first 15 player),” Russell said.

“It was uplifting and I’m grateful for the experience. We are both Poverty Bay men and passionate about what we do.”

Russell said the players were picked from the Condor national sevens tournament and got together three days before the world tournament to train and learn about their culture.

The team featured a cross-section of talent, including Rob and Brady Rush — sons of former All Black Eric — of Kerikeri, Rotorua captain Matangireia Yates-Francis (son of Gisborne man Richard) and Tera Whata.

“We had Trent Hape from Hastings, Hamilton’s Kieran Lee, who’s a real talent, speedster Ariki Hood-Kaitapu, who played for Westlake, Matene Ruawai (Palmerston North), Tamaiti Williams and Nikau Graham (both from Kerikeri), Will Ngatai from Tauranga Boys’ High, Jackson Borchet from St Peter’s, and Grayson Whitman from St Pat’s Town in Wellington.”

Russell said the manager of the team, Mark Seymour, was an old friend. They had gone to St Stephen’s Maori boarding school together. Mark was the elder brother of Dallas Seymour, the first All Black from St Stephen’s School.

“It was great to catch up with Mark again and the job was seamless with good management.”

Russell said it would have been great to have had some Gisborne players in the squad.

“No local players were involved but here’s hoping that if the opportunity comes around next year for teams to attend the Condors then we can get a couple of players recognised for their efforts,” Russell said.

“Next year they are expecting interest from the likes of USA and I’m sure the word will get around to other countries to invest in their youth.”

The New Zealand Maori u18 team played two warm-up games two days out from the tournament and three on the day, and eventually won the bowl.

Russell said the NZ Maori and NZ Condor Invitational teams both stayed at Te Tahawai Marae on the Edgewater College grounds, Pakuranga, and bonded well. He attributed this to the work of cultural adviser Mihaere Emery, who assists all NZ Maori teams and coaches.

Australia were the eventual winners of the tournament. They beat NZ Samoa in the final.

NZ Maori u18 sevens results were —

Warm up games: beat NZ Fiji 24-7, lost to NZ 27-17.

At the tournament: lost to NZ Samoa 31-5, drew with Australia 19-19, beat Cook Islands 31-0.

Russell said thanks were due to Tiki Edwards, Chad Tuoro and Phil Gaze for helping to provide opportunities for developing Maori coaches and players.

The programme had been a resounding success for future sevens specialists and Olympic hopefuls.

POVERTY Bay Heartland Championship team assistant coach Dwayne Russell ticked an item off his “bucket list” when he and Rico Gear coached the New Zealand Maori under-18 team at the inaugural world schools rugby sevens tournament in Auckland.

“It’s been a long-term goal of mine to coach alongside Rico (a former All Black, Maori All Black and Gisborne Boys’ High School first 15 player),” Russell said.

“It was uplifting and I’m grateful for the experience. We are both Poverty Bay men and passionate about what we do.”

Russell said the players were picked from the Condor national sevens tournament and got together three days before the world tournament to train and learn about their culture.

The team featured a cross-section of talent, including Rob and Brady Rush — sons of former All Black Eric — of Kerikeri, Rotorua captain Matangireia Yates-Francis (son of Gisborne man Richard) and Tera Whata.

“We had Trent Hape from Hastings, Hamilton’s Kieran Lee, who’s a real talent, speedster Ariki Hood-Kaitapu, who played for Westlake, Matene Ruawai (Palmerston North), Tamaiti Williams and Nikau Graham (both from Kerikeri), Will Ngatai from Tauranga Boys’ High, Jackson Borchet from St Peter’s, and Grayson Whitman from St Pat’s Town in Wellington.”

Russell said the manager of the team, Mark Seymour, was an old friend. They had gone to St Stephen’s Maori boarding school together. Mark was the elder brother of Dallas Seymour, the first All Black from St Stephen’s School.

“It was great to catch up with Mark again and the job was seamless with good management.”

Russell said it would have been great to have had some Gisborne players in the squad.

“No local players were involved but here’s hoping that if the opportunity comes around next year for teams to attend the Condors then we can get a couple of players recognised for their efforts,” Russell said.

“Next year they are expecting interest from the likes of USA and I’m sure the word will get around to other countries to invest in their youth.”

The New Zealand Maori u18 team played two warm-up games two days out from the tournament and three on the day, and eventually won the bowl.

Russell said the NZ Maori and NZ Condor Invitational teams both stayed at Te Tahawai Marae on the Edgewater College grounds, Pakuranga, and bonded well. He attributed this to the work of cultural adviser Mihaere Emery, who assists all NZ Maori teams and coaches.

Australia were the eventual winners of the tournament. They beat NZ Samoa in the final.

NZ Maori u18 sevens results were —

Warm up games: beat NZ Fiji 24-7, lost to NZ 27-17.

At the tournament: lost to NZ Samoa 31-5, drew with Australia 19-19, beat Cook Islands 31-0.

Russell said thanks were due to Tiki Edwards, Chad Tuoro and Phil Gaze for helping to provide opportunities for developing Maori coaches and players.

The programme had been a resounding success for future sevens specialists and Olympic hopefuls.

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