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Rugby academy abuzz

GEORGE GARDNER
Last updated 08:37 20/02/2013
John Hawkesby, left, and ex-All Blacks Grant Fox and Stu Wilson
George Gardner

Trio try: John Hawkesby, left, and ex-All Blacks Grant Fox and Stu Wilson cajole the crowd to bid higher for a rugby ball signed by Sir Colin Meads. Proceeds from the lunch at Rangihoua Estate will kick-start the Waiheke Island Rugby Academy.

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A new rugby academy aims to produce an All Black on Waiheke Island by 2030.

The initiative was launched during a day-long event that marked the official opening of the Waiheke Island Rugby club rooms and a new 10-year lease at the Onetangi Sports Park.

The academy is a joint initiative with Waiheke High School and principal Neil Watson says it's all about "maximising opportunity" for the students.

"Sport builds character and reveals character," he says.

Waiheke rugby coaches will mentor the school's teams.

Ex-All Black Stu Wilson, who is Waiheke Island Rugby Club's ambassador, joined former All Black and current selector Grant Fox in supporting the launch by handing out medals to young players and taking part in a fundraising lunch hosted by John Hawkesby at Rangihoua Estate.

The passionate advocates of the game entertained with their rugby memoirs and talk of players' form, and answered questions.

"Don't tell me the DNA of this country isn't rugby," Stu says.

"Foxy" remains tight-lipped on the next All Blacks selection.

"We're going to watch them and they will tell us with their form."

An auction of donated items raised $7500 to start the academy, including a rugby ball signed by Sir Colin Meads which was scored by local board member Jim Hannan.

Waiheke Island Rugby president Vern Whitehead says you can feel the atmosphere at the club rooms now the club has a 10-year lease.

"The opening was a wonderful occasion and the biggest buzz was the number of lads signing up to play. If we can have a kids' team in every age grade they can just move through the grades." See P34 for more.

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