Sports star teen a future leader
"Our motto as a school is stand strong, be proud and lead," says John Kendal, Tai Durie's rugby coach and teacher, "and I think he epitomises that in so many ways."
Kendal speaks proudly of his 17-year-old student at Tai Wananga Tu Toa in Palmerston North.
By the age of 11, Durie had already started travelling around the world to represent New Zealand in his previous sport of choice, tennis.
The tall and confident-looking teen is reserved, forgetting to mention his international victory at a 12 and under competition in New Caledonia in 2009.
Durie says he began playing tennis when he was 4 and started to get more competitive with the sport around the age of 8.
Durie also made the New Zealand under-12s team in 2009 and represented New Zealand at another international tournament in Melbourne.
"Growing up, I only really played one sport, which was tennis," he says. "Rugby was always just there and I really wanted to try it and when I did try it, I really enjoyed it."
A strong set of skills from years of tennis made the transition to rugby easy for Durie in 2011.
Shortly after making the switch, Durie represented Manawatu in the under-14s team in 2011 and represented Manawatu in the under-16s team in 2013.
Since then he has toured the country playing matches with Tu Toa against schools in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.
"I wouldn't describe him as a big talker," Kendal says, "but he certainly sets high standards for himself and leads by example.
"He picks other players up around him when things get tough."
Durie and the Tu Toa first XV have beaten teams such as New Plymouth Boys' High School first XV and Gisborne Boys' High School, with Durie standing out, particularly in the lineouts.
"My most memorable rugby experience was in 2012 when the under-15s played the Hurricanes competition in Wellington," Durie says. "We were so little but we still beat schools like Gisborne Boys' High and Silverstream."
He has achieved good results at school.
Durie wants to make it into the Manawatu academy and eventually play for the Turbos.
"That would be an honour," he says.
"Maoridom needs genuine future leaders," Kendal says. "I've come across two in my 20 years of teaching and this young man is another one."
The Manawatu Standard