Little rippas ready for opponents Riveting Riverdale

Non-contact rugby players take on NZ's best

LUCY TOWNEND
Last updated 07:55 05/09/2014
rugby rippas
WARWICK SMITH / Fairfax NZ
READY TO RUMBLE: Riverdale School represents Manawatu in Rippa Rugby Championship - Lochie Avery, 10, about to rippa tackle Kael Pritchard, 11.

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A team of hard-working Palmerston North rippa rugby players is ready to tackle whatever stiff competition comes its way at a national championship next week.

Riverdale School will represent Manawatu in a two-day rippa rugby tournament, starting on Monday, after winning the regional competition to qualify.

Coach and deputy principal Matt McCallum said the team had a lot of talent. "They've all got their specialties, and they've got diverse abilities that work together to make a great team."

Rippa rugby is a safe, non-contact form of rugby aimed at primary school children in which, instead of tackling, players rip Velcro-fastened tags off each other's waists. It runs seven minutes each way.

Riverdale's team, made up of five boys and five girls aged 10 and 11, have spent months preparing, including practising up to three times a week, running shuttles during morning intervals and having practice matches against other schools.

The team has high expectations, with co-captains Maddy Kirk, 10, and Hael Pritchard, 11, both agreeing the aim is to finish in the top four.

With nearly 200 other budding rugby stars to line up against, drawn from 20 schools from throughout New Zealand, the pair say it'll be a tough task.

"Every year we've been to it we've been in the top four . . . I'm nervous about not doing well but it's always fun," Maddy said.

It will be the school's third appearance at the championship - they came fourth in 2011, second in 2012 but didn't win the Manawatu competition last year to qualify.

Riverdale had run a touch module on Monday afternoons at the school since 2007, which had seen this year's rippa rugby players growing up learning skills which translated to rippa, McCallum said.

"For the kids getting to go is a big perk; they'll be meeting other kids from different areas of New Zealand, away from home and it'll be a great experience for them."

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- Manawatu Standard

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