Multi-talented teen seeks success
Size in sport is not everything and Sam Boyce is perfect evidence of that.
The pint-sized year 13 Marlborough Boys' College student is within two months of turning 18, but he is already a senior Marlborough representative in both his major sports, cricket and football.
Both achievements occurred in the past two months. Early last month, Sam played his first match for the Marlborough men's football team in their penalty shootout win over Nelson to retain the Harris Cup, and last weekend he made his Marlborough senior cricket debut at the Chapple and Cave Cup Central Districts one-day competitions in Napier.
Sam made the Marlborough cricket squad for the first time a month ago and although he thought there was a chance he might get to go to Napier, the Wairau Valley medium-pacer certainly was not expecting to roll the arm over.
"I wasn't expecting to be called up for Chapple Cup. [Head selector] Pete Knowles said to me I'd be going up as a 13th man, but when Chris Pope got injured and couldn't go, I ended up playing.
"I got to bowl a few overs on all three days, it was just a whole different level. The intensity was much higher and you were playing against quality players. With senior club cricket you can bowl a couple of loose balls an over and get away with it, but at that level you can't, and even good balls get put away."
Selection in the Marlborough senior side was a natural progression for Sam, a Marlborough representative at primary school, under-15, under-16 and under-18 level. In the 2009-10 season, he was Marlborough's most outstanding under-15 cricketer.
He got into cricket through the Milo schools programme and joined the Wairau club, making his senior debut at the start of the 2010-11 season.
However, he played his majority of senior games that season for the College Old Boys side, and experienced one of the highlights of his career, overcoming Wairau in a thrilling final to win the Marlborough two-day title.
When College left the senior competition after one year, Sam made the switch to Valley. And although last season did not bring much success, he is optimistic about better results this time around.
As with cricket, Sam's natural talent and work ethic saw him work his way up the football ranks before making the Marlborough men's side.
Since starting out with the Rangers club at primary school, Sam has played in all the age-group rep sides. His breakthrough at senior level came last year and, as he explains, it was a rapid rise from Marlborough division two to turning out for the Marlborough Mariners in the Nelson division one league.
"I started the season playing for [Rangers] Development. I got promoted to the GT side and then [Mariners coach] Paul Finnegan asked me to play off the bench. We had a rep tournament in Timaru and Finn was the coach. He picked a few of us younger players to come along to [Mariners] trainings and it just went from there."
Despite being much smaller than most players in the Nelson competition, Sam soon began to impress and by the end of the season he was a starting Mariners player.
"First off the football was really fast and a much higher intensity than club level, but I got used to it by the end of the season. I'm not the biggest, but I guess my attitude is to not back down and let their size be an advantage. [Being smaller] has its advantages, too. I have agility and I'm maybe a bit quicker and it sometimes works with winning fouls."
Hard work and natural ability have clearly played a big part in Sam's success, but he singles out Finnegan, in football, and Greg Stretch, in cricket, as having a significant influence.
Being brought up in a sporty family has also played a large role. Dad Steve played senior rugby for Renwick and senior cricket and these days plays football for Rangers Masters and second-grade cricket for Valley; younger brother Harrison is an age-group cricket and football rep. Mum Liarne's support has been crucial over the years, doing everything from helping out as a scorer in cricket to the weekly cleaning of dirty cricket whites and football kits.
A keen fisherman in his spare time, Sam is looking into attending Camp America next year before maybe going to university. As for his sporting future, his focus is on doing well at club level and retaining his spot in both Marlborough senior teams. Beyond that, who knows? But there is no doubt sport will be a big part of his life for a long time yet.
"I just want to play at the highest level I can, maybe that's not for New Zealand, but I will definitely be playing sport for as long as I can."
Name: Sam Boyce.
Nickname: Boycey, Sheep.
Born: Wairau Hospital, Blenheim, December 13, 1994.
Educated: Witherlea School, Bohally Intermediate, Marlborough Boys' College.
Earliest sporting heroes: Shane Bond, Jonah Lomu.
Latest sporting heroes: Sam Burgess, Richie McCaw, Andrew "Jugz" Jeffries.
Must-watch TV programme: Revenge, X Factor, Nothing Trivial.
Must-have food: Seafood.
What's hot on your MP3 player (walkman/stereo): Mumford & Sons and anything new.
Favourite holiday spot: Anywhere in the Sounds.
Pet hates: Bowling into the wind.
Fashion crime: Socks tucked into pants.
Favourite sporting moment: Debut for Marlborough senior cricket team and winning the senior two-day final with College Old Boys.
Worst sporting moment: Losing to Nelson in anything.
In five years I'll be: Still playing sport to the highest level I can.
- The Marlborough Express