Tournament 'more than a game'
Southland Boys' High School managed just one win from five games at the New Zealand secondary schools' rugby league tournament but they still returned to school yesterday possessing what has been described as the most prestigious prize of the lot.
For the first time, Southland Boys' attended the national school league tournament in south Auckland, and the players and their supporters won praise from New Zealand Rugby League and several other schools in attendance.
They were praised for the way they conducted themselves on the field but, more importantly, off the field during their week-long stay.
At the tournament prizegiving they received the NZRL "more than a game" award as a result.
Southland Boys' High School manager Jonathan Bringins said the players were "surprised and shocked" to receive the honour..
"The Tokoroa manager said to me it is probably the biggest award of the tournament because that is what [it] was all about and that is what we were all there for," Bringins said.
While it is the on-field scores and the NRL scouts circling around the talent that attracts most interest the NZRL has put huge emphasis on the "more than a game" tagline.
The belief is the tournament can help make the youngsters better people.
In one of the off-field activities, the players were addressed by Vic Tamaiti, who has a history with domestic violence and is now the the face for the "It's Not OK" campaign to try to prevent it.
Following his address, two players from each team visited primary schools, where they explained to students what they had had taken from the lecture.
Former NRL players Steve Price and Micheal Luck also spoke to the players and were honest regarding how tough it is to make the NRL and what that meant for them.
The former Warriors veterans told players that the likelihood was that only 1 per cent of those listening to them would go on to play in the NRL and, for those who do play in the NRL, the average career lasted for only 44 games.
"There was a real focus on them getting an education at school or after school. That's why I have got addicted to this tournament because of what goes on off the field. I just wish more people could see it. I would recommend it to any school," Bringins said.
As far as the playing side of the tournament went Bringins felt the standard had lifted dramatically from when he took Central Southland College to the same event last year.
He said his players were probably a little "fresh" as far as rugby league knowledge compared to other schools and they also lacked size.
However, he could not fault the commitment shown.
Next year, the NZRL is hoping to introduce a South Island tournament, which will be used as a qualifier to the nationals.
- The Southland Times