Jamie Verran a Southland Stag for career good
With his dream of playing provincial rugby blocked in Canterbury, Woodlands fullback Jamie Verran decided to head south in search of greater opportunities.
The 23-year-old played six matches for the NPC champions last year, starting in three of the first four games before falling down the pecking order behind Colin Slade and Tom Taylor.
"They've obviously got a lot of depth at fullback, with Sladey, Tom Taylor and also Johnny McNichol and they said they couldn't really give me anything contract-wise," Verran said.
"I'm at that stage where I really need to be playing ITM Cup and so I can't really afford to hang around playing Canterbury B.
"The opportunity came up down here and I thought ‘let's do it'."
Verran's agent was scouting around the provinces and discovered some interest from Rugby Southland, who will need to replace Marty McKenzie following his shift to Taranaki, and possibly an injured Robbie Robinson for this year's NPC.
Verran has previously played under new Southland coach Brad Mooar with the Canterbury under-21 team. "He's a really top man, he's a good fella," Verran said.
A civil engineering graduate from Canterbury University, Verran is working for Invercargill-based land development business Bonisch Consultants, but his focus is on rugby.
"Me and the boss had a good conversation before I rocked in there. I'm keen to work but at the end of the day I'm down here to play footy and they are pretty understanding. I start work at 8am and if I need to shoot away early for training that's the way it is, it works out really well."
Verran is originally from Mt Maunganui but struggled to make Bay of Plenty age-group sides because he attended a smaller high school without a strong first XV. He worked his way through the Canterbury development system in Christchurch and even got a callup to the New Zealand sevens squad in 2012 after one of Sir Gordon Tietjens' scouts spotted his pace in club rugby.
Verran attended a Tietjens training camp and was selected for the Gold Coast round of the World Series. "It came up out of the blue. I was just sitting at uni one day and got a phone call from ‘Titch'. Someone had told him I went well in open space and was reasonably fit.
"They had a few top guys out because they were locked into ITM Cup and I got the call up to the camp. I tested really well, got picked for a second camp and made the team.
"It was a great experience. It was the biggest stage I've played on and I learnt a bit about pressure. It was pretty good."
Verran is settling into a star-studded Woodlands backline which is likely to produce a number of Stags players this year and he's been finding his feet in the local club scene. Woodlands have an important fixture at home against Marist on Saturday. "Compared to Christchurch there's a different mindset, a bit more forward-orientated. Everyone is just as competitive and I've just been trying to adjust."
Verran has signed a two-year deal with the Stags, and has hopes of taking his game further.
"I've always wanted to play rugby for a job.
Playing professionally would be a dream. Whether that's here or overseas remains to be seen.
"Hopefully it will be here [in NZ] but it's pretty competitive here so we'll see what happens."
- The Southland Times