Cameron Skelton set to showcase his size in NZ

AARON GOILE
Last updated 05:00 07/08/2014
Cameron Skelton
BRUCE MERCER/Fairfax NZ

BIG UNIT: Cameron Skelton, all 2.05m and 153kg of him, next to Waikato prop Atu Moli.

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He's the big man looking to make a big impact on New Zealand rugby.

At 2.05m and weighing 153kg, it's going to be hard to miss Cameron Skelton.

The 19-year-old lock arrived in Hamilton last week, having been signed by the Chiefs and Waikato as a development prospect, snapped up from the ranks of the Super Rugby champion Waratahs.

Skelton was set to follow the path of his brother Will, who has been instrumental for the Waratahs and earned his test debut for the Wallabies this year.

But for the younger Skelton it's the All Blacks which is the ultimate aim, having made the decision that moving back to New Zealand would be the best way for him to progress.

"To me, New Zealand's probably got the best rugby in the world, so I just felt like playing any rugby here would be good," he said.

The inaugural national under-19 tournament, to be held in Taupo in September-October, was a big reason why Skelton liked the thought of a transition here.

"I think the thing that really caught me was just the potential pathway to where I want to be in a few years - obviously Super Rugby. Just realising that pathway and if I get the hard work done off the field and put it on the field I think I can have a real crack at this."

Born in Auckland, Skelton moved with his family to Sydney when he was seven. He first played rugby league, before only starting in the 15-man code three years ago, with Will having been an inspiration.

"I just played club and straight after that year I just fell in love with rugby," Skelton said. "It just suited me, it just felt normal, like I'd played it for years. I just felt like I was a bigger part, I could play a bigger role in rugby, especially lineouts, I love the physicality of the game."

This year Skelton turned out for the Waratahs Under-20s as well as Samoa at the IRB Junior World Championship. At that tournament Skelton's coach told him the Chiefs were keen to talk to the youngster, with Tom Coventry (Chiefs forwards coach and Samoa forwards coach) and Dave Dillon (Chiefs player identification and development manager) meeting with Skelton a couple of days later.

"It was good to hear what they had to say and what their interests were in me," Skelton said.

"I was really grateful to have them come up to me like that because it's a bit of a culture shock for me, just getting someone like that coming up to me interested in the way I play rugby."
And Skelton liked what he heard, feeling this move would be the best opportunity for him to play his best rugby.

"Not being arrogant or anything, but you know, when it comes to my career I think I have to be a bit selfish at times. I think the number one thing was just developing as a good rugby player. And with the Chiefs here and Waikato being good rugby systems for their boys, I just felt like coming here was the best option for me to grow as a rugby player, as well as off the field."

Skelton's size is something to behold. He wears size 17 shoes, and he's going to make props look small.

It's a family trait, with Will 2.03m and 137kg, while 13-year-old brother Logan is also huge.

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"I was a bit bigger than my age but I didn't really shoot up till I was about mid-teens, then I just started slowly growing from there," Skelton said, adding that the hand-me-down clothes came in handy from Will - who is the first person he turns to for on-field advice.

Now Skelton's looking to utilise that size wherever and whenever he can during a game.

"If I can get my hands on the ball or the ball carrier and I can do something with him I try and be dominant, I just try and be as physical as I can," he said.

Skelton is settling in well and said the support around him has made that easier. He doesn't have a licence so is being driven around, and he is living with Waikato under-19 team-mates Atu Moli and Josh Dowsing, as well as Lynne Sanson who is part of the rugby support staff.

While thinking of studying next year, Skelton is currently volunteering as a teacher aide at Tai Wananga ki Ruakura.

"It just keeps me out of the house, just stops me from being a rock at home," he said.

But it's rugby which will be Skelton's major focus. While he hasn't yet spoken to Chiefs coach Dave Rennie or had much contact with Waikato coach John Walters, he's just looking to take things as they come.

"Nineteens is probably my priority at the moment. But if the ITM [Cup] opportunity did come up, obviously anyone would take it with two hands.

"I'm always looking to the future and seeing what's ahead of me, but I've just got to put my head down first and work hard."

Skelton is used to getting that head down - "chin to chest" is his constant reminder to avoid doorways and the like.

- Waikato Times

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