Wellington Secondary Schools rugby was in a weak position in 2018. Participation numbers across the board were down while the First XV Premiership competition was won by St Patrick’s College, Silverstream – averaging more than 50 points per game.
Despite the dip in standards it’s undeniable younger players are making a bigger impact quicker and there are some promising prospects to keep an eye on in Club Rugby in 2019.
The Upper Hutt Rams and Marist St Pat’s are two clubs who disappointed last year. MSP missed the Jubilee Cup semi-finals while the Rams were in the Hardham Cup again and failed to defend that title.
Both clubs have gained a strong school leavers intake in an attempt to bounce back.
MSP have acquired the impressive Thompson twins from National Top Four runners up Napier Boys’ High School. Tyrone Thompson was captain of that Napier team and was selected for the New Zealand Secondary Schools squad. An unusually tall hooker, Thompson is explosive with ball in hand and joins his brother Leo Thompson in the Wellington Rugby Academy. Leo is a powerfully built midfield back and New Zealand Under-18 Maori selection in 2018.
Two more members of that Napier Boys’ High School team head south to Wellington to join rivals Old Boys University. Josh Gimblett is a lock/flanker and made the NZ Schools Barbarians team and Tiaki Fabish is a lock.
Keelan Whitman has been one of the more impressive age group players in the capital in recent times. The versatile flanker and captain of the St Patrick’s Town First XV last year joins his brother Grayson at the Scarlets.
Nigel Bingham enjoyed two successful years coaching the First XV at St Pat’s Silverstream and has stepped up to the Rams senior staff in 2019. His positive relationship with Silverstream has seen quality youngsters Josh Southall, Scott Svenson,Iona Apineru and Luke Chisholm lured to Maoribank Park.
Southall and Apineru are both flankers who made the New Zealand Schools, though the former missed the whole of 2018 with injury. Southall is an excellent, conventional type openside while Apineru switches between six, eight and lock with a big frame and engine.
On the subject of big, Luke Chisholm is a prop from the Centurions Under-18’s who was rarely bettered by anyone at scrum time while at Silverstream.
Svenson is a familiar name at Upper Hutt with two brothers having played for the Prems previously. Scott is an outside centre and Wellington U18 rep.
Josh Mallon, Caleb Cavubati, Hugo Plummer and Sam Clarke should add some youthful exuberance at Tawa. Mallon was a McEvedy sprint champion who really improved on the flanks for Town while Plummer brings considerable height and skill at lock.
Wing Cavubati is out of Scots College. The pocket rocket has blistering pace and an elusive running style to light up Wellington club rugby.
Clarke has been prone to injury, but got through 2018 unscathed. His ability to cover multiple positions in the backline and kick goals will be valuable.
Oriental-Rongotai pick up Stephen Va’a who will be a welcome addition to Oriental-Rongotai, having joined his older brother and NZ U20s trialist Reuben at the Magpies.
Wainuiomata have welcomed Sam Smith out of Wairarapa College. Loose forward Smith was his school’s First XV Player of the Year last year, and was selected in the NZ Barbarians squad in September.
Lively HIBS halfback Cam Ferreira will join Petone where his father Jamie Ferreira is the Premier coach.
Niko Manaena is a tighthead joining Petone who can cover the opposite side if necessary out of Southland Boys’ High School who made a strong impression for the New Zealand Under-18 Maori last year.
Pakistani player Raja Sami is out of Onslow College and at Johnsonville. With tenacity and rugby ability, look out for him to feature in Hawks teams this year.
The Avalon Wolves gain some local players from Hutt Valley Schools who might feature in Premier rugby this year, including Elijah Lakai from Taita College, Uso Brown – St Bernard’s College and Mafa Metuli out of Naenae College.
Solomona Mapesone from Wainuiomata High School heads to home club Wainuiomata, while Wellington College’s Filemoni Sului and St Pat’s Town’s Josh Crichton are welcome additions at Oriental-Rongotai.
Also heading to Tawa are Chester Palauni (from Onslow College), Duncan Francis, Maui Wallace and Luke McGill (all from Tawa College) and Swayde Brightwell (St Pat’s Silverstream).
Liam McAree and Samson Alaimoana both join MSP out of St Pat's Town.