The Lennox Head Under-13 ‘Trojans’ rugby team has just returned from New Zealand having achieved a rare feat in Australian rugby circles: beating the Kiwis and bringing back a little something for the trophy cabinet.
What started as an idea in the pre-season became a reality as the boys flew to Queenstown to compete in the annual New Zealand Junior Rugby Festival, playing teams from Australia and New Zealand.
“Rugby has a proud tradition of touring with junior teams, and we wanted to give the boys that experience. The Queenstown carnival fitted the bill perfectly so we jumped at the opportunity”, says coach Scott Jenkins.
Over the course of the weekend, the Trojans were cheered on by a multi-generational entourage of their families who saw them beat all-comers including the Timaru Harlequins in the carnival’s grand final. Up until that moment, the Harlequins hadn’t lost a game all season.
“We did pretty well”, said the team’s captain and halfback, Tom Simpson, in his typically understated manner.
“We improved with every game over there. The final two games of the carnival—against Brisbane Brothers and the Timaru Harlequins— were probably the best games we played all year”, notes Tom.
As a visiting captain, Tom also had the very great privilege of facing the traditional haka performed during the carnival’s opening ceremony.
“It was very, very frightening. But it felt kind of empowering as well, like you had the energy of the Haka upon you, firing you up”, says Tom.
Another local tradition saw the Lennox boys buddied-up with a local team. There’s an expectation at the carnival that the boys mix and make friends. Curiously, they played their buddy-team in the grand final.
“It was so great being in a battle with new friends, and then having a laugh with them afterwards. Enemies on the field, friends off it—it’s what makes rugby great.
“We lifted for the Queenstown final. Every Trojan who stepped on the field played out of their skin. It was clean and flowing. Everything just clicked”, says Tom.
The triumph capped off an impressive year for the Trojans who were also premiers in the Far North Coast competition.
Coach Jenkins was delighted with the way the boys played and conducted themselves on tour.
“We went with no expectations other than hoping the boys would play well and fill their heads with memories of the fun they had on-and-off the field in New Zealand. I think we ticked both those boxes”, says Scott.
“It was a mammoth effort”, says assistant coach Paul ‘Flash’ Gillan.
“The rugby club and local community really made it happen. We’re so grateful for the generosity of local businesses and people who donated to our raffles and fundraising efforts. It was totally grass-roots and included, of course, a long Sunday selling sizzled sausages at Bunnings Ballina”, says Gillan.
Clearly, the effort was worth it.
As Tom Simpson describes it, “I just think it was amazing. It was such a great opportunity, to go overseas and play against Kiwi kids in New Zealand, make new friends, swap jerseys and win a trophy. It was such a great experience”, he says.
It seems the Trojans aren’t content just with touring across The Ditch. There’s talk of a tour to Argentina and Uruguay in two years when the boys are 15.
“We’re going to have to sizzle a few more sausages at Bunnings”, says Jenkins.