Tuesday, 28 May 2024 - 12:07pm

Rakiura rugby radness

2 min read

News article photos (3 items)

Rakiura Sole Charge Officer Stuart Newton in the thick of Halfmoon Bay School's rugby coaching clinic. PHOTOS: Rugby Southland.
Southland Stags mascot Steve-O was a big hit with the kids...
... as were the Southland players he arrived with to teach the kids some new skills.

Everyone looks forward to a cosy winter lunch break.

A cheese toastie, maybe some hot soup. But for Senior Constable Stuart Newton, Stewart Island’s Sole Charge Officer, it’s a chance to get out in the slightly less-than-tropical conditions to coach rugby skills to the island’s kids.

Stuart’s been heading to Halfmoon Bay School, when his work hours and the weather conditions permit, to take a group of enthusiastic boys and girls through a rugby skills programme during their lunch breaks.

Stuart says it’s been a great way to level up the playing field for kids on the island who are keen on rugby.

“With a small roll of about 30 students, from new entrants to year 8, the school doesn’t have the numbers to field a complete rugby team,” he says. 

“For some students who want to play at high school, they haven’t had the exposure and experience [of the game]. That immediately puts them at a potential disadvantage against those mainlanders who have progressed through ripper rugby and age group rugby.”

As Stuart began his sessions, he quickly realised enthusiasm was never going to be an issue - but a lack of equipment was apparent.

“The school didn’t have any tackle pads or bags and the students were using each other as tackle bags for practice!”

So Stuart reached out for help and got more than he bargained for.

“I approached the Southland Rugby Union about tackle bags and pads for the school and following a short discussion it was questioned about holding a coaching clinic for the students.”Halfmoon Bay School rugby coaching clinic.

With the support of the school and some of Stuart’s key contacts, the wheels were put in motion pretty quickly for some special guest experts to help out with the clinic.

“With support from Real NZ (Rakiura - Bluff Ferry service), they sponsored six Southland Rugby players the trip across the torrid Foveaux Strait and it all came together.” 

Southland Stags mascot Steve-O even made the trip and was immediately the centre of attention. But according to Stuart, overall, rugby was the big winner on the day.

“All the age groups of the school had coaching targeted towards their respective skills and abilities, providing a great interactive day that had a lot of smiles and further enthusiasm for the game of rugby.”

To put the icing on the cake, the students were left with mouthguards, hair scrunchies, a tackle bag and pads along with their new skills.

“This is a credit to the Southland Rugby Union and a huge thank you to the support of those that helped make this day happen," says Stuart, "and particularly to the students for actively engaging in the clinic.”