The pathways are strong within Thames Valley Rugby.
Yet another successful season of representative rugby within the Thames Valley Rugby Union (TVRU) has come to an end. Although not all results went our way, there have been many other things that we must celebrate. The player-pathway system is at the forefront of the celebrations with a number of players recognised for their outstanding performances, all starting within the Thames Valley.
Recently, Fletcher Morgan of Waihi Athletic Rugby Club was recognised from the Bunnings Warehouse Heartland Championship. This opportunity included training with the All Blacks 7s and playing three games against Tonga. His selection in the All Blacks 7s pre-season camp could lead to greater things, with the World Series and Olympic Games just around the corner. Fletcher also gained selection in the New Zealand Heartland XV; a team picked from local-players within the Heartland Championship. Fletcher amassed an impressive 116 points from just eight games, both from his extremely valuable goal kicking but also his ability to score tries from anywhere on the field.
Leroy Neels was also selected in the New Zealand Heartland XV. Leroy, who plays his club rugby for Te Aroha College Old Boys, had a fantastic season in the Swamp Foxes jersey, cementing the number 9 jersey and starting all nine Heartland Championship matches. Leroy earnt his Thames Valley blazer in 2023, surpassing 20 games for his province. This is an extremely well deserved achievement for Leroy, plying his trade within the Thames Valley Club Rugby scene for five years and now getting the rewards.
Another noticeable achievement is the selection of Tim Erceg from Waihou Rugby & Sports Club who has been selected for the New Zealand Police XV. Tim has plied his trade within the Thames Valley since 2016, and again was awarded with Swamp Foxes selection after a great season within the Club Rugby scene. The NZ Police play against NZ Fire and Emergency at College Rifles Rugby Club in Auckland at 2.30pm on Thursday 16th November.
Oli Mathis, another member of the Swamp Foxes training squad was selected as captain of the New Zealand Secondary Schools team that travelled to Canberra, Australia recently, winning both matches against the Australian U18s. Oli has come through St Josephs Primary School in Waihi, followed by Waihi College in Year 9. Although going to Hamilton Boys High School from Year 10 onwards, Oli is an extremely proud Swamp Fox supporter and acknowledges the Thames Valley province is where it all started for him.
The Chiefs Heartland Under 20’s was once again a very successful campaign to capture 18–20 year-old men out of our Club Rugby system. Exposure to a professional training environment, quality coaching, wearing the Chiefs brand, and playing two quality games against Counties Manukau U19s and the Hurricanes Heartland U20’s bolsters players expectations and standards when they come back to us. Congratulations to Fozz Gilbert (Whangamata), Ihaka Harper-Dent (Coromandel), Torban Blok (Rugby United), William Hau Mirko (United), Aidon McKain (Rugby United), Rian Butler (Rugby United), Caleb Hazleton (Waihou), Adam Clague (Mercury Bay), Korbin Chwesik (Rugby United), Devyn Sheehan (Waihou), Kellim Ropiha (Rugby United) and Rhys Wiki (Rugby United.)
The North Island Women’s Heartland Competition (NIWHC) was influential in the growth of Women’s Rugby within the Thames Valley. To be considered for selection in the Vixens, all Women either played for the Hauraki North Diamonds or in the Coastal vs Country State of Origin series. This created a number of opportunities for Women who had previous restrictions to play because of where they lived, their age and also experience playing rugby. The (NIWHC) then provided our Wahine an opportunity to represent their province, but also test themselves against the best from within the Heartland districts. Adriene Hodgson, Chey Utikere, Miranda Hodgson and Ruby Hodgson were all rewarded for outstanding performances, gaining selection in the MVP Tournament Team. Further to this Ruby Hodgson also finished joint first-place on the competition MVP leaderboard.
As we now enter the official off-season period, the TVRU encourage all athletes to begin their goal setting and start working towards their targets. The TVRU staff are busy conducting competition structures for 2024 across all competitions, to ensure participants have every opportunity to achieve. We are also looking forward to commencing our Club Road Show next week which involves visiting every club and discussing all things operational, including player pathways.