The moment I arrived in Palmerston North for the annual International Rugby Academy New Zealand (IRANZ) programme, I instantly knew that it was going to be a once in a lifetime experience. Becoming a professional rugby player is my ultimate ambition and having an opportunity to immerse myself in a programme showcasing all things rugby from 6.00am in the morning until 8.00pm at night was certainly something suited to me.
Furthermore, having some elite coaches, such as Dave Ellis (Auckland Blues coach) and Colin Cooper (Waikato Chiefs coach) running the programme was quite nerve-racking but also exciting. The IRANZ programme involved both practical and theoretical aspects of rugby, all of which give an idea of the standards required of professional rugby players.
Our timetable began 8 December and finished Saturday, 14 December, including a match against a very tough Palmerston North Boys High School on Friday, 13. When I arrived, I first saw our biggest player in the team, Ezekiel at 115kg and 195cm, as you can imagine it was quite daunting. I also saw a board with previous IRANZ players including All Black legends, Ardie Savea and TJ Perenara. Coming into the programme, I just wanted to give 100 percent and to make the most of every opportunity and see what my strengths (to maintain) and weaknesses (to improve upon) were, and I am confident in saying that I achieved this goal. Not only did I improve my skills through Vision and Decision making, Runner calls and Counter/Team attack as set out, but my knowledge of the discipline professional rugby players must have off the field grew immensely as well.
From learning game day eating/drinking routines in the Nutrition session, to keeping your body and mind in the present through the Mental Skills sessions, to a number of other life lessons, I certainly learnt there are a lot of things to consider as a Professional Rugby player. The commitment and effort of a rugby player must be consistent throughout the entire week, if peak performance is to be reached. I was amazed by how specific the programme was in teaching me about my positional role and refining my physical skills. For me, this involved detailed lineout work, running lines and a lot of breakdown skills.
Throughout the programme, I was frequently sore physically and nervous mentally, but I am so glad that I challenged myself and put myself out of my comfort zone so I could ultimately become a much more experienced asset for Somerset Rugby. In addition to all the learning absorbed, I made a number of lifelong friendships with other rugby players from around the world.
I am so grateful for this experience and I would like to thank Mr Walsh and Mr Attoe for providing me with this opportunity.
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