From Canada to New Zealand: Playing Rugby Abroad in Taranaki Part 2
[ed. Noah will send updates every 2 weeks so check back to read the complete series.]
by Noah Bain
Hello, if youve made it back! Noah here again, and thanks for tuning in to BC Rugby News.
I first off want to say congratulations to the Canadian 7s Men who avoided relegation in London this past weekend. It was by no means an easy task and you made a lot of people, including myself, extremely proud to be Canadian. Every one of you played with so much heart. It’s evident that we are making progress compared to our earlier performances this year, and I’m thrilled to watch the boys in August at the Olympic Qualifiers in Langford. Make sure to get out and support!
So, let’s dive right into it from the last post – unfortunately, we didn’t secure a win in the past two games -sigh-. We still have lots work ahead of us with five games remaining in the round. However, our team consists of a young core with enormous potential, and all we can do is continue to build. On a positive note, I have some good recaps from the past two Saturdays, with particular emphasis on the first one.
On the first Saturday after my last update, we faced off against our neighbourhood rival, Tukapa, who were the premier champions last year. This particular day held special significance in our club calendar as it was “Mellowpuff Day.” On this day, we donned pink jerseys and wore our hearts on our sleeves for Terry and Tanya, who started a charity that has been running at Spotswood United for the past 15 years in memory of their daughter. It’s an incredible initiative, and I encourage you to watch the Facebook video link below for more information/recap of the day. The event was a success, with tremendous support from the entire community. Witnessing everyone come together was truly amazing, and I strongly believe that clubs back home could organize similar and successful charity events, especially within the tightly knit BC Rugby community.
Terry gave a moving pre-game speech that made you want to run through a wall. The rugby game itself was a fierce battle at Yarrows Stadium, with the rain pouring sideways at times. Both teams exchanged blows throughout the match. We kept it tight the whole game and went up with 5 minutes to go. I managed to score my first two tries, which was incredible. Unfortunately, we ended up losing by a single point due to a converted try on the last play from a desperate effort by the opposing team’s fullback and some missed tackles on our part. Following the game, I had the opportunity to participate in my first New Zealand court session, dressed up as a superhero I’m sure you rugby enthusiasts can predict how that went. Despite not securing a victory, I still had fun and felt great the next day, ha-ha.
We trained hard throughout the week, and on the following Saturday, we faced Southern, a team ranked in the top 3. It wasn’t a close match. It was a challenging day at the office, and I don’t have much to recap other than the fact that we didn’t play very well. However, we did have our club initiation, and if you’re interested, feel free to message me personally for the specifics. There may have been a dog biscuit or two involved, which aligns with our teams name, “the Spotty Dogs.”
To conclude, I must say that the people out here give their all in everything they do, whether they win or lose (you can finish this sentence, it rhymes). They know how to have fun and come together despite the results, which can be both a positive and negative aspect. I’m simply trying my best to keep up in rugby and in other aspects of life around these parts.
In these past two weeks, I got the opportunity to go and watch a highly anticipated high school rugby match here in Taranaki where Francis Douglas College (FDC) faced off against New Plymouth Boys High School (NPBHS), played at a legendary venue called The Gully. This game has a long-lasting history, with a massive turnout for a high school rugby game. It was an intense competition and helped showcase the renowned rugby culture of the region. The game featured incredible displays of skill from both FDC and NPBHS, especially for high school kids. A standout attraction of this game was the performance of the haka, which if you dont know is a traditional M?ori war dance, done by both teams. The thing here is, Boys High was on home turf, and every boy from the school is also performing the haka in the stands. This army of 1000 literally shakes the ground with their passion and power on display, adding an unforgettable cultural element to the match.
In the end, NPBHS emerged as the victors in a hard-fought battle, but credit to FDC who was clearly under pressure the whole game, especially in such an electric atmosphere. I could only imagine if I was playing BC Highschool Rugby in something like that. This game left an impression on me, and I feel lucky I got to witness it. It really exemplifies the spirit and skill of high school rugby in New Plymouth. If you search it up on YouTube, itll come up right away and I suggest you do, it was amazing! Core memory for sure.
In other news, the Taranaki wider squad has been announced, and as expected and understandably, there isn’t a Canadian name on it since we joined the season quite late. However, there are still opportunities to earn a spot or line up with the development squad based on our performance in the remaining games of the season. If not, there are plenty of other rugby opportunities throughout the fall/winter here. Oh, by the way, just a side note, the seasons are reversed compared to back home, so I’m a bit envious of the summer weather in Vancouver right now. You lucky folks! Looking ahead, I’m excited to participate in some competitive touch rugby when the time comes.
I must admit, I’ve been experiencing a bit of imposter syndrome in these past few weeks. It’s mind-blowing to witness the sheer amount of raw talent on display here, particularly among the young rugby players in the area. Most of these guys work 9-5s and don’t have access to the same training facilities, university programs, or academies we have back home, yet they are exceptionally skilled due to their hard work and the environment they’ve grown up in. There are numerous players who could easily excel in the BC Premier League if given the opportunity. It does make sense, though. Rugby here is as popular as ice hockey back home, if not more so. The density of talent reflects this, even in the smaller province of Taranaki. However, this doesn’t mean that talented players from back home wouldn’t thrive here. We’re here for a reason, but the overall skill level of players across the board is truly humbling, to say the least.
Aside from rugby, I’ve started my day job in the past two weeks, and it’s been nice to establish a routine and settle into life here a bit better. We’ve been fortunate to have some beautiful sunny days recently, so I really can’t complain. The scenery here is stunning, reminiscent of certain spots in British Columbia. Recently, I went for a drive along the coast with fellow Canadian Callum Botchar and his partner, and we had a wonderful time. Having a few other Canadians here has been grounding, especially when you miss home.
Today, I visited Dawson Falls in Mt. Taranaki and then spent the day at a teammate’s farm. We rode quads, drove a tractor, played with a pig, herded sheep, and even learned how to milk a cow. It was an incredible day! On another note, dryers aren’t really a thing here in New Plymouth; people hang dry their laundry. Moderately interesting fact, I guess? I’ve also tried several meat pies by now and have discovered my favourite spot in town to get them. Shout out to Blagdon Bakery you make an amazing mince and cheese meat pie for an impressively affordable six dollars! (For those who don’t know, mince refers to ground beef.) I’ve also learned to count to five in te reo M?ori and have been using “Chur” in context. I’m now fully accustomed to driving a manual car on the left side of the road, and my brain is no longer completely confused about what’s happening. Although some claim this is the correct side of the road, I still think you’re wrong! Who would have imagined how far we’d come in just a short two weeks?!
Overall, I’m still thoroughly enjoying my time here and eagerly anticipating what lies ahead. My goal remains the same as I strive to stay present in each moment. I often recall some advice I got from Andrew McMillan over at 7’s, who once told me, “You are exactly where you’re supposed to be.” It’s a simple but profound reminder, and if you’re reading this, it may help you too, because it’s true! Focus on what you can control, as you never know what lies ahead.
I want to give a special shout-out to everyone who reached out regarding the last article. Your support is immense and serves as a great motivation for me to continue these write-ups. Up next, we have Stratford Eltham, followed by the table-topping New Plymouth Old Boys. There are significant challenges ahead, but there are also opportunities for me to develop my rugby skills and learn from the incredible pool of players here in Taranaki. If we believe in ourselves and play our cards right, who knows what kind of upset the Spotty boys might be able to pull off. Thanks for your time and catch ya in two weeks. If you have any questions, dont hesitate to reach out. Peace!