From Canada to New Zealand – Playing Rugby Abroad in Taranaki Part 5: Balancing Life While Travelling Abroad
by Noah Bain
Kia ora and thanks again for tuning in to BCRN for my 5th article of this series. It has already been almost 3 months and time has just flown by; I can’t believe it. Club season is over, and we are transitioning into representative rugby. I want to say congratulations to my fellow Canadian, (who you can get to know more about in Article 3) Callum Botchar, and his NPOB squad for winning the club championship. Hard work pays off buddy! All the best to you, and my other fellow Taranaki comrade, Izzak Kelly, on your trip with the senior men to Tonga. This article, I will be taking a different approach from the rugby recaps and dive a bit deeper into balancing life and rugby while travelling abroad.
As I have written before, rugby is a sport deeply rooted in New Zealand’s culture, and for aspiring young players, the opportunity to play the game in somewhere like Taranaki, can be an exciting and life-changing experience. However, it is important for young rugby players considering this path to understand the various aspects of balancing their rugby aspirations with everyday life. This blog will aim to hopefully provide an insightful overview of how club rugby operates in New Zealand, including how one would support themselves financially, potential career paths/work opportunities, the significance of getting a university degree, and accommodation options. Let’s get right into it.
While club rugby in New Zealand offers a competitive level of play compared to back home, it is worth noting that players generally do not receive substantial compensation (at least not to my knowledge). Most players in New Zealand’s club rugby scene hold regular jobs alongside their rugby commitments to support themselves and commonly, their families, financially. In fact, the Chiefs did a little piece recently upon Daniel Rona signing with them on how he was working in concrete before he got picked up on a Super Rugby contract. People have lives and careers outside of rugby, which is an important balance to maintain. Lots of the time, if not all the time, even professional sports people are just regular joes at the end of the day. (Hard to believe when you see Jo Morra do the things he does on the field at Canada 7’s, but believe me, he is just a guy, a really great guy who loves his cowboy hat at the moment)
Anyways, with that being stated, this means that players must find a balance between their employment and training schedule, dedicating sufficient time to both. A lot of players really do excel at finding this balance. For the most part, you can say the same for club rugby players in BC. Training is on Tuesday and Thursday evenings with games on Saturday, and you work your day job around this time frame. Gym sessions and other skills you can do on the other days if you’re not too burnt out from work. From experience, I know that university players and academy players are on a much different schedule than this and it isn’t realistic for everyone.
Coming into a new country and finding work can be quite daunting. Fortunately, the rugby community is a close knit one. Rugby clubs in the ‘Naki do provide players with work opportunities, generally. Again, like back home, many clubs have established connections with local businesses or sponsors, which may offer part-time or flexible employment options to accommodate players’ training and match schedules. However, it is important to understand that these opportunities might not be readily available to every player, and individuals should explore potential work options independently. I’ve known of some players that take weeks or months to find steady employment, and unfortunately these situations just happen sometimes. So, if you are thinking of travelling, make sure you do have some savings, just in case, and look for work ahead of time. Trade Me and Seek are great resources if you’re thinking of coming to NZ. This leads me to write a little bit about my pathway I guess and what my work situation is.
I will start by saying that having certain university degrees are highly beneficial for rugby players in the long run. While it may not directly influence a player’s ability on the field, it opens doors to various career opportunities beyond rugby. A degree can provide players with a solid educational foundation, enhancing their employability prospects, and offering a fallback option in case of injury or retirement from the sport. Young rugby players traveling abroad should seriously consider pursuing a degree alongside their rugby commitments. I did this during my time at UVic and while it was a grind looking back, in the long run, it was completely worth it. I was able to obtain my engineering degree from UVic while playing rugby. Doing that, not only did I make friends that I will have for a lifetime, but I played on some pretty sweet teams and got gain the independent experience of living away from home. Go Vikes.
Fast forwarding to now, I am fortunate enough to work for a worldwide engineering consulting company and transfer offices within the same company across the world, from Vancouver to New Plymouth. However, it is also useful (if not more useful) to obtain your red seal or pursue a certain trade skill. Whatever career path it is, (this is philosophical and a bit motivational), but pursue it as the highest level you can because in almost all instances, I assure you it will transfer over, no matter where you go. They need carpenters, plumbers, electricians, farmers, engineers, teachers, accountants, doctors, businesspeople, waiters, etc in almost every country you go, especially after COVID with people not working as much. It is a great thing to pursue a skill in the form of a trade or degree, and in my opinion, makes you a more well-rounded person, and not one dimensional to being just a rugby player.
I guess re-iterating my point from previous, club rugby can serve as a steppingstone to higher levels of rugby, such as professional, provincial, and even international levels of representation. However, it is important to recognize that only a small percentage of players make it to these higher ranks. Therefore, it is crucial to be realistic and have a plan beyond rugby, even if you do crack it professionally. Unfortunately, the sport is tough on the body, and you just can’t do it forever (although I will most definitely try). A degree or a certified skill, combined with networking and work experience gained during one’s rugby career, can open doors to countless amounts of career paths. To be completely honest with you, every single interview I’ve had in the professional space, I end up speaking about rugby in some capacity. Interviewers hear rugby and think teamwork, hard worker, and probably more often than not, “meathead.” Jokes aside, we put some much time in the game, it only makes sense to use the sport as a tool and as a vehicle for yourself, whether it be in professional settings, for travelling the world, or for both.
I got a bit off track there, but essentially, there are many different avenues to support yourself financially while travelling and playing rugby abroad. My last talking point in this article is on the note of accommodation. While some premier club rugby teams may aid with lodging for their players, it is not a guaranteed provision. Each club’s approach may differ, and players should clarify the details regarding accommodation before joining a club. I would advise for young rugby players to explore affordable housing options and potential roommates in the area to ensure a smooth transition, and again, make sure to check if you can get sorted with your club. Currently, I live with one of the old boys associated with the club called Coastal, and he is the man. We have a few chickens and a few sheep. Fresh eggs! I should note rent is paid weekly in NZ and not a lot of people have dryers (think I wrote that in a previous article). Do what you will with that information. The people here are extremely hospitable and will put you up if need be. Heck, I’ve been invited to more than one BBQ just after having short conversations with people on the street. Again, Trade Me is a good resource along with Facebook Marketplace, for housing options.
Like I’ve said before, don’t be afraid to take the leap. In short, to summarize all of that, pursue a certain skill or degree as best you can, find a balance, utilize rugby as a tool for life, and I guarantee you will be able to find somewhere to live wherever you go. Those are some super random points, but that is just the route we went with this article.
There is a good amount of rugby coming up with the Taranaki Maori’s, Pasifika, and Trojans representative teams, to be announced sometime this week. I will keep you updated if I get the opportunity to play for one of them. From these round robin games between the three squads, they will pick a Taranaki Development side, or the B’s as they call them here. In a few weeks’ time, I am super excited to see the Thunder Rugby tour swing by Taranaki. Hopefully we can get some good game time for them against the local age grade squads and show them a good amount of NZ Indigenous culture.
Despite the occasional home sickness lately, watching friends on social media enjoy bull rides at the Calgary Stampede this past weekend, things are going exceptionally well. The winter here doesn’t get nearly as cold as back in Canada and there has been a good amount of sunshine, which has been good for the mental. However, the weather is quite moody and there is the occasional absolute downpour and hail. Weather ha-ha, what else? I recently tried pre-packaged marinated mussels as per my Ravens teammate, Aaron’s suggestion, and I am not sure where I stand with them. I’m looking forward to eventually trying Kina, which is basically a NZ sea urchin and I’ve seen tons of videos on. I just realized that I didn’t write how we did in our last game. The Spotty boys fought hard in our last hit out but ended up falling to Clifton. It was an amazing club rugby season and there are so many silver linings despite the losses. Okay, quick wrap up here, no more updates from me and as always, thank you for reading, if you’ve made it this far, and thank you for your support. Bye for now.
From Canada to New Zealand: Playing Rugby Abroad in Taranaki Part 1
From Canada to New Zealand: Playing Rugby Abroad in Taranaki Part 2
From Canada to New Zealand: Playing Rugby Abroad in Taranaki Part 3
From Canada to New Zealand: Playing Rugby Abroad in Taranaki Part 4