Prairiewood High School’s international rugby adventure
Twenty six boys aged 17 and 18 represented their country in the world’s second biggest code of football at the recent Japanese Rugby Tournament. They returned two weeks later young men, transformed by a remarkable sporting experience that will live in their memories forever.
Among them, 13 different nationalities were represented – including Lebanese, Serbian, Spanish, Cambodian, Laotian and the Pacific Islands.
They were members of the First XV from Prairiewood High School in Sydney’s Western Suburbs who represented their country in the tenth annual Sanix World Rugby Youth Tournament in Fukuoka, Japan.
Twenty schoolboy teams from Asia, Europe, Britain, Canada and the Pacific compete by invitation.
“Most of them were very nervous, some of them had never left home before, let alone represent their country playing Rugby in Japan. It was a life changing experience,” said coach Jarred Hodges, a teacher at Prairiewood High School credited with introducing rugby into the school.
Hodges is also, this year, the coach of the Penrith Emus in the Sydney Premier Rugby competition who this past weekend toppled Norths.
“And some of the former league players among the boys have switched to Rugby and have come over to play with our Penrith Colts sides,” he added.
“One of the lads had recently lost his father from motor neurone disease and was missing his family badly at the beginning. But all the boys supported him and by the end he didn’t want to come home.
“Once the team landed in Japan and got to Fukuoka they were very excited and extremely proud of the fact they were representing Australia. In fact, they sang the national anthem at the end of the first training session. Our goals was to try and come win our pool. Anything after that was a bonus.”
Prairiewood went on top their pool, defeating one of the top Rugby schools in Japan, Kyoto Deisho HS (Japan) 22 – 14, they then went on to beat the Canadian side in the tournament, Carson Graham Secondary School (Canada) 34 – 8 and finally Oita Maizuru HS (Japan) 14 – 10.
“The boys were very surprised at the skills levels of the Japanese sides and their technical knowledge of the game. Kyoto had come third in the Japan National Schools Championship. “And our lads bonded with the Kyoto team. They got on very well.”
But when it came to the quarter finals, they hit a big, experienced and very skilful New Zealand side – De La Salle College (New Zealand) defeated Prairiewood HS 43 – 12.
“I think the boys froze a bit when they were confronted by the Haka,” Hodges laughed. “But they played six matches in eight days. In our final match of the carnival Prairiewood lost to Osaka 43 – 26 in what was a very entertaining match. This placed them an honourable 8th overall of the 20 schools.”
The final of the Sanix World Rugby Youth Tournament was eventually won by French schoolboy champions, Dax Landes High School, defeating local team Higashi Fukuoka.
Australian Schools Rugby Administrator Bernie Carberry, who was responsible for getting Prairiewood High School chosen for the carnival, has been involved with the Sanix tournament from its outset ten years ago.
“Prairiewood were chosen because of their success and the development of rugby at the school. And they did both the school and Australia proud not only by how they played but how they conducted themselves also,” he said.
The Sanix Tournament was started by the Sanix Company, a successful ‘sanitation firm’ in Japan. Their President, Mr Munemasa, was converted to rugby when his son was a wayward child at the local High school – Higashi fukuoka.
Playing rugby changed his son significantly. Today he is an executive with his father’s company.
The company’s senior professional team, the Sanix Blues, plays in the top Japanese rugby competition. In past years they have kiwis Jamie Joseph, Graeme Bachop and Richard Norton, son of Tane Norton, playing for them.
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