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Former All Black, Pita Alatini thrilled to coach girls’ rugby team


It’s not every day that you get the chance to be coached by an All Black. But the Sancta Maria College’s newly formed girls’ rugby team, have the golden opportunity to be trained by former All Black, Pita Alatini, for the 2019 season.

The girls had their first training session on Wednesday with the focus on becoming familiar with the game. Alatini said “(the) programme was always set around having a bit of fun but at the same time what I tried to do was…introduce some skills that are really common in the game of rugby. It was a lot about catching and passing, getting into space, communicating and especially knowing the girls’ names. So I think today, for where we’re at, it’s a good start for the girls.”

More than half of the team has never played rugby before so it was an enriching experiencing for them to get on the field and get their first taste of the game. Despite not having much knowledge of how to play, the girls, full of excitement, got stuck into it. Alatini who has two daughters of his own talked about how it has helped him with his coaching. He said: “I find the girls pick up skills quicker than boys. So once they get it and stop giggling and start doing the skills, they do actually pick it up.”

Alatini is the Director of Rugby at the Pakuranga United Rugby Club and is working to grow the women’s game. He admitted that it’s been a struggle to get women playing rugby at the senior level so what he and his club are trying to do is come back to the school level and encourage girls to have a go. Alatini said, “If I can get them to enjoy it and really develop in the game then what I’m hoping is that they’ll stay in the game and hopefully have challenges for themselves to reach higher honours…”

Mr Kieran Gutry, our sports coordinator, has played a significant role in helping to make not only rugby but sports at the school in general, thrive. Alatini says that it’s when you have people like that who support sports development, that really makes a difference. He also said that’s why the Pakuranga Club try their best to get out into the community, mentioning that it all starts with a sustainable programme so that kids have the chance to be nurtured over a long period of time.

When asked about what he feels is most important to establish within the team, he said: “I think at the moment with our group, you need fun first. So you try and mix fun and skills and once they get it, you start explaining…what makes rugby the way it is. There are other components, like fitness as in any sport; you’ve got to be fit to play. We’ve got to touch on the contact aspect because that’s something new for these girls. So we kind of progress as much as the girls can handle and then that way they’re comfortable and hopefully grow as we go with the programme.”

The girls are hugely thankful to be under the mentorship of a legend of the game and with the help of Pita Alatini and this awesome initiative, the future of women’s rugby in New Zealand and in our College sure looks bright.

Shontelle Matano