Linwood College returns to top level rugby competition   8 Dec 2011

Christchurch, 8 December 2011 - Linwood College has launched an ambitious rugby programme with the aim of a fielding a Press Cup team in 2015/6. This year under real duress from the effects of the Canterbury earthquakes the school launched a team of Under 14 and Under 15 players, for the first time in nearly 20 years, straight into Canterbury’s tough Division 1 U15 competition.

Next year the club hopes to enter three boys’ teams and one girls’ team. The newly set up Linwood College Rugby Football Club is seeking to raise $80,000 to fund the five year program.

Linwood College Principal, Margaret Paiti says, “We are absolutely thrilled about the prospect of developing a strong and comprehensive rugby programme for our students and community.”

The Linwood College U15 rugby team was competitive this year, despite Linwood last playing in top level competition in 1994. Five of this years’ team were selected to represent Canterbury in age group rep teams.

Paul Sapsford, Club Captain of Linwood College Rugby Football, says, “The results were outstanding particularly when you consider that many of the players were younger than their opponents, most had not even played rugby and Linwood College was out of action after the earthquake.”

Linwood College was closed for five weeks after the February 22 earthquake and then the whole school was transferred to Cashmere High School, 10km away, for five months.

Sapsford says the team was very dedicated, “Twice a week the new rugby players would leave their broken homes and walk through liquefaction ridden streets to their training ground, which was also relocated due to the state of the school. After practice they would walk a further 2km to Linwood College in time to be bussed to Cashmere.”

“Many in the team were also seriously affected by the quake. A young prop received serious burns to his leg while sterilising drinking water at his house and the team’s number eight spent much of the winter sleeping on the couch because his severely damaged bedroom was open to the elements.”

Hamish Riach the CEO of the Canterbury Rugby Football Union says, “There is no doubt that this initiative will help grow and develop talent from within the school and importantly will help achieve our objective of having a strong rugby presence in the eastern suburbs of Christchurch.”

With strong support from the Linwood Rugby Club and the Canterbury RFU, the Linwood College rugby program gives young men and women from the Eastern Suburbs, not just pupils, the chance to play serious organised sport. Linwood Rugby Club is home to All Black legends Tane Norton and Fergie McCormick and World Cup All Blacks Ben and Owen Franks.

Funding is a major issue for the new rugby program with finances stretched within the school and other funding sources focusing on rebuilding the broken city.

Margaret Paiti says, “In the midst of all of the challenges we have confronted the Linwood College rugby team is a brightly positive story of overcoming hurdles to provide young men and women an opportunity to harness their sporting potential and shine.”

Individuals or businesses wishing to support fundraising efforts can find more information on the Linwood College website

More on Linwood College

Linwood College is an ambitious and forward-looking learning community where everyone is encouraged to achieve personal excellence, to get involved and to enjoy learning. The Decile 2 secondary school is located in the Eastern suburbs in Christchurch which were severely affected by the February 22 earthquake. The majority of the 1000 students are from lower socio-economic backgrounds and 25% of the pupils identify as Maori/Polynesian.

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