Every year, the New Zealand Marist Rugby Federation embarks on a development tour with a selected group of young players to foster both rugby talent and the Marist culture.
The nine-day tour brings together a diverse pool of players from the 32 Marist rugby clubs from across New Zealand.
‘The selection of a player from each club not only showcases their skill but also highlights the unity and shared identity of the Marist community,’ says Rob McCoid, NZ Marist Development Manager.
The tours engage in high-stakes rugby matches against provincial teams as well as participating in an immersive cultural experience. The team focuses on the 15-aside game and is coached by high-ranking coaches – usually a mixture of ex-All Blacks and senior regional coaches.
NZ Marist Rugby has divided the country into seven regions and plays one region a year on a seven-year rotation. This year, from the end of July to the first week of August, the tour saw a squad of 26 players travel to Masterton, Palmerston North, Whanganui, and New Plymouth to play four matches. They won all four games against Waiarapa Bush Babarainans, Manawatu (under 19s), Whanganui Development and Taranaki Trojans.
The tour is more than just a rugby competition says Rob. ‘It is an opportunity for these aspiring athletes to delve into the heart of the Marist ethos.
‘In addition to facing formidable rugby opponents, the participants are exposed to the religious background and values that underpin the NZ Marist community. By visiting Catholic primary schools and embodying Marist behaviours aligned to school values, the young men become role models for the next generation, imparting the essence of teamwork, respect, and dedication.
‘The squad’s commitment to community engagement was exemplified by their visits to four Catholic schools where the players were warmly welcomed and had the opportunity to interact with students. They shared insights into the values Marist Rugby holds dear and performed their chosen team song, ‘Sweet Caroline’, followed by an awe-inspiring haka (Tika-Tonu). These interactions left a lasting impression on both the players and the students, reinforcing the positive impact that sports and role models can have on young minds.’
At St Marcellin School in Whanganui, the team shared prayer, song, haka and ball skills with the students, and how the school’s Catholic character values are reflected when playing in team sports, such as rugby.
Principal Belinda Backwell said, ‘The visit had a huge impact on both the children and the team. The children wrote thank-you letters to the team, and the Manager Rob McCoid replied thanking us for opening our doors to them and making their visit so memorable.’
The tour also encompassed spiritual and cultural experiences. On a Sunday morning in Masterton, the team attended a service at St Patrick’s Church. Following the service, the parish hosted the squad to a heartwarming morning tea.
‘This provided an opportunity for the players to connect with members of the congregation and immerse themselves in the local community’s warmth and hospitality,’ said Rob.
‘Through this dual focus on rugby excellence and cultural enrichment, the NZ Marist Rugby Federation development tour not only prepares these athletes for the rigours of the sport but also for a lifelong connection to the enduring Marist heritage.’