On rep horizon

Shooting the gap: Wakatipu halfback ames Valentine about to dot down for an intercept try against Arrowtown in last month's Battle of the Basin. PICTURE: JAMES ALLAN PHOTOGRAPHY


A Wakatipu Prems rugby player’s commuting to Dunedin each week to train as part of the
34-man Otago high performance training squad.

Halfback James Valentine, 26, in his first season with Wakatipu, had his best game in the jersey in last month’s derby against Arrowtown, opening the scoring with a momentum-shifting intercept try.

He’s no stranger to the game, however.

He played Colts, then Premiers grade rugby while studying at Dunedin’s Otago Uni, then spent 18 months in London, where he played pro rugby for the Rosslyn Park Football Club
in England’s National League 1 competition.

Valentine then had two years in the Auckland academy set-up, and played club rugby for Ponsonby before getting ‘‘stuck’’ in Queenstown last August.

After working for Colliers in Auckland, he transferred to the Queenstown office, where he’s a commercial broker, early this year.

Currently he’s in a five-week training block with the Otago high performance squad, and
while he’d love to make the Otago side, ‘‘I’m not getting too far ahead of myself’’, he says.

‘‘I’m just trying to be as much of a sponge as I can, and give it as much of a crack as I can.’’

Valentine says ‘‘I think the way the modern halfback plays the game, you’ve sort of got to
be an attacking threat as well — you can’t just be a distributor’’.

His Wakatipu coach Brett Anderson notes he played ‘‘quite a high level of rugby in Auckland, and he’s come down to country rugby and found his feet’’.

‘‘Just his tactical awareness of the game, and his reading of the game, is at a very high level, and then obviously he’s a highly-skilled player as well with his kicking game and his passing game and his communication.’’

Jake McEwan, Wakatipu’s hooker last year, who now plies his rugby in Dunedin, is also part
of the high performance training squad.