Selection for the New Zealand Schools squad should help kickstart a Queenstowner’s professional rugby career.
Otago Boys’ High 1st XV captain, second-five Michael Collins – who fended off an under-20 contract with Aussie league club Melbourne Storm this year – is the only South Islander in the 24-man squad announced last Sunday.
The team plays Australia Schools in Sydney on October 8, four days after a game against an Australia ‘A’ team.
Collins, 18, recently captained South Island Schools at a tournament in Hamilton. He has also been in the Dunedin school’s 1st XV and 1st XI cricket side, which he also captains, since transferring from Wakatipu High in 2009.
“Whether it’s cricket or rugby, the development was faster than it was going to occur here,” his dad Kelvin says.
Collins’ school rugby coach Ryan Martin puts his captain’s selection down to his work ethic.
“He’s taught himself to kick off his left foot to the point where it’s a potent weapon.
“He’s doing eight to nine trainings a week, and is extremely strong now, whereas before he struggled a wee bit in the gym. What amazes me is his game sense and game management – I haven’t seen it in this age group.”
Collins – who’s also captained Otago’s under-18 rugby and cricket teams – credits his teammates: “If you’re playing alongside quality guys, they make you look good.”
Collins turned down good money to join the Storm but says “the best way to play Super 15 or All Blacks when I’m older is to be playing rugby now and learn all the basic skills”.
His coach adds: “I wouldn’t be surprised if he was involved in [national provincial] ITM Cup stuff next year.”
Martin believes Collins – who’s in the Otago B cricket squad – will have to give away the summer game because of its different physical requirements.
But Collins’ dad Kelvin disagrees: “Personally, I think at 18 you shouldn’t have to make those choices.”