The double life of teen wonder

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Queenstown’s junior version of Jeff Wilson – who played cricket and rugby for New Zealand – has been given a major step up after being picked for his first overseas tour. 

Michael Collins, 16, who has captained both the Otago Metro under-16 rugby side and the Otago under-17 cricket team, left yesterday for Sri Lanka. He’s on a 15-day tour with an elite squad of South Island and 
Wellington youngsters chosen by The Willows Cricket Club in North Canterbury. 

Collins seems to be following in the footsteps of Kiwi legend Wilson, who played for the All Blacks and the Black Caps for NZ in the last two decades. 

Queenstown wonderkid Collins admits he’s hard pushed to choose between the two sports. 

“I probably get more excitement out of rugby, but love cricket all the same,” he says. 

Collins, a top-order batsman and wicketkeeper, is the only youngster south of Christchurch to make the team of secondary school players picked for Sri Lanka. 

He was given the nod after impressing while playing against The Willows for Otago Boys’ High School. 

“It was pretty much out of the blue,” he says. “I didn’t think I’d be in the team.” 

Just five days after his return from Sri Lanka, Collins switches sports to attend one of five New Zealand under-17 rugby training camps, in Christchurch, from April 19-21 

The former Wakatipu High student’s ambitions were given a huge boost when he relocated last year to Otago Boys’ High in Dunedin, where he immediately made both the 1st XV and 1st XI. 

The move has also meant big savings on travel costs for his Queenstown-based parents. 

Michael’s dad Kelvin, an ex-Canterbury age-group and Nelson Bays rep rugby player, says he carted round his son about 14,000km in his last year at Waka High. 

And Kelvin reckons it’s his boy’s mental ability and attitude that sets him apart from other players of his age. 

“He has quite good leadership skills – he’s relatively cool under pressure and quite a good thinker,” Kelvin says. 

And he hopes Michael – who trains six times a week – won’t be forced to pick between cricket and rugby until he’s closer to 20. 

“I don’t think kids of his age should have to make that choice.”