Apisai: All schools poach top players

Timothy Apisai is a former scholarship studentand is appreciative of the opportunity to play at an elite level in school.

A former Saint Kentigern College student has jumped to the defence of the school in the national debate raging over poaching of top sportsmen from other high schools.

Timothy Apisai, 24, is responding to a decision by 10 Auckland school’s 1st XV teams to refuse to play against St Kents next year in the prestigious 1A competition after the college admitted five senior players from 1st XVs around the country will be joining its top team in 2019.

St Kents principal David Hodge told national media that College Sport Auckland sets the rules for the competition and St Kents abides by them. He did not respond to the Times‘ request for comment. 

Hodge told Radio NZ in an interview: “I believe they are punishing us because we have a tremendous player development scheme that goes way beyond rugby. I have a recent letter from the Rugby Union which praises our programme not only rugby.”

He told RNZ the programme was designed to help personal development of young people. Because of the programme, it gets “huge numbers” of aspiring young players to come to St Kents.

In a letter to Hodge, the 10 Auckland principals said:”It is our view that the enrolment of five senior students from current1st XV Rugby teams is against the spirit of the 1A competition and underlying purpose of competitive schoolboy sport.”

In a third letter dated December 3, RNZ reported that the principals were disappointed by Saint Kentigern’s response not to sign up to a code of practice and set of principles which included a ban on player recruitment or inducement from other schools’ 1st XVs, including the offering of scholarships.`

“It is the immediate decision of each of our schools that in 2019 our 1st XV Rugby teams will not now compete against St Kentigern College.”

Apisai, a former student and sportsman at the college, said these scholarships offer not only a chance to represent St Kents at an elite level, but a chance for a better education.

“The atmosphere that the school has created, makes sure each and every student thrives with countless opportunity,” he said.

“Let’s start off by saying all schools poach. However, why deny playing against the best? Saint Kents not only are the competition but they help create the competition.

“Why deprive our kids of the opportunity to play at a high school to further themselves both academically and in their chosen sport?

“Wouldn’t it be better playing against the best? Winning against an elite school?

Apisai, who is currently finishing his second year of studies in marketing and communication at Massey University, said during his time at Saint Kents, he represented New Zealand in the U19 FIBA Oceania competition against Australia in basketball.

“I’m a scholarship child (basketball). I can honestly say that if I wasn’t offered the opportunity to attend Saint Kents then I wouldn’t have been able to further my basketball achievements,” he said.

“The school never made me get up at 5.30am everyday to train. The school didn’t make me into the player that I was. I did. The countless trainings, the countless study sessions, that was all me.

“The school offers guidance but it’s up to the student to partake in bettering themselves.”

Apisai reckons some kids wouldn’t be able to showcase their talents if they weren’t scouted.

“To be honest, everyone poaches. Saint Kentigern College are just fortunate enough to have the means to offer students a more favourable outcome in furthering their dreams and aspirations.”

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