Rugby: Offers all around for young talent

Troy Callander
Troy Callander
Recruitment of young rugby talent will continue to be aggressive but Otago still believes securing players is more about desire to play for the province and taking a long-term view.

Troy Callander, who last year played as a lock-loose forward for the Otago Boys' High School First XV and was selected for the New Zealand schools side, has been signed by the Bay of Plenty union straight out of school.

He has already been picked in a 49-strong Chiefs development squad for three games over the next couple of months.

Player development manager Tim Colling said Otago was keen to keep Callander but he had decided to head north. He boarded at the school for five years and had family in Roxburgh and also in the North Island.

Colling said some provinces and franchises were not slow in chasing top players. Some unions were attempting to sign players while they were still at school.

''Some of these boys who are starting out in their rugby careers are getting chased by up to three or four provinces,'' he said.

''Then there is not only rugby. There are rugby league teams and the odd Aussie Rules teams which are also floating round. Young guys have got a lot to consider when they are starting out.''

Otago Boys' High School had an outstanding season last year, making it to the final of the national First XV competition, before losing to St Kentigern College, of Auckland, in the final.

With that run came increased exposure, Colling said.

''It puts them under the spotlight and everyone else gets to see them on television. Everyone knows who they are. In a sense, it is a nice problem to have.''

He said financial offers always attracted some young players. Otago did not have a lot of money and Colling said the union tried to give the new players in its academy a bit of support.

''But at the end of the day, the motivation at this level has to come from the player themselves. We have got guys here who are brought up here and want to play for Otago.''

The academy has 15 members, and players from the Otago Boys' High School First XV have been selected in this year's intake.

He said with the salary cap dropping in the ITM Cup, provinces could not afford to buy in proven talent.

The emphasis was on developing your own, leading to targeting young guys and getting them into the union.

Canterbury has always been accused of targeting young players but it appears provinces in the Chiefs franchise are becoming aggressive in chasing talent.

Otago Boys' High School coach Ryan Martin said young players were becoming a large target market.

It was tough for the young players, as they were getting many offers, and not only from rugby clubs. One of his players last year had received an offer of an AFL scholarship, just off the strength of one game on television. Many players now had legal representation.

The South Island had not traditionally been a hunting ground for league scouts but that was changing, he believed.

Young players were offered some money, which to older people was not a lot, but it was an enticing amount for a teenager still at school.

Otago midfield back Michael Collins was flown to Melbourne and did a week's training with the Storm league side in 2011, when he was captain of the Otago Boys' High School First XV.

He received an offer from the club at the end of the year but signed with Otago.