Under 17 Boys 1990 - 2021

New Zealand Harlequins Under 17 History

The annual NZ Harlequins’ under 17 programme has been hailed as an outstanding success since its inception in the early 1990s.

A social conversation on the former Waikato classic riverboat, the Waipa Delta, between Harlequin stalwarts Ted Monkley, Peter Bos and John Hogan, in 1992 sparked off the idea and the club, helped by an annual boost from Fairview Motors, has held special trials and selected a squad to play several matches a year ever since.

Former club captain, John Hogan, now living in Mooloolaba on the Queensland Sunshine Coast, remembered the occasion well. “We had been made aware of the huge number of 16-year-olds quitting our game and a way had to be found encourage many of them to stay. We told the Waikato union of our concern and suggested we hold a couple of trials and then select and field a under 17 team. They were lukewarm on the idea at the start but over the years they gradually realised we were on to something and now the age group team has an established place on the Waikato programme.

“We had all been involved with Waikato age group teams and so had seen for ourselves the need for such a team for the under 16s who needed a boost to stay in rugby.

“We decided to concentrate on second and third tier players and especially the late developers, who had been left out of the representative squads for various reasons and the response we got was amazing.

Nominations for our trials, up to 160 in some early seasons, exceeded all our expectations. Former Waikato senior rep players, who belonged to the Harlequin club, came to the trials and helped us select the squad. “The youngsters, and their parents, were thrilled at the encouragement they got.

The special squad trainings got the youngsters excited and the battle for places in the playing side was intense.
“Every team featured players from smaller country schools and they grabbed their opportunities with relish. It’s the same today.”

John Hogan said belong long some of the early squad members started to make their mark at under 19 and under 21 levels. The progress of youngsters such as Bruce Reihana, who made the first under 17 team, then Mark van Gisbergan, Isaac Boss and Regan King proved the value of giving these players the opportunity to shine. Chances are these guys would have possibly missed the boat.

Current Harlequin club captain, Lance Fletcher, confirmed records show over the years more and more of the under 17s have made top tier representative sides and here’s hoping those selected for this season do the same.

Annual matches with NZ Area Schools and the NZ Vikings club from Northland have become regular features and last season the side went through unbeaten in the Northern Region under 18 B competition.

The Harlequins will again concentrate their major efforts on the under 17 programme this season. A camp, backed by the NZ Rugby Foundation, for approx 40-45 players will be staged at St Paul’s Collegiate.

© Copyright, Historical records supplied by Winston Hooper

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