It’s not every day someone goes from playing their first season of high school rugby in April to playing at a rugby camp in New Zealand three months later, but that’s what NPSS Grade 12 student Kenneth Peters did.
Peters was a part of the NPSS boys rugby team that won its first ever Peace Country High School Rugby Championship in May, his first year on the team. He liked it so much that when NPSS coach Clayton Woodruff told his players that the Hawkes Bay Rugby Union (HBRU) was looking for participants for the New Z Rugby Academy, Peters jumped at the opportunity.
“I’ve wanted to play rugby for awhile. I played hockey my whole life, but didn’t even know there was rugby in town until Grade 8. Right from my first game I loved it, and I was excited when I heard about playing in New Zealand,” Peters said.
Woodruff didn’t think a lot of the academy’s request for players, but thought he would ask his players just in case.
“Sure enough, Kenneth put in the effort to go and spent the money. He’s a great player, tough, focused. Going to New Zealand is cool on its own, but to go and play rugby is a whole other experience,” Woodruff said.
Once Peters arrived at the academy, he was split into a group of 15 players from the 146 total players who attended the camp, and endured what he called the most intense physical activity of his life.
Peters said they would run for hours every day, in addition to time in the gym, and endless drills on the rugby pitch. He practiced with pro players from the Hawkes Bay Rugby Union, one of the New Zealand Rugby League teams.
“I got to hang out with the pro players and ask them questions about what it takes to play professional rugby. I’m hoping to further my career to play for Team B.C. and at the college level, and take what I learned this summer with me,” said Peters.
Near the end of the camp, he was one of six players chosen to play for the Lindisfarne College team against the HBRY U-20 team, and the only one who played the entire game. For his efforts, Peters was named top player of the HRBU New Z Study Academy.
If it seems like playing rugby in New Zealand, the rugby capital of the world, was the opportunity of a lifetime, that’s because it was.
“Playing rugby in New Zealand is something I’ll remember for the rest of my life. I can’t wait for our season to start and to share some of the stuff I learned with my teammates,” Peters said.
Peters is already thinking about playing at the academy next year, and has been asked to captain a Canadian team.
Until then, both Woodruff and Peters are hoping to keep this recent surge of rugby success and interest in Fort St. John and the Peace region going.
“Our challenge here is getting people to come out. With the boys team winning, the girls team fielding a full team, Tim Zimmer winning the Western Canadian U20 Championship with B.C., and now Kenneth playing in New Zealand, people can see what’s possible with rugby in Fort St. John,” said Woodruff.
Peters loves the sport and thinks everyone should give it a try.
“With the hitting, the passing, and running, it’s like every game I’ve ever played combined into one.”
Email sports reporter Dillon Giancola at email@example.com.