Rugby unites PH Volcanoes and NZ Navy in exhibition game
MANILA, Philippines – As part of New Zealand’s ship frigate 4-day visit to the country, the Philippine Volcanoes outscored the NZ Navy Team, 20-5 and 15-5, in a sevens exhibition game arranged by the NZ Embassy on Tuesday, April 4 at the International School of Manila.
New Zealand’s frigate ship, HMNZS Te Kaha, docked at the Port of Manila and the friendly game was one of the activities planned to strengthen sports diplomacy between the two countries.
The NZ Navy Team is an amateur rugby team; they’ve played in almost all ports landed in the Asia-Pacific region but don’t compete in any local tournaments in New Zealand. Te Kaha, on the other hand, is a ship designed to fight enemies and ensure the security of NZ sea lines and trade routes.
“It’s been the first time in a while since they’ve docked here since the Te Kaha last came here in 2004. We’re really glad they were able to make it here in the Philippines again after so many years,” said Deputy Head of Mission Matthew de Wit.
The national team of New Zealand, the All Blacks, is currently the top ranked team worldwide best team worldwide. New Zealand would like to see the sport catch on in the Phiippines, too.
“We want to see rugby grow in the Philippines,” shared de Wit in an interview. “It’s a sport we are passionate about. Tonight they beat us so I think it shows that New Zealand and the Philippines have lots of good links, it shows how good we are at having fun with each other.”
Other activities planned for the NZ Navy Team visit in the Philippines include goodwill games like basketball, volleyball and football against the Philippine Navy.
The "good" kind of rugby
“They [NZ Navy Team] pride themselves in the sport and tonight is an event wherein our local team could start to prepare for the Southeast Asian Sevens which is in two weeks’ time,” Matt Cullen, Director of the Philippine Rugby Football Union (PRFU), said. “This is a great experience for the Volcanoes. This is a good lead up event.”
Cullen, who also coached the Volcanoes backed in 2007, shared that it is all about bringing rugby to the Philippines.
“We just want to introduce rugby to everyone… The good rugby,” Cullen joked. “It’s a sport played in the world and now the Volcanoes are proving they also could compete in the sport.”
As gold medalists in the Southeast Asian Games, rugby holds a potential and it was evident from starting two clubs in 2007 to 22 registered clubs including grassroots programs in Manila, Baguio, Puerto Prinsesa—but the challenge is not all about training the athletes. Rather, it’s about finding the athletes who want to be trained.
“We have to look for young players. We have to raise homegrown rugby athletes. If you don’t make the basketball or volleyball team, you might enjoy rugby since [it's] a game for all shapes and sizes,” Cullen shared. “We’re really eager to spread the sport.”
In line with this, PRFU is aiming to introduce touch rugby to at least 15,000 school children in a program called “Get Into Rugby,” and also seek help with the Department of Education to further expand the reach of the sport.
“We were a demonstration sport last year at Palarong Pambansa and part of Batang Pinoy for the past 4 years. We’re really looking forward to inspiring more kids to play.”
Jonel Madrona, a product of the PRFU grassroots program in Legaspi City, first learned the sport inside the orphanage. “I really wasn’t an orphan. I have a family. But since I loved the game so much, I decided to join the orphanage for a year.”
The 4-foot-11 Madrona took it step by step as he once was a Junior Volcano and has been representing the PH team as a Volcano for two years now.
“Because of rugby, I was able to provide for my family,” said the 21-year old Madrona, who also works for the PRFU as a Development Officer. “It’s really a great feeling. If I were to stay at home, I wouldn’t be able to have all these experiences. It is all because of rugby.” – Rappler.com