• Two Indigenous junior teams are preparing to head to New Zealand on Tuesday as part of an international schools tournament. . (NITV News )Source: NITV News
Twenty six young Indigenous rugby union players are gearing up for a round robin tournament in New Zealand.
Brooke Fryer

10 Dec 2019 - 1:00 PM  UPDATED 10 Dec 2019 - 3:53 PM

Two Indigenous junior rugby teams arrived in New Zealand on Tuesday as part of an international schools Sevens tournament involving 32 teams.

Both the boys and girls Lloyd McDermott Rugby Development Team’s will play at the annual under 17s World Schools Sevens tournament, kicking off in Auckland on December 13.

The carnival is seen as a pathway for aspiring rugby players to showcase their skills and to eventually join an Asia-Pacific professional rugby team.

The development program was founded 20 years ago and is devoted to providing opportunities for First Nations players in the code.

Nowra's Blake Wellington, captain of the boy’s team, told NITV News he will be playing to impress scouts for professional rugby clubs.

"If I play to my potential, there's a lot of people watching, I could hopefully get picked up by someone,” he said. “[I want to] at least have a great time, but if any opportunities arise from that I will take the opportunity with both hands for sure.”

The carnival will be Mr Wellington's first trip overseas and the first time he has played rugby on a global stage. 

He said he was nervous at the prospect but excited to promote the game he has played since the age of 12. 

Tough Competition

Former rugby union player and coach of the boys' squad Andrew Walker said he was confident both teams would perform well, but admitted they are up against some tough competition.

"I think we are in the pool of death because we are playing NZ, FIJI and the USA, so we have a tough game straight up against Fiji and then we got NZ, so really looking forward to that challenge,” he said.

Captain of the girl's team and Torres Strait Islander, Renae Nona, said the program is a great opportunity for First Nations people to be recognised.

"Just being exposed to [elite] rugby like this on the big stage, I think it's a first for a lot of us here,” she said.

Ms Nona said she also aspired to make it onto the Wallaroos Australian rugby union team.

She said the program was "very helpful" as it was about education and nutrition as well as improving game skills.

"They focus all around…you know, and what we have to be doing to play for Australia one day,” she said.

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