Afighting-fit septuagenarian living a few streets away was almost as excited as Josef Meek’s parents when the Raglan teen’s Hamilton Boys’ High School side edged out a South African team to win a prestigious international rugby schools tournament in Japan recently.
But that’s not altogether surprising considering Robbie Morris had not only helped Josef with his expenses in getting to Fukuoka but had taken a similar trip way back in 1958 as part of a star-studded New Zealand under-23 side which toured Japan.
“He couldn’t wait to hear the results,” says Joe’s father Chris of the 79-year-old Raglan identity.
Joe – back in town last weekend and proudly showing off his winners’ medal – says what made the tournament really exciting was beating the South African side in the final in the last two minutes of the game. “Everybody was jumping up and down!”
The win by his 1st XV team – which was there at the invitation of the New Zealand Rugby Union to play top secondary school sides from eight other countries – was all the more meritorious considering that as a result of two sin-binnings they had only 14 players on the field for the entire game.
Boys’ High 1st XVs have built up a formidable reputation at both national and international level, and have won three of the four overseas secondary school tournaments in which they’ve played in recent years.
Not that Robbie’s 1958 team pales at all by comparison. His framed copy of the official team photo reveals it was captained by the legendary Wilson Whinerary and included other rugby greats like Colin “Pinetree” Meads and Kel Tremaine.
“It was quite terrific,” says Robbie – who coincidentally also went to Boys’ High – of the experience of turning out alongside seven or eight players who were or later became All Blacks.
“I was one of the also-rans – but never mind, I got a few runs,” he says modestly.
Meanwhile Joe rates getting a taste of Japanese culture as another highlight of his 18-day trip.
The 16-year-old told the Chronicle that life in Kyoto – where they were billeted and went sight-seeing before the tournament – was so different , recalling some “pretty crazy” sprints between overcrowded trains and a lot of cramming to get on them.
Then there was the meditation temple they visited where they all had to sit in silence for about half an hour with crossed legs and straight backs. A monk smacked anyone who made a sound on the back with a massive stick, says Joe, and they had to stifle any urge to giggle so as not to seem “disrespectful”.
Joe reckons he escaped retribution but that his mate next to him wasn’t so fortunate.
Fellow locals Wayne and Gillian Elliott also contributed towards Joe’s expenses after reading in the Chronicle a while back about his upcoming sports trips – first to Japan, where his Boys’ High team played six games over eight days, and then come September to the Gold Coast as part of the national under 17 touch team.