DEAN KOZANIC/FAIRFAX NZ
MY BALL: Linwood Rugby Club president and former All Black captain Tane Norton at the Tane Norton at the lauch of Linwood College's rugby club.
A new rugby club set up to nurture promising players in Christchurch's earthquake-hit eastern suburbs is a "flower growing in the liquefaction", its co-founder says.
Linwood College, closed for five weeks after the February quake and whose pupils spent five months site-sharing with Cashmere High School, yesterday launched its own rugby club and a five-year plan to enter a team in The Press Cup regional schools' competition.
Club captain Paul Sapsford, who co-founded the project, said the aim was to keep young rugby talent in the eastern suburbs.
"It's a bit like a flower growing in the liquefaction. This community has been hard-hit and the feeling we got through the year was that this is an initiative really pulling the community together," he said.
The college this season entered a team in the Christchurch under-15 division one competition for the first time in more than 20 years.
The players spent hours clearing silt from their Linfield Park training ground but remained committed to rugby despite challenging personal circumstances.
Some spent hours each day bussing between school and home. One player received serious burns to his leg while sterilising drinking water at his house, and another spent much of the winter sleeping on the couch because his damaged bedroom was open to the elements.
The team played much of this season with only 15 jerseys.
"Every time one of the boys came off they had to strip off their jumper for the new one coming on. And let's be fair, it wasn't a particularly clean or dry jumper," Sapsford said.
About $80,000 was needed to run the club on a "skinny" budget for its five-year programme, he said.
The initiative has been backed by the Canterbury Rugby Football Union (CRFU) and the Linwood Rugby Club, whose president, former All Black captain Tane Norton, yesterday presented emerging player Caleb Samson with an All Blacks jersey signed by Richie McCaw.
CRFU chief executive Hamish Riach said supporting the programme was a "no-brainer".
"If it brings out the potential in young men and women in Linwood, then how cool is that?" he said.
"To bring [the initiative] to fruition at the very time we've all faced challenges ... is an immense credit to the people involved," he said.