slide 1

NOTE: Only paying subscribers have access to locked content. LEARN MORE.

Midwest HS T-Birds Soaking Up New Zealand

  • 19 Jun 2024
  • 5368 Views
Midwest HS Thunderbirds rugby

The Midwest High School Thunderbirds are in the middle of their New Zealand rugby tour and currently enjoying some downtime in Rotorua. It’s been a busy week for the regional all-star group – which numbers nearly 100 across players, family and staff – and the trip will culminate with a sixth and final match on Saturday. [lead photo: Jasun Blocher; more photos]

RELATED: Midwest Thunderbirds NZ Tour Preview

“Personally, I think traveling in a big group is very beneficial,” Peyton Langworthy (Orchard Park, N.Y.) reflected. “I like that we have a big team, and I think it only leads to more support and positive energy. Also, the parents seem to mingle well and the coaches are able to keep everyone together with the help of our lovely tour guide, Ene.”

 

Midwest HS Thunderbirds rugby

Photo: Jasun Blocher

The Baby Birds started in Wellington, and shook off the jet lag with some vista views, indoor training session, and tickets to the Super Rugby Pacific semifinal at Sky Stadium. The tour group had great seats for the professional rugby match, and cheered along as the Chiefs advanced to the final with a 30-19 win against the Hurricanes.

“One thing that has impressed me most with New Zealand as a country is just how absolutely stunning it is,” Cecelia Rose (Green Bay, Wis.) noted. “I knew it was going to be pretty but coming here and seeing it for myself really leaves me with no words. Another thing is the culture here. The people here have so much pride for their country and they show it through their music and their actions of conservation for their land.”

 

Midwest HS Thunderbirds rugby

Photo: Jasun Blocher

Then it was time for the Midwest to take the pitch themselves. With 35 players, there is enough for two sides or at least a third half, and four game days feature on the itinerary. At Rugby League Park in Wellington, the Midwest played St. Mary’s College and Wellington East Girls College. Both games were close 15-10 losses.

“The competition has been amazing,” Arielle Sorelle Noussa Fotso praised the opposition. “They obviously still make mistakes, but they play with a sense of comfort and familiarity with the ball, and you can tell that they’ve been playing for a long time. Their speed of play is incredible but I think the biggest difference is the contact area. They have amazing tackle fundamentals and you have to work super hard to get go-forward because they’re always ready to make a dominant tackle and turn the ball over.

 

Midwest HS Thunderbirds rugby

Photo: Jasun Blocher

“The team is coming together pretty well,” the Carmel, Ind., player added. “We’re still working out some kinks but we’ve been improving from game to game. It’s nice because some of us have played together in other tours so you can definitely see those connections on the pitch. We’re also really connected off the pitch. Everyone is so kind and seemed to click with each other very quickly.”

From Wellington, the team traveled to Palmerston North on Tuesday and faced Manukura at the Massey University Rugby Fields. That match ended 27-5 in the host’s favor, and then a third half was played for the second side, and the New Zealanders won 31-0.

 

Midwest HS Thunderbirds rugby

Photo: Jasun Blocher

“The competition has definitely been challenging, but so exciting to be able to learn from,” Langworthy explained. “I found that the New Zealand teams have been very good counter-ruckers, and we had to adjust to make it to those breakdowns even quicker than we may have been used to. Other than that, I feel that the physical aspect of the game has been fairly similar. Post-game ceremonies are where the differences appear. Rugby is so intertwined with their culture in New Zealand and being able to experience their unique traditions, along with their food, has been very rewarding.”

Wednesday was spent in Whanganui, and two matches occurred at different sites. The first side played Whanganui High School on campus and won 55-0. The second side ran out against a combined Whanganui City College/Whanganui Girls College team.

 

Midwest HS Thunderbirds rugby

Photo: Jasun Blocher

“One thing that I’ve always loved about the Thunderbirds is the culture of the team on and off the field,” Rose tracked the group’s bonding. “Every trip that I have been on, the girls are super encouraging and inclusive and that is no different here in New Zealand. We work well together. During the first two games I feel it took us a minute to bring our game together, but through trial and error we worked it out and got better with every play, and we are only going up from here. Every game we play we end up getting closer. I truly enjoy playing for this team and coaches.”

The Thunderbirds are now in Rotorua and enjoying some much deserved rest, relaxation and more sightseeing. On Saturday, June 22 – which is Friday, 6:30 p.m. CT – the team will play Wesley College. Watch the High School Thunderbirds Facebook page for live-streaming info, photos and more.

 

Midwest HS Thunderbirds rugby

Photo: Jasun Blocher

“The first game against St Mary’s I remember thinking to myself mid game how lucky I was to be playing such high level competition,” Rose closed. “Rugby is their national sport and it shows through the way that they play. After some hard games, we always come into an exciting and welcoming atmosphere at the after matches. The girls are always so nice and we bond over comparing the differences between our two countries.”

For livestreams, photos and general updates, follow “High School Thunderbirds” on Facebook. 

Article Categories:
COLLEGE · HIGH SCHOOL

All Comments

Leave a Reply