The curtain raiser match on Saturday, before the Blues v Sharks Investec Super Rugby match, was a Schoolboy game involving Mount Albert Grammar School (MAGS) up against Kaitaia College in a schools trial game that is representative of the fine sporting traditions of this high achieving Auckland school.
Held at the historic Eden Park Stadium Rugby ground, it was perfect exposure for these two college teams to demonstrate their abilities and run out their best players in front of a large audience–being televised by Sky Sport, under the full attention of match day fans, played under lights. It was the ‘big show’ you might say, and while the occasion seemed to have got the better of the smaller Kaitaia side [on the scoreboard] it was great to see this match from a rugby fans perspective.
A testing environment, even as the score skipped out to 53-3 by halftime, you could tell the boys would really have enjoyed themselves. Many of the players have been a part of winning school and club teams, so this is a sporting pathway they have chosen as their goal, this fixture a golden opportunity like this should be taken with both hands.
While the result soon ballooned out to an 85-8 scoreline, in truth the measure of success is in the strength of the organisation behind the winning side. MAGS have in place some of the best scholarship and sports development systems in the Auckland region, if not within New Zealand rugby.
Sitting in an ideal school zone area helps, this multi-cultural school is a popular place for students who have displayed a love of sports for a very long time; Rugby, Cricket, Football and many other sports which support the academic endeavors of the school. The latter is primary, while the sports aspect for attending students is extramural and must be paired with students educational objectives–which is common in any schools program of quality–the resources available for MAGS students are second-to-none.
Located within Auckland Rugby, Mount Albert was formed out of the original Auckland Grammar school in the 1920’s and has been in competition since 1922 when it first joined the Auckland Secondary Schools Rugby competition, winning the Championship in 1924 and 1925. Since then, MAGS has won the Auckland title an astonishing 19 times, most recently in 2010 (see main photo)
This school carries on a strong rugby tradition, in their participation and in how the side display themselves on and off the field. Current and former players are celebrated on the school honours board and exemplify the school motto “Through Hardship to Glory”.
Alumni from the school that have gone on to higher honours. From representing their school, to representing their province (Mitre 10 Cup) and in Super Rugby (the Auckland-based BLUES franchise) From those sides, ex-MAGS students can reach the heights of rugby in New Zealand–men like Rugby World Cup winner, All Black centre Joe Stanley and his son Benson Stanley (pictured below with Richie McCaw in 2010) Many families have a rich history with MAGS, generations attending the school and the Stanley family exhibit the qualities that have made them great students, as well as being great sportsman and people.
- Victor Butler, 1928, 1 match
- Ronald Bush, 1931, 1 test
- Dave Solomon, 1935-1936, 8 matches
- Mick Bremner, 1952-56, 2 tests, 16 matches
- Rod Heeps, 1962, 5 tests, 5 matches
- Ron Urlich, 1970-73, 2 tests, 33 matches
- Bryan Williams, 1970-78, 38 tests, 75 matches *
- Mark Brooke-Cowden, 1986-87, 3 tests, 3 matches
- Joe Stanley, 1986-91, 27 tests 22 matches
- Matthew Ridge, 1989, 6 matches
- Olo Brown, 1990-98, 56 tests, 13 matches
- Andrew Blowers, 1996-99, 11 tests, 7 matches
- Sonny Bill Williams, 2010, 33 tests
- Steven Luatua, 2013, 14 tests
- Benson Stanley, 2010, 3 tests
Men like *BJ Williams, current New Zealand Rugby President is one of the more noticeable names from the MAGS alumni. He has coached many teams, most notably Manu Samoa, Mr Williams has been a tireless worker for the Ponsonby Rugby Club and recently retired from his position as Director of MAGS School’s Rugby Academy where he nurtured junior players for many years. A fine rugby history with the All Blacks, he was the Sonny Bill Williams ‘of his day’ and this strong rugby tradition developed a link between the All Blacks and MAGS does extend to both sexes.
Most recently Portia Woodman has made a name for herself with the New Zealand Women’s Sevens team. An ‘Albertian’ who represented her school in age grade rugby, the 2015 Women’s Sevens Player of the Year has made great strides on the international game in a short time where groundings were built on development within the MAG’s rugby programs for boys and for girls. The 24-year-old attended MAGS from 2005-2009 and is a fine example of a success story that the school and region are immensely proud of.
Her name now sits comfortably on honours boards that hang in the halls of Mount Albert Grammar school. Current pupils will recognize her name, can see the opportunities available to them and like the boys running around on Eden Park–the home of the All Blacks rich history and recent unbeaten record–rugby players who represent MAGS today know that they are carrying on a tradition that is bigger than any one of them.
Watching the team playing out on Eden Park before the Blues Super Rugby match last Saturday, those players too; with effort and determination, can create their own place in the schools long and proud history.
“Main photo credit”