Schoolboy league stars shine on and off the field

Ahead of tomorrow’s Schoolboy Cup rugby league grand final, Pascal Adolphe meets the student athletes that are kicking goals in all areas of life.

Image: Confident: Westfields Sports High School prop forward Samuel Iese. Photo: Richard Dobson, News Corp Australia.

The 2020 NRL Schoolboy Cup rugby league championships has showcased the talents of NSW public school students both on and off the field.

Five public school students who took part in the championships have also been recognised as Academic High Performers.

Among them is Year 12 student Samuel Iese who will line up with the Westfields Sports High School team in the cup grand final on Wednesday at Leichhardt Oval.

Westfields is the reigning champions and their opponents, Patrician Brothers, Blacktown, have a long and proud tradition of producing NRL talent including current players, Matt Moylan (Cronulla Sharks) and Josh Aloiai (West Tigers)

Westfields too have produced some recent NRL greats including State of Origin and Australian representatives, David Klemmer and Eric Grothe Jnr.

Samuel’s on-field performances indicate he may follow in their footsteps according to Westfields’s coach Troy Weeden.

Samuel’s talent as a prop forward had already attracted interest from NRL giants, the Sydney Roosters and next year he hoped to play for them in the U19s competition.

“Sam is one of our best student athletes at the school,” Mr Weeden said.

“He has a unique balance of performing well in the classroom as well as on the rugby league field. Although he was not first in any of his courses - close in a couple - he has set a great example for his peers and his two younger brothers have the same attitude to their schooling.”

But Samuel said he realised a successful career in rugby league was far from guaranteed and was already planning a life beyond the game and starting an electrical apprenticeship next year.

In the meantime, he said he “can’t wait” for Wednesday’s grand final and was confident Westfields would retain the cup they won last year.

The other public school students recognised as being Schoolboy Cup Academic High Achievers were:

  • Jaiden French from Endeavour Sports High School

  • Mitch Henderson from Farrer Memorial Agricultural High School

  • Blake Metcalfe from Hills Sports High School

  • Devante Te Ahuru from Illawarra Sports High School.

Endeavour Sports High School principal James Kozlowski said Jaiden was the school’s 2020 vice-captain and finished first in Biology and PDHPE and third in English for Year 12.

“He is a student of outstanding academic aptitude, leadership qualities and significant sporting ability that combine to make him a much-admired role model to other students,” Mr Kozlowski said.

Mitch Henderson is entering his Year 12 studies at Farrer Memorial Agricultural High School in Tamworth and plays five-eighth for his school rugby league team.

He aspires to play in the NRL with the Newcastle Knights but was also realistic about his chances of achieving that ambition.

“I’m an optimist by nature but you have to have a plan B. I know it’s really hard to make it in footy so it’s really important to do well at school too,” Mitch said. “My plan is to go to uni after school and do something like sports science.”

This year Mitch had placed first in advanced English and Sport, Lifestyle and Recreation Studies (SLR) and third in Business Studies and Maths. He was also the boarding school vice-captain.

Blake Metcalfe from Hills Sports High School is also a natural born leader who will be a member of the school’s leadership team in 2021. He has also previously been a member of the Student Representative Council.

Hills Principal Mitchell Struyve said Blake was an impressive student who’d had fantastic grades across all subject areas.

Finally, Devante Te Ahuru, from Illawarra Sports High School was the 2020 School Captain and recipient of the Student Citizen Awards for offering writing assistance for students during their HSC.

Quoted recently in the Daily Telegraph, NRL CEO Andrew Abdo said that an important goal of the Schoolboys Cup was to produce educated and well-rounded young men who could be leaders in their communities.

“One of our most important priorities is ensuring our young players understand there is more to life than playing rugby league,” Mr Abdo said.

“The Academic High Performers have excelled on and off the field. Some have excelled with high marks in traditional subjects, others have had perfect attendance or taken on added responsibilities at school.

“Rugby league is about teamwork, communication, discipline and focus. These are skills that can transfer to academic pursuits and the workplace.”

“Our Academic High Performers Team celebrates the success of students who are putting a focus on balancing education and rugby league together to ensure they have a range of options post-school.”

The 2020 NRL Schoolboy Cup NSW Grand Final will kick off at 2pm on 11 November at Leichhardt Oval. It will be live streamed at the Daily Telegraph Online.

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