School takes leaf of inspiration from New Zealand 'old boys'

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 October, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 October, 2010, 12:00am

All Black Isaia Toeava went back to school yesterday and met a teacher who helped him become an achiever.

New La Salle College principal Brother Steve Hogan welcomed his former pupil to the elite Kowloon Tong boys' school yesterday, along with fellow All Black Conrad Smith, also a Lasallian alumnus.

Toeava, the man of the match in the 2008 Hong Kong Bledisloe Cup showdown, remembered Hogan from Auckland's De La Salle College as 'really passionate in everything he does from academics to his support of rugby'.

'A good education is a must have for a professional rugby player,' Toeava said. 'The game keeps getting more complex and you need to be able to stay on top of it, especially at the level of the All Blacks.

'Rugby is a great game for kids because it focuses their energy and demonstrates the value of hard work. You have to keep working hard in life at everything you do, whether you want to be a doctor or a lawyer or an All Black,' the versatile back said. 'Look at me, I never dreamed I would be here in Hong Kong helping these young kids understand rugby and also showing a part of our culture to them and sharing in their culture.'

Founded in 1931, La Salle College is known for its sporting heritage, with teams participating in various sports from athletics to archery, fencing and even life saving. Now add rugby back to the list as the college prepares to revive its rugby programme for the first time in nearly 30 years.

During his time as principal in Auckland, Hogan took the college to new heights, winning national awards for academic success and rugby.

'He is still as I remember him,' Hogan said of Toeava. 'Very humble and very respectful. He has always been a great rugby player. I remember him attracting the attention of the Auckland Blues as a schoolboy and I must say the clubs and New Zealand Rugby Union are very respectful of the importance of the academic environment.

'They want players to finish their schooling before they move into sport at the highest level. The NZRU spends a lot of effort to ensure the integrity of the sport and places a high emphasis on the importance of players at the elite level being good role models for youth and the next generation of players,' Hogan said. He said rugby was a great sport for youth because it was 'such an incredible team sport'.

'It teaches young boys to think of the other which is also our aim at La Salle College and Lasallian schools worldwide,' Hogan said.

'The strategies in rugby are not dependant upon one player's skill but on the team ethic. Rugby is also one of the only sports where there is a position for every size and body shape. That is unique to the sport and an important access point for players.'