Young team ready to take on Australia

Ready to play . . . The Pirates Gunners under-13 team – (back) coach Craig Soal, (middle from left) Tyler Metua, Isaiah Hoera, Vasilis Jouanides, Jordan Dale, Reef Jolly, Viatololosa Kilikiti, Cameron Bower, Tyson Ross, Nathaniel Sutherland, Noah Strange, (front from left) Tremaine Tangimetua, Brooke McMillan, Brodie MacDonald, captain Jack Soal, co-captain Jonty Townsend, Carter Smith and Daniel Strange – will compete in the Gold Coast Rugby Carnival next month. Absent: John Strange, Wiremu Ferguson and Liam Ruthven. PHOTO: JESSICA WILSON

After two-and-a-half years of planning, the Pirates Gunners rugby team is off to take on the Australians.

The under-13 mixed team will compete in the Gold Coast Rugby Carnival next month.

The carnival is held every year for school and club teams between under-12 and under-18 from Australia, New Zealand and other countries.

Coach Craig Soal said the team had raised the majority of the trip’s costs.

It cost each player $1500 for flights, accommodation and tournament fees, which the team raised by selling chocolate, cheese rolls and toilet paper, doing warehouse stock takes and holding quiz nights.

A travelling squad of about 60 people, including players and their parents, grandparents and siblings will make the trip across the ditch.

Soal said the tournament would run for about a week and most of the families would stay on for a holiday afterwards.

During the carnival, the team will play six to eight 60-minute games and perform a haka at the awards dinner.

On their days off, they will go to the theme parks.

Soal expected the games to be challenging but fun and the players would learn from their Australian opponents.

“We are expecting good, hard footy.”

He said most of the team had been playing together for about eight years – others had joined in recent seasons – and were looking forward to the trip.

One player, Benji Wright, moved to Perth about two years and will travel to the Gold Coast to play with the Gunners again.

Players to watch included Jordan Dale who worked hard on defence and was a strong ball runner on attack, Jack Soal who had “one of the best boots in town with season stats of 90%”, speedsters Tyler Metua, Isaiah Hoera and Tyson Ross, and Cameron Bower and Daniel Strange who had hard-hitting power in the forwards.

The Gunners finished second in the Dunedin competition in both of the past two years.

They thanked their sponsors who helped make the trip possible and gave a special mention to Promo X, The Clean and LJ Hooker for the extra support.