Training with the Gallagher Chiefs on Friday afternoon was a dream come true for Cambridge Middle School student Riley McBeth.
Riley started playing rugby when he was four and has never missed a Saturday game for his school or club.
“He’s so dedicated to rugby that he takes his ball and his tee to school and goes early to do his kicks, probably for a good half hour most weekdays,” his mother Jolene said. “It’s actually one of his goals to get into the Chiefs.”
She didn’t tell her son she’d entered him in a competition to meet his heroes.
“He was with his dad when I told him he’d won, and Keiran said his smile was from ear to ear,” she said.
The Gallagher Chiefs Ball Skills Day was organised by First Windows & Doors – one of the Super Rugby team’s major sponsors – and held at Hautapu Sports Club.
Cambridge children won about 30 of the 160 spots open to 5-12 year-old rugby fans from around the region. The event ran from 4pm-6pm on Friday afternoon, with 10 Chiefs players running drills and skills sessions.
Riley found the players “very humble, friendly and fun to hang out with”.
Seven-year-old Leamington School student Enzo Guise, who is in his third season of rugby, was another lucky winner. He got to meet his favourite Chiefs player Simon Parker, who went to St Peter’s School and hails from Hautapu Sports Club.
Enzo’s mother Sam Hoogendyk said the event was “an awesome experience for the kids”. “It was well organised and it was great to see the Chiefs interacting with up and coming little rugby stars,” she said.
Chiefs prop Aidan Ross said the day was more about “having a good time, throwing the footy around and playing a few games” than in-depth coaching.
“It’s awesome getting the kids out here and getting amongst them,” he said.