When the same team wins a prestigious shield four years in a row, one simply cannot just attribute it to luck or any other superstitious factor. The consecutive wins prove determination, focus and drive from the team, officials and the coach.
Suffice it to say, all of these factors have to be in sync in order to reach the ultimate goal. In this high octane game, one man stands out as a renegade, in a sense, in the coaching arena; it is none other than Neil Foote, who is the coolest in the block, sporting his signature look; the skinny, shorts, tote bag and a mischievous smile.
The first encounter
Let’s take a spin in the time machine to 2012, a year after Neil Foote, the happy-go-lucky New Zealander who literally set foot on this island as coach of the Trinity College Kandy rugby team. Within a year, he had not only gained the respect of the boys, but had become their confidante as well.
Fast forward to 2014, and we see a friend who is also a coach as the boys see it. It is mainly due to the value he places on each one of them. The boys are not merely players of a sport’s team but family, a team which has to hold each other up to succeed. He sees their potential and understands their weaknesses. I bet his cool attitude is also a reassuring factor, whilst many coaches would be chewing on what’s left of their cuticles when things go awry; there are no outbursts from him, no temper tantrums. Merely a pep talk and pat on the back during lemons. Ultimately, they have to make it count as after all, it is their game.
During an era when the voices of youth are often suppressed, the coach of TCK asks them to speak up and prove their mettle. Last year (2013), saw yet another controversial move by the coach, who together with Nathan Riwai – Couch (Trinity Junior Development Coach) had lovingly composed a unique ‘Haka’ for the boys titled ‘Riona Manawa’ or ‘Lion Heart’.
Two years in a row, he encouraged the lads to perform the ‘Haka’ prior to the commencement of the second leg. It uplifts their spirits and abates the tension, making it possible to face their opponent without so much as batting an eyelid.
If he was merely supervising them on the sidelines, one would never see what we see after every game or Bradby, which are the faces of these young boys who are eager to share their glory with the coach. This type of camaraderie is often seen in Hollywood movies, which often portray real life situations, but to find a similar bond in this day and age is so refreshing.
A coach bids adieu: “It was a pretty amazing experience for me, as I watched these lads mature from boyhood to manhood. Their dedication to their school, country and the sport is incredible. I am inspired by the level of support garnered to each of them by everyone. I should also add that the ‘Bradby’ was ‘The Best Experience in my Rugby Career’. It’s amazing to see how much these lads have achieved on and off the field. On the down side, I feel they face a tremendous amount of pressure. Sometimes, people forget that the game is about enjoyment and comradeship. The lads of TCK emulate a special kind of rugby. I would also like to thank the Principal of TCK, the Scrummage Committee and everyone else who supported me throughout my career here. I have made some lifelong friends along the way. I know that the boys will always hold a special place in my heart,” said coach Foote.