By Jesse Pearce #22
The only way to be elite is to train with the elite, and in this case the Boston 13s were training with one of the most elite centers in the game of rugby league.
Nigel Vagana made his debut with the (then) Auckland Warriors in 1996 before going on to play a total of 260 first grade games with Warrington Wolves, Canterbury Bulldogs, Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks, and South Sydney Rabbitohs respectively. Vagana also represented his native New Zealand on 38 occasions, and Samoa twice. He now works as the Education and Welfare Officer for the NRL in Australia.
To be able to train with someone of this caliber for even just one evening is not only an honor but a huge privilege.
When hearing of this opportunity the Boston 13s squad jumped at the chance to expand our knowledge and skill set in rugby league. Coming to the training the only feelings present were nervousness and excitement. Once introduced to this laid back and easy going professional, the feelings of nervousness disappeared and all that was left was excitement and the willingness to learn.
We began the training session on a cold night in Boston with some walking paced two-hand touch. This was done to work on ball movement and communication in offense, and getting your body in front or close to the ball carrier in defense. The intensity eventually increased and a serious game at full speed finished the warm up.
We moved onto basic passing by creating three lines and moving the ball through the hands, making sure to emphasize on our weak side. We then graduated to adding in a switch pattern at the end of each line to direct the ball back in towards the middle of the field. This skill is lucrative in rugby league as it creates space, and therefore, scoring opportunities.
The great thing about Nigel and his colleague Scotty was that while coaching the session they did not sit on the sidelines and watch, they participated in each activity with us to show first hand how each skill should be performed.
Concluding the session, the boys had us working on tackle technique and execution in a ‘two on one’ situation. They informed us that in professional rugby league, more than 75% of the practice is devoted to defensive work. At the 13s we believe the best offense is a strong defense, and if we work hard as a team to shut the opposition down then scoring points will take care of itself.
Nigel and Scotty are not only amazing players, but also amazing individuals in general, and it was great to welcome them into the Boston 13s family. We will implement the skills learned into our season to help propel us to the top of the USARL, and hopefully to another grand final appearance.