For my fellow New York-based rugby nuts (and I know you’re out there), I’m hosting a rugby fundraiser at Saatchi & Saatchi this Thursday night, 11 November. The event will feature my friends former All Blacks Michael Jones and Frano Botica and New Zealand Rugby League legend Tawera Nikau.
The proceeds will help send two rugby players from New York City public high schools to New Zealand to study and play rugby in 2011, year of the Rugby World Cup. The money will also support two player/coach exchanges between the US and New Zealand. The scholarships have been created by Auckland’s AUT University and Friends of AUT and funds raised from the event will directly support the scholarships. AUT University is active in USA rugby and has been developing a network with various American universities to offer students exchange opportunities between New Zealand and the USA.
I’ve been looking forward to the event, and particularly to seeing Michael, Frano and Tawera. New Zealand has produced several world top 10 openside flankers – Ian Kirkpatrick, Graham Mourie, Michael Jones, and Richie McCaw included. Michael has achieved great things academically, for his Samoan people, and for the game of rugby. Frano and I played the same position, first Five-eight, he was prolific, rugged, competitive and between 1985 and 1998 played for North Harbour, NZ Maoria, NZ Sevens, the All Blacks, Wigan, the Kiwis, the Warriors, Llanelli and even Croatia for the World Cup!
Tawera Nikau is an inspirational leader. He had an all-star career in New Zealand, Australian and UK Rugby League including eight years in the Kiwis. In 2003, he lost his right leg in a motorcycle accident. For most of us, this would be devastating, but Tawera is an irresistible force of nature. He’s come back and on Sunday he ran the New York City Marathon (6.35). Let that sink in: he ran the New York City Marathon, a feat most grown people with two legs only dream of accomplishing!
I’ll be moderating a discussion on “the strengths of rugby as an international model for success.” which will include Frano, Tawera, and Michael among the panelists. There will also be an auction including two round-trip tickets to New Zealand donated by Goway Travel, not to mention New Zealand cuisine, beer and wine.
Tickets are still available at http://usarugby.eventbrite.com/, either general entrance or pre-event VIP cocktails where you can also meet the legends and experience a traditional Maori powhiri (welcome). So, if you’re in New York on Thursday and want to see some rugby greats mix it up for a good cause, stop by 375 Hudson Street at 7pm.