King William’s College’s mega crossover rugby & hockey tour to New Zealand, Fiji & Australia

Oct 03, 2019


When you’re going on a long-haul sports tour, you’ve got to go the whole hog. And that’s exactly what King William’s College did back in June 2019. Based in Castletown on the Isle of Man, this independent school took on two simultaneous sports tours to New Zealand and Fiji (with a few days in Australia for the boys’ rugby) – taking a slightly different ‘crossover’ approach on their epic 18-19 day adventure.

No strangers to touring, party leaders Steve Jelly (boys’ rugby) and Bernie Dunn (girls’ hockey) have been at the helm of many of the school’s sports tours. For Bernie, it’s her third trip Down Under, and having followed the same pattern the past two times, she wanted to switch things up a bit.

Split in two separate groups, the U16 and U18 boys’ rugby teams and U17 girls’ hockey both started their tours in New Zealand, before the girls quickly jetted off to Fiji, leaving the boys to continue their journey in the home of the Kiwis.

Almost like passing ships in the night, their tours went on from here! #KWCOnTour

 

Prep:
  • 1 school
  • 3 teams (U16 & U18 boys’ rugby  |  U17 girls’ hockey)
  • 2 tours (18-19 days)
  • 3 destinations
  • 15 fixtures
  • 75 students
The route:

Boys’ rugby: New Zealand  >  Fiji  >  Australia

Girls’ hockey: New Zealand  >  Fiji  >  New Zealand

 

Kia Ora New Zealand!

After a long journey from the Isle of Man all the way to New Zealand, both groups touched down in Auckland around midday; giving them the rest of the day to relax and enjoy a bit of sightseeing.

After a morning tour of Eden Park for both groups (with the Isle of Man flag making its debut), there was no time to spare for the boys as day 4 hit with their first rugby fixtures. For the girls, it was a short but sweet stay as they bid New Zealand goodbye (for now) and caught their flight to Fiji.

Boys’ rugby

Spending 8 days in New Zealand, the boys hit up the sights of Auckland, Rotorua, Lake Taupo and Wellington – all topped off with 6 competitive fixtures (3 per team) against local opposition. Hopping from one city to the next, they ticked off:

  • Eden Park
  • Auckland Sky Tower
  • Hobbiton Film Set
  • Rotorua Skyline Luge
  • White water rafting
  • Te Puia
  • New Zealand Rugby Museum
  • Wellington Cable Car

Home to the mighty All Blacks, the guided tour at Eden Park proved to be particularly memorable, whilst Te Puia gave the boys a real insight into Maori culture.

Te Puia’s Maori Arts and Crafts Institute shows the craftsmanship in carving, weaving and other traditional arts, where talented students practise these prestigious art forms in front of you. The centre’s also home to symbolic Maori architecture, powerful geysers (watch as they cook eggs in a hot spring!) and the country’s iconic yet endangered bird, the kiwi.

Other highlights were the Skyline Luge in Rotorua (which is as fun as it looks), white water rafting and the New Zealand Rugby Museum, where the boys learnt about the history and heritage of New Zealand rugby.

As for their fixtures, whilst there were some defeats, the scores were close and the teams were in high spirits throughout. And what better way to kick off their first fixture than by playing Rosehill College – the former school of Kieran Read, All Blacks Captain?

They were warmly welcomed by all of their hosts and enjoyed lots of post-match hospitality, including Maori hangi, where food is cooked on hot stones in a pit in the ground. Like true professionals, it was the experience they took away with them.

 

Nothin’ but net in Nadi

Girls’ hockey

After a brief visit to Auckland, the girls were back on the plane to Fiji. Landing in Nadi, they had the rest of the day to themselves to relax and enjoy their first taste of Fiji island life!

Day 5 brought the girls’ first fixture, but there was no need for their hockey sticks yet. They played a netball match against Ratu Navula College which was a fantastic experience for the team – one of Navula College’s players was even going to the Netball World Cup!

‘A very humbling experience, very worthwhile.’

Bernie Dunn, Girls’ Hockey Party Leader

Spending 3 full days in Fiji, it wasn’t long before they slipped into laid-back island life on a Discover Fiji Tour and South Sea Cruise – two of the group’s most highly rated excursions of the entire tour.

Simply put, Fiji is laziness done right. But what really makes it special is the people. The girls were able to truly experience how the locals live with village tours and cultural entertainment, all topped off with a trip to the ‘Magic Waterfall’ and their own private beach. Paradise much?

‘[The Discover Fiji Tour] was an amazing experience. Everyone loved it! [Whilst the South Sea Cruise] was out of this world. Can we go back please?’

 

Fiji: laziness done right

Boys’ rugby

Now it was the boys’ time to kick back in Fiji, following the same itinerary as the girls’ with the Discover Fiji Tour and South Sea Cruise. With some time to refuel and recharge, they faced Ratu Navula College in their rugby fixtures. And whilst they were defeated in both matches, it was described on Twitter as a ‘sensational experience for everyone involved’ and ‘the best chapter in the tour book so far’.

 

Back to New Zealand

Girls’ hockey

It was back to New Zealand for the girls! This time they arrived on the South Island in Christchurch; the most English of New Zealand’s cities, but one that’s still restoring its heritage heart through colourful and creative ways following the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes.

The bus tour was a great way to sit back and enjoy an overview of the city, before gearing up for their first hockey fixture. Competing in a Super 6 Tournament against one of the local clubs, they won 7 out of 8 matches! And even though they were half way across the world, they still celebrated Tynwald Day – the National Day of the Isle of Man – with a relaxing day of rest and recovery.

Making their way through Kaikoura, Wellington, Lake Taupo, Rotorua and back up to Auckland, the rest of their excursions in New Zealand included:

  • Te Papa Museum
  • Wellington Cable Car
  • Rotorua Skyline Luge
  • White water rafting
  • Te Puia
  • Polynesian Spa
  • Te Anau Glowworm Caves

With so much to see at Te Papa Museum (believe us), the group could have easily spent longer here. Free to enter, Te Papa is perhaps one of the most visually stimulating museums you’ll ever visit. The scale of it is simply incredible, whilst the exhibitions themselves are as informative and as interactive as you can get. Realistically, you could spend days here.

Other highlights were the Skyline Luge in Rotorua and the glowworm caves. But a real favourite was the white water rafting, where Bernie had this to say:

‘Awesome. The instructors were brilliant and made sure we had a great experience.’

The girls were well challenged in their fixtures, taking on local teams in Christchurch, Wellington, Tauranga and Auckland. The girls’ first team played the best local players in Wellington, topped off with some closely contested games against Mount Roskill Grammar School in Auckland.

Alas, Auckland was where it all came to an end. Bidding farewell to New Zealand, they boarded their flight back to ‘The Rock’.

 

Final call: Australia

Boys’ rugby

Leaving Fiji behind, Australia was the boys’ last port of call. Flying from Nadi into Sydney, the remaining 2-3 days were theirs to hit the streets, see the sights and explore the city. This of course meant lots of photo opportunities outside the Sydney Opera House! But before they went, they played two final fixtures against Shore School and NSW Barbarians, with a particularly close game for the first team.

 

The verdict

Summing up the tour, Girls’ Hockey Party Leader, Bernie Dunn, had this to say:

‘This was our first tour with Rayburn and I was very pleased with the service we got. Once in a lifetime tour.’

And the best moment?

‘Very, very difficult, so many highlights. If it had to be one – South Sea Island.’

 

With King William’s College looking to tour again in 2022, we can’t wait to see what’s on the horizon for a whole new group of players!

 

Discover Australia, New Zealand & Fiji