By Ken Murray, Rugby World competition winner
SINCE MY last blog on my stay at the Inside Running Academy, a huge amount of things have happened in a very short amount of time: finals, gym sessions, tough fitness, friends coming and going, and a lot of hard work. The past six weeks have absolutely flown by and I will be heading back to Ireland next week.
Unfortunately for my Tauranga Sports Colts team, we came up short in the final against Mount Maunganui RFC. The final on 3 August at Baypark Stadium was a great experience and throughout a very tight game, we kept in touch with the Mount, but at 28 points apiece, a Mount intercept on our 10m line resulted in us being seven points down with five minutes to go. We couldn’t get past their defence and we had to settle for runners-up in the Colts Championship.
The Premier and Senior B sides for Tauranga Sports both won their respective finals so it was a successful day for the club, but unfortunately the Colts couldn’t make it an unprecedented treble in the Baywide Competitions. My experience with Tauranga Sports has been an incredible one, though, and I am so grateful to them for hosting me as a player for them this season.
The gym sessions in the Academy are always good spirited, but one session a few weeks back stood out as the best one I’ve ever had here. Dan Ward-Smith agreed, naming it the “Extinction Level Event”. It was a primer session before our semi-final game against Te Puke Sports and the guys were all amped up to hit some personal bests. But what happened in the gym that day was absolutely intense and we’ll never forget it. The effort that the lads were putting in was unreal and 22 PBs were set from only 11 lads, which shows the advantages of the strength and conditioning programme we all have assigned to us. The programme that’s set up by Nic Gill and Dan really gets the best out of us as athletes and players, and it’ll be a programme that I continue to use back home. Personally, I’ve come on massively in size and strength since I’ve been here.
The nature of the Academy is that a lot of people come and go based on seasons back home and other circumstances. The lads all bond and gel really quickly from living and training together 24/7. The friends I’ve made here are definitely friends I plan on keeping in touch with and visiting in the future.
Since the season is over for me here, the training schedule has been changed up with a lot of emphasis on conditioning and fitness. We play a lot of conditioned games, like drop touch, to keep both our skills up and maintain fitness levels. We also incorporate conditioning into our gym programmes on Wednesday and Friday. This should really help me going into the season with my university side, University College Dublin, back home.
There is representative rugby ongoing at the moment, with members of the Academy involved in three different rep sides: Bay of Plenty Development, Bay of Plenty U20 and Western Bay of Plenty U21. I am playing for the Western Bay Rep side tomorrow and hope to wrap up my playing time in New Zealand with a win. It’s unfortunate that I won’t be with the side for their whole campaign, but I hope we can get off to a good start with a win.
After 12 weeks at the Academy, I think my game has come on massively in all aspects. The gym work really supplemented this and I’m so appreciative of the opportunity to come out to the greatest rugby-playing country in the world to live and train. A big thanks to everyone at Rugby World and Inside Running who gave me the chance to be a part of this, especially the man mountain himself, Dan Ward-Smith.