Adrian Choat played in the back line for a little while when he was younger. But he couldn’t stand it.
Flanker was the 18-year-old rugby talents true calling and that’s where he’s made his mark. “I’ve always loved the position. I just love the contact and being able to do whatever I want on the field,” he says, sounding like a true No. 7.
Adrian, who is in his final year at Liston College, is the first recipient of the Royal Wolf Rugby Tertiary Scholarship. The scholarship, in association with the Auckland Rugby Union Supporters Club and the Junior Rugby Foundation, was presented at a ceremony at Eden Park’s haloed Barbarians’ Clubroom at the end of November.
Adrian will receive $10,000 every year for three years to assist him with his engineering degree at University of Auckland next year.
It’s no wonder Adrian likes to mix it up – he grew up playing rugby from the age of 5, taking on his two older brothers in the back yard.
He says the scholarship gives him the freedom to help realise his rugby dreams while also following his passion for engineering. “It means I can focus on my rugby and my education and not have to worry about money and it takes the pressure off the rest of my family. It’s an amazing opportunity and I’m going to make the most of it,” he says.
Because he’s worked most school holidays for his civil engineer dad who runs a concrete business he’s already got a solid work ethic. “I grew up on site so I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty,” he laughs.
Royal Wolf New Zealand Executive General Manager Paul Creighton says the quality of the 10 finalists who were up for the scholarship was outstanding.
Royal Wolf Rugby Scholarship - Diary of Adrian Choat
Diary Entry 1:
In the first of his ongoing diary updates, Adrian Choat, the inaugural recipient of the Royal Wolf Rugby Tertiary Scholarship, talks about juggling the demands of his engineering studies with an intense rugby schedule.
"My life since receiving the Royal Wolf Rugby Tertiary Scholarship has been full of new experiences – from joining the Auckland Rugby Academy and starting my degree at the University of Auckland, through to living life as an adult for the first time.
The Rugby Academy has been a day-by-day learning experience. Training consists of speed, strength, conditioning and skills-based exercises, along with weekly mental skills sessions.
It’s also where I learnt a valuable lesson. One morning I arrived for training at 6:27am, when training started at 6:30am and I was sent home because we had to be ready five minutes beforehand. Being sent packing may seem harsh, but rules are rules and it worked. I haven’t been late to one Academy session, university lecture or meeting since.
So the Academy is teaching me lessons which are moulding me into not only a better rugby player, but a better student and person.
One of the Academy’s first camps was aimed at providing a glimpse at what being a full time rugby player is like – and what it takes.
It included team runs, gym sessions, and a special drug free sport session, with the week culminating in a 30-minute half of rugby against both Northland and North Harbour. The “camp” experience helped to motivate me towards my goals.
Following the camp the Blues under 20’s side was selected, and along with many of my teammates, I was selected in the squad. It was a huge honour to be a part of that team, and I was blown away to be named starting open-side in the first game against the Chiefs under 20s. That was an eye opener, and I realised how much harder I need to work to get to the next level.
Speaking of working hard, no strength training or bruising game of rugby can prepare you for the mental demands and application required to do a degree like Engineering. But I’m happy to report that after almost two terms, and many hours of studying, I’m loving the life."
Diary Entry 2:
In the second of his ongoing diary updates, Adrian Choat, the inaugural recipient of the Royal Wolf Rugby Tertiary Scholarship, finds playing top-level rugby and keeping up his studies is a challenge.
Since you last heard from me, the realities of life as a university student and a semi-professional rugby player have hit home. It is challenging and demanding, yet I’m loving it, and thriving.
It’s been a steep learning curve though. This might sound dramatic but balancing my rugby, university work, and social life, has been a daily struggle.
I’m not complaining, because I know I’m lucky to have the Junior Rugby Foundation and Royal Wolf supporting my studies and the Auckland Rugby Academy keeping a watchful eye over both my rugby training and personal life.
The Royal Wolf scholarship in particular makes the financial burden of attending university infinitely easier and takes an enormous weight off both my parents and my own shoulders. For that I’m extremely grateful.
It’s almost six months since I started studying for a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) at the University of Auckland and the number of tests and assignments are ramping up as the weeks go by. It’s a demanding work load and I’ve slowly come to the realisation – yes, another one – that I’m not going to be able to delve into the social side of student life as much as I’d like. There’s just no time in between training, playing, studying and sleeping.
Which is fine. Like most high school students I was guilty of being complacent and had a shell be right attitude, thinking “I can do it later”. But one things for sure at university, if you have that attitude you won’t get by and will be left behind.
I’m still learning to manage my time, and the Academy has been working to up skill me in that regard. With two to three training sessions a day, a game on the weekend, and a number of personal and social activities throughout the day, it’s easy to find yourself behind.
I’ve also had challenges in my rugby life this year, and at the same time marked a number of milestones. After suffering a major concussion early in the year I battled my way back to full fitness and now I feel like I’m playing better than ever.
This was rewarded during my debut for the Waitemata Premier team against Papatoetoe when I received the Man of the Match award. And more recently I have been selected in the Auckland Under-19 training squad to prepare for the National Under 19s tournament in September.
It’s moments like these that I, and all rugby players, play the game for.
Diary Entry 3:
It’s been a busy two months during which I’ve achieved three big goals I’ve had for some time. I’ve become a regular starter for the Waitemata Premier rugby side, successfully completed my first set of university exams, and also had the honour of being named in the Auckland Under 19A squad.
In saying that I also realise there is more to achieve and a lot of room to improve both academically and on the sports field.
It has been hugely rewarding playing for the Waitemata Premier side. The culture is similar to 1st XV rugby because it is so close knit. The club is like one big supportive family, with the teams made up of players from diverse backgrounds and many famous rugby-playing family names throughout the team sheets.
For the first time in my rugby career I have played alongside my brothers, Jeremy and Nicholas. I’d watched them both play hundreds of games, and been tackled and mauled by them in the back yard many times, but never played in the same team as them until the Waitemata Premiers.
It’s been a huge honour to run on with my brothers and having my family sitting on the sideline and supporting us was the icing on the cake. It’s an experience I will never forget.
As well as achievements there have also been many challenges – both mental and physical – that have arisen throughout the rugby season.
I missed two weeks of training and a couple of games because of exams, which is fine because my studies are just as important as – if not more so – than making it onto the rugby field each week.
But it was the small, frustrating niggles that developed when I started training again that have been hardest to shake and these kept me off the field, and far from my best, at the pressure point of the season.
Like with many things I’ve experienced this year, getting these small and annoying injuries turned out to be yet another learning curve and made me realise I have to look after my body.
It reminded me of the toll a long rugby season can take with week after week of putting your body through the works. It needs refuelling, and I’m still learning how best to do that and to keep in shape to ensure that I stay at 100 percent for the upcoming Under 19 tournament in Taupo in September.
But perhaps more challenging than that is the job of balancing rugby and university studies, as well as trying to have a life outside of both those things. So with my second semester of studies already underway and some big games still yet to play this year, I’m planning on staying focussed on the job at hand. But at the same time I’ll be setting more goals for the remainder of the year and beyond. Watch this space.
Diary Entry 4:
You can always rely on rugby to serve up highs, lows and bitter sweet moments. Back in July the club rugby season with the Waitemata Premier side wrapped up with the team finishing in a disappointing 5th place. But none-the-less, given the commitment from the guys, and having some great wins over the course of the season, I can’t help but feel happy with the effort we all put in. Bring on next year.
Since then, the representative rugby season has kicked in, starting with a pre-season game for the Auckland Under 19A squad. It was, not so much a shock to the system, but a change up in intensity as to how this level of rugby is played. And there was no let up, with the coaches asking more and more of us as the season progressed.
The peak was representing the Auckland A side at the National Jock Hobbs Under 19 Rugby tournament in Taupo over the course of a week in mid-September. During this time we played three games – beating both Taranaki and Wellington, before losing by just two points in the final to Waikato. It was gutting, but that’s rugby.
The game against Wellington, to get us to the final, was especially hard – and I couldn’t even stand up afterwards! Yet the reward for this was a great feeling of satisfaction with our team and a confidence in the brotherhood that we have developed in such a short time.
The experience was all that I imagined and more, and has been the most significant event in my rugby life so far.
I’ve also been working hard at university with the second semester of my engineering degree at the University of Auckland starting in September. It’s been challenging however, especially since I missed two weeks of lectures and tutorials because of the Under 19s tournament.
To catch up it meant doing a couple of weeks-worth of 13-hour days that were made up of a mix of rugby and study.
Still, as I write this, the workload has eased and I’m now on a break from rugby training, giving me the chance to focus all my energy on making up for lost study time and getting the best results as possible. Until next time, I’m back to the books.
Diary Entry 5:
Following the National Jock Hobbs Under 19 Rugby Tournament in Taupo I said, “Goodbye rugby. Hello university”.
It was the business end of the academic year and with rugby finished I buried myself neck deep in work, spending two months solid studying and focussing my energy on university exams. And it paid off because during this time something clicked and I’m proud of my efforts. It meant my grades improved from the previous semester, despite being very sick during two of my exams.
A week after my last exam in November I was back into rugby training having been selected for the New Zealand Under 20 Development Camp. It was a huge honour and one of my rugby goals for the year. The six-day camp took place in early December and it was the first time I had been in the New Zealand representative rugby environment.
As well as taking away a huge amount of knowledge and advice from the camp it also raised my expectations of myself and inspired me. It made me realise very clearly that a lot of hard work lies ahead of me if I am to achieve my goals – both academically and on the rugby field.
When I reflect on 2016, it’s the many new challenges and responsibilities that I have faced that has helped shape me to become a more well-rounded person.
Having to balance the endless trainings and games while maintaining my health has been a constant battle. Small niggles and serious injuries have been a recurring factor throughout the year, and it taught me to look after myself and my recovery despite how tired and busy I was.
Studying a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) at the University of Auckland has taught me time management skills and a sense of discipline that I didn’t have a year ago.
You could say I’ve had a change in attitude and it has helped me meet and cope with the demands placed on me in the last year. It’s also enabled me to adapt to face new challenges that get thrown at me and I’m so much better off for it.
I want to say a big thank you to all those people who have supported me in the last year. I wouldn’t have had the same opportunities, or achieved what I have, without that support.
My thanks is especially extended to Royal Wolf and the Auckland Rugby Supporters Club who deemed me fit to be the inaugural Royal Wolf Rugby Tertiary Scholar. It is a real privilege and they have both been a constant support to me throughout my academic and sporting journey so far.
Diary Entry 6:
To be honest, over the last two months I haven’t had any time for anything else except university and rugby with both kicking off (excuse the pun) at the same time.
On the rugby front, my season started with the Blues Under-20s team taking on the Chiefs Under-20s which we came away from with a strong 22-13 win.
Unfortunately, this was followed by two narrow losses to the Hurricanes Under-20s and the Argentina national Under-20s side.
Following these games I was lucky enough to be selected in the March Trial Camp for the New Zealand Under-20 rugby side. The camp was an incredible experience which culminated in a trial game, where my team played against the Hurricanes Development. This meant footing it against players such as Ben Lam and Pita Aki, and made for one of the toughest games I’ve ever been part of.
Following the camp, I was named in the New Zealand Under-20 squad to play in the Oceania tournament which takes place from April 28 to May 6. This is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to represent New Zealand and I’m incredibly humbled and grateful for the chance. It’s something I’ve always dreamed of and I intend to make the most of it and give it everything.
Of course, one of the main challenges which has come with this selection is keeping up with my university studies while I’m travelling.
In preparation for the possibility of being selected for the national team I consulted with the ARUSC Junior Rugby Foundation and the university about what number of papers was achievable. I made the call to do three papers instead of the usual five in my degree for the first semester. The decision has lightened the load a little and helped with the balance of juggling study and training. Getting selected for a national side is a huge honour, but I’m also determined to make sure my studies are not compromised – so it looks like I’ll be working extra hard in the second half of the year!
All in all, the past two months have been very exciting, with those to come promising to be even greater.
Diary Entry 7:
In the last few months many of the dreams I’ve had growing up have come true.
Representing New Zealand was at the top of that list and going to the Junior Rugby World Cup in Georgia was such an honour. I’m extremely grateful to have had the opportunity and it helped that the team did pretty well at the tournament too – but more on that soon!
It all started with the Oceania Tournament on Australia’s Gold Coast in May. It was a very proud moment pulling on my black polo with the Silver Fern on my chest for the first time. From there we got stuck into training as our campaign began.
Playing in every game in the tournament was amazing, especially with a starting spot against Samoa. We won all three games which topped the tour off nicely – but our real goal was the games in Georgia.
The World Cup took place over three weeks with pool games in Kutaisi, the second largest city after the capital Tbilisi. The people were amazing and especially welcoming to us as a team. Our accommodation was not making it an incredibly humbling experience and taught me to appreciate what we have in our beautiful country.
Our pool games were against Scotland, Italy and Ireland, coming out comfortable victors in all three matches. The most memorable game for me was against Italy, where I was given the honour of starting and playing the whole 80 minutes. It was intensely hot and the game was physical challenging in every way. Not only did I get to represent my country on the world stage, but I topped off by scoring a try in the last play of the game. It was magical!
Next up was a semi-showdown final with France in Tbilisi. The atmosphere within the team was focused and determined but there was also a sense of calm and contentedness.
France proved to be our biggest challenge, as they came back hard in the second half and pushed us to the limit with the final score being 39 – 26.
We stepped up a notch for the final against England. We were pumped and it showed on the pitch – and the scoreboard with a 64 – 17 victory.
To be honest, the finals were bittersweet because I didn’t get to play in either game, however while it was disappointing it was an honour to be part of the team and contribute to the atmosphere in the final week.
Returning to New Zealand has meant getting back to reality. I’m currently on break from university, which has meant that I can focus on reintegrating into club rugby and the Rugby Academy. I’m also enjoying having a little more to relax and hang out with my family and friends because the first half of the year has been full on – and it’s been the stuff of my dreams
Diary Entry 8:
After returning from the World Cup, there was no time for a breather. I was plunged back into the Auckland Academy mix, where I continued my individual training, and as well as finishing off the club season with Waitemata I became part of the Auckland Mitre 10 wider training squad.
After a string of strong training sessions with the Auckland Mitre 10 cup squad I was honoured to be selected in the Auckland team to travel to Fukuoka in Japan for two pre-season games.
It was also an honour to be able to experience the culture of Japan, to see the generosity of the people, and be involved in some of the country’s sacred ceremonial customs.
On the training and playing field the heat was like nothing I’d experienced before – and training was hard, but the team felt good and was beginning to click well.
However, during the first game we played against Sanix – which we won comfortably – I suffered a Liz Franc injury (sprain) to my right foot. This meant I had to spend six weeks in a moonboot and on crutches. I’ve only recently started walking normally, and looking to very soon build up to running. It’s a little hard to admit but the injury has likely ended my season as we come towards the end of the Mitre 10 Cup.
On the bright side, as well as trying to bulk up by working out as much as I can with a crook foot, it has meant I have had plenty of opportunity to spend valuable time on my university studies. I hope to finish the semester strongly after being in Japan for the first two weeks of Semester and, following that, being somewhat limited by crutches and a moonboot.
Despite spending a little too much time on crutches and a moonboot this has truly been an amazing year – both on the rugby field and off. I’m so grateful to have received the opportunities I have. Many of my dreams have come true, from representing my country and hometown in the sport I love, and becoming a world champion, through to having the opportunity to continue my engineering studies at university.
These achievements have made me even hungrier and inspired for next year! For now, I plan on making the most of my extended off-season and prepare as well as I can for 2018.
Diary Entry 9:
How time flies! I’m coming to the end of my second year out of school. It’s hard to believe, and as I look back, it’s also hard to believe how much has happened.
I’ve achieved many of my dreams, and made progress towards many others, but I’m nowhere near where I want to be. I have so much more to learn and a whole lot more to do to achieve my final goals.
There are many people who have contributed to this, but I would especially like to thank the Auckland Rugby Supporters Club Junior Rugby Foundation and Royal Wolf who awarded me the Royal Wolf Rugby Tertiary Scholarship at the end of 2015.
This scholarship has helped fund my university studies over the last two years. They have continually offered support to me throughout this time, and have always backed me. I was especially grateful when they understood and continued their support when my studies took a backseat to my rugby earlier this year when I attended the Under 20 Rugby World Cup in Georgia.
However, the good news is, I managed to finish my studies in semester two off well, and I’m looking forward to pushing hard with my studies at the start of next year to honour this support.
Since my last diary entry, I have recovered from a foot injury, and I’m now back to running and training under the guidance of the Auckland Rugby Academy staff.
On this note, I would like to thank Auckland Rugby as a whole for the time and effort they have put into my development and I am looking forward to being part of this great union in 2018.
For now, I have returned to work as a concreter to earn some money over the summer as well as training with the Auckland Rugby Academy. I’m keen to build on my skills and develop physically in preparation for next year’s season.
I wish a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all.
Diary Entry 10:
During the break I made the most of the sunny weather, spending quality time with friends and family who I hadn’t been able to catch up with much during a busy 2017.
I spent as much time as possible at the beach, including Piha and Bethells on Auckland’s West Coast which aren’t far from my home.
But now it’s back into it. Although compared to last year, when I was part of the New Zealand U20s side, I’ve been able to ease my way back into rugby training and work.
Currently, my rugby is centred around club rugby and Academy training, and with the slower start to the year I am looking to push hard with my studies at the University of Auckland, returning to studying full time with five papers each semester.
Recently I took part in a practical four-day course at Manukau Institute of Technology which introduced me to the skills of welding and machining. It was a brilliant experience and made me even more keen to start semester one.
I’m also looking forward to the club season with Waitemata, and pre-season games beginning this month. After my recent frustrating injury, all I can hope for is to have an injury free season and do my best to push for a Mitre 10 Cup contract.
As another year kicks in I’m thankful for the continued support of Royal Wolf, the Auckland Rugby Supporters Club and Auckland Rugby as a whole for their support.
Diary Entry 11:
Adrian Choat Report on Mitre 10 Cup.
2018 was a very important year for me. It was vital for me to achieve my first Mitre 10 cup game, having missed my opportunity through injury in 2017. To give me the best chance of doing this, I did not study in the second semester so that I could focus all of my time on rugby. The season started out rather slow for me, playing for Auckland B and suffering a slight hamstring tear in the third week due to the load I was placing on myself. It was hard to remain patient, as the season went on I played a few games here and there for the B's, but I felt my fitness slip away, along with some opportunities.
The first real action I got was in week 5 of the competition, when I accompanied the Auckland Mitre 10 cup team to Christchurch as an injury cover. I wasn't required for the game, but it gave me an insight into how the team was working on match day and more confidence for future weeks. It was great to be able to be there, albeit on the sideline, when we beat Canterbury in a thriller of a game. Our confidence and culture as a team was growing week by week and it was an honour to be a small part of it.
My opportunity finally came much later, in week 9 for the second to last round, where Auckland would travel to Invercargill to play Southland. It was my debut, and it was something I will never forget. It was a surreal experience having my name read out, to be given my jersey and to run alongside all of the talented sportsmen as a teammate. The game started quite rough for us, with one of my good friends Ezekiel being knocked out in the first 2 minutes of the game. We slowly asserted our dominance, and by the second half, we had taken the game into our hands. I had had some experience of more high profile games with the NZ 20's, but it was surreal to be out there on the field, at times I felt like I was just watching. I ended up playing a decent game, made all the more special by of a last minute try.
That same week, we finished the regular season games on top of the leaderboard after beating North Harbour comfortably at home in the battle of the bridge, which unfortunately I didn't play in. Following that, All Blacks selection meant that the starting 7 for Auckland, my good friend Dalton Papalii would leave to Japan to join the All Blacks and thus be out of contention to play in the final two possible games of the season; the semi-final and final. This honour was given to me; the opportunity of a lifetime. If I felt any nerves in my debut, it was now compounded tenfold. I knew that I had a big job to do and I didn't want to let the team down.
The semi-final took place on the 21st October against Wellington. It was a very hot day at Eden Park and I was feeling it. It was a tough game, but we pulled through, winning 38 - 17. I felt such happiness and relief, as it was also the first time that I had won at Eden Park. We quickly moved our sights to the Final which would also take place at Eden Park. It was a business as usual week in terms of training, we knew the challenge that we faced but we stuck to our processes and stayed strong in our culture and unity. Despite the fact that unforeseen and unfortunate circumstances removed a very key member of our team from our environment leading into game day. The game was an absolute thriller. We were down 20-0 after 32 minutes, only for our skipper, TJ Faiane to get us back in it by setting up Tumua Manu with a try just before half time. We were now down by 20 to 7 at half time, but they were still all over us. It took alot for us to crawl back into the game.
The second half was another battle, as we slowly but surely fought our way back into the match. I came off in the 72nd minute after Caleb Clarke's try, which was converted and tied the game at 26 all. The tension on the bench was palpable, all we could do was look on in nervousness as the lads continued to grind out there. Following the full time horn, with the game still tied up, it was a struggle not to be negative or confused. Yet we refocused, and after Canterbury scored the first try of extra time, we took over the game, scoring two tries to seal the win. The moment the ball was kicked out we all rushed onto the field; I haven't experienced anything like it. Pure elation! It was unimaginable for me at the start of the year, to have the opportunity to represent Auckland, my home, in the final of the Mitre 10 Cup, and to win! It was a surreal feeling, made even better by having my family on the sacred grounds after the game. Following the victory, I had a few days to celebrate and then I was off on a flight to Europe to see my partner Theresa, whom I hadn't seen for months at that stage. It was such a reward to be able to get away! Since I have been back, I have returned to my training with Auckland. I have also been blessed with some training time with the Blues, which has given me incredible insight on how hard I need to work.
I look forward to the next few months and the rest of the year as the season begins again and I also return to my studies at Auckland University.