What is it about Christchurch Boys’ High School that allows it to produce All Blacks on a regular basis?
Ask anyone around the grounds, in upmarket Fendalton, and you normally get the same answer: “We produce good buggers here.”
It is an all-encompassing philosophy that is bred into the students as soon as they step through the gate, and is written in stone on the front of the school.
“Altiora Peto – I seek higher things.”
Since 1895 there have been 46 students leave the school and go on to play in what is considered one of the greatest sporting legacies in the world – The All Blacks.
The first was W.A Drake, who captained the first XV in 1895, in 1901 with the most recent, Anton Lienert-Brown, who pulled on the black jersey in 2016.
Between that time there has been a number of top players including Bob Deans, who was famously disallowed a try against Wales in 1905 which would have drawn the match, his son Robbie Deans, Daniel Carter, considered the greatest first-five to play the game, Richard Loe, Andrew Mehrtens, Daryl Gibson, Aaron and Nathan Mauger and current players Owen and Ben Franks, Luke Romano, Brodie Retallick and Matt Todd.
Current first XV coach Danny Porte, who has been in charge of the top squad since 2016, said it was about creating “well-rounded” boys who are not only handy on the footy field but excel in other areas.
“We have over 500 rugby players through the grades so we have a wide talent pool to choose from. Everyone is pushing from the junior grades up to get into that top team,” he said.
“We are also teachers so it is more than just rugby. We want these guys to succeed at life.”
So what is the secret behind their success?
First XV manager Mike Drury has been involved with the team for the past 18 years and said there has always been a great culture surrounding the players that allowed them to develop into mature, hard working men who go after what they want.
“We give them a good grounding in sports and academics to allow them to pursue their dreams,” he said.
“There is no preferential treatment for these guys. We have stood down top players in the past for missing classes and we are not afraid to do that,” he said.
None of the guys that have kicked on to the All Blacks have had that happen to them, with good reason.
“Take the likes of Owen Franks for example. He set a benchmark for gym work, he was an absolute beast in there,” Drury said.
Franks not only drew a crowd in the gym but during lunchtime as well.
“They would all crowd around him during lunch and watch him eat through his backpack full of food. It was incredible, but that’s what he had to do to put on the weight and he really wanted it,” Drury said.
When asked if he could pick a favourite All Black that has passed through the boys’ high gates, Drury turned looked at the main school building and came back with the name: Anton Lienert-Brown.
“He was a model student, he was the first to arrive at training, the last to leave and was just such a role model to everyone around him. What he has done in the four years since leaving here is amazing, overcoming a serious injury to basically solidify his position in the starting [All Blacks] team is nothing short of incredible,” he said.
Lienert-Brown played in the 2012 first XV who went on to win the Press Cup, which is now the UC Championship before pulling on the black jersey in 2016.
Porte said it wasn’t a case of producing just All Blacks as well.
“We have had players from around the world come here learn and then kick on to success in their home countries,” he said.
Drury said off the top of his head they have schooled players from Ireland, Mexico, Czech Republic, South Korea, Chile and Argentina, just to name a few.
The school runs an academy that focuses on overseas students who would like to learn the New Zealand way of playing rugby for their international students.
The current centre/wing for the first XV is Taihei Kusaka who played in the under-18 Japan side in the Rugby Europe men’s U18 European Championship.
“I really enjoy coaching overseas students. Some don’t have the best skill sets when they arrive but they are hungry and get into like everyone else and you can work with that,” he said.
So to answer the question, what makes Christchurch Boys’ High a great producer of All Blacks?
It is the culture and set of teachers and coaches that believe in these young guys, who in turn, start to believe in themselves and know that they can follow their dreams.
THE BOYS’ HIGH HONOURS BOARD:
1. W A Drake = 1901
2. E T Harper = 1904-1906
3. R G Deans = 1905-1906 and 1908
4. H D Thomson = 1905-1906 and 1908
5. H M Taylor = 1913-1914
6. C E Evans = 1921
7. J H Parker = 1924-1925
8. W C Dally = 1924-1926 and 1928-1929
9. J H Harris = 1925
10. D M Dickson = 1925
11. G T Alley = 1926 and 1928
12. J T Burrows = 1928
13. F L Clarke = 1928
14. G M Mehrtens = 1928
15. M L Page = 1928
16. S R Carleton = 1928-1929
17. G D Innes = 1932
18. J D Rankin = 1936-1937
19. G D Cobden = 1937
20. J Finlay = 1946
21. R H Duff = 1951-1952 and 1955-1956
22. A E G Elsom = 1952-1955
23. D D Wilson = 1953-1954
24. P B Vincent = 1956
25. J N Creighton = 1962
26. P J Morrissey = 1962
27. W F McCormick = 1965-1971
28. A G Steel = 1966-1968
29. M W O’Callaghan = 1968
30. H T Joseph = 1971
31. R W Loe = 1986-1995
32. A P Mehrtens = 1995-2004
33. D P Gibson = 1999-2002
34. A J D Mauger = 2001-2007
35. N K Mauger = 2001-2002
36. D N Hewitt = 2001-2003
37. D W Carter = 2003-2015
38. S E Hamilton = 2006
39. A Thomson = 2008-2012
40. B Franks = 2008-
41. O Franks = 2009-
42. C Slade = 2010-
43. B Retallick = 2012-
44. L Romano = 2012-
45. M. Todd = 2013-
46. A. Lienert-Brown = 2016-