Centres of attention

Three international centres, one club, one school Phil Burleigh (left), Ryan Crotty and Kieron Fonotia are each plying their trade ont eh world stage but all have roots with the New Brighton club and Shirley Boys' High.

Three international centres, one school: This is the story of the 2004 Shirley Boys’ High first XV.

Phil Burleigh (Scotland), Ryan Crotty (All Blacks) and Kieron Fonotia (Manu Samoa) are all plying their trade on the international scene.

However, they were all a part of the 2004 Shirley Boys’ High first XV.

They also played through the grades at New Brighton.

But at Shirley Boys’ High, they only played seven games between them in the midfield – all in the 2004 season.

Burleigh spent most of his time in 2004 as the first choice halfback, Crotty ran the backline at No 10 before finishing the last four games of the season at second-five. Fonotia split his time between right wing and fullback.

They now all don the No 13 jersey.

Shirley assistant coach in 2004, Mike Skinner, said they were all good boys who spent a lot of time on the back field “sunning themselves”.

He said Crotty could win games when the rest of the side wasn’t playing well, Burleigh was the glue who didn’t make a mistake, and Fonatia was a natural sportsman who had a massive step.

“They had a good year, which built into a very good year for 2005 where we almost went all the way,” he said.

Crotty, known back then as Goofy, has made the centre position his own in the All Blacks while Fonotia, Fonzy, made his debut against the men in black earlier in the year. Fonotia has played seven tests for Manu Samoa since then.

Burleigh, known as Burls to his Shirley teammates, played his first game for Scotland against Australia last month in what was a record-setting eight-try demolition in front of more than 67,000 at Murrayfield.

There was genuine excitement from Burleigh’s father, Wayne, and Crotty’s father, Steve, who used to flat together on Marine Pde, New Brighton, when there was a possibility Burleigh
could have made his debut against Crotty and the All Blacks.

However, Burleigh was not selected for the test.

Setaimata Sa was the No 8 in the Shirley team in 2004.

He has played both union and league and was part of the 2008 World Cup-winning Kiwis
side. He’s also played five league tests for Samoa and one for the union side.

He now plays league for the Mackay Cutters in Queensland.

Fonotia has been playing for Welsh side, Ospreys, one of four professional union teams in the country which compete in the Pro14 and the European Rugby Champions Cup.

In 2018, Fonotia will move to Scarlets, another Welsh club.

Burleigh joined Edinburgh Rugby on a two-year deal in 2014 from the Highlanders and extended his contract in 2016 for another two years.

His time playing in Scotland made him eligible for selection in the national side.

However, he also has Scottish heritage with his great-grandmother born in Aberdeen.