Christchurch Boys’ High School have an emerging star at fullback – and it’s not even his preferred position.
It was a spur of the moment decision that led to Max Hughes, 16, signing up for the CBHS rugby trials in year 9. The move has seen him show off his talents in the No 15 jersey in the UC Championship.
But when filling out his paper work for the trials, he was asked to write down what his second position was. He had only ever played halfback, so Hughes wrote down fullback thinking nothing of it.
“They ended up playing me at fullback during my first trial and I scored a hat-trick so I ended up playing fullback all of year 9,” he said.
“It wasn’t until year 10 when I had a chat with one of my coaches and explained I’m actually a halfback.”
The 16-year-old spent last season as back-up to highly-touted halfback Louie Chapman. With another season as the understudy on the horizon, Hughes has managed to gain more game time at fullback, which is now comfortably his second position.
“It’s tough obviously with Louie at nine. He’s been great to learn from and is always happy to help . . . it’s good that the team have found a second role for me.”
The year 12 student’s ability in the No 15 jersey was on full display in May when he was named man of the match by Sky TV in CBHS’s 32-16 win over Christ’s College. Performances like that saw Hughes selected in the Crusaders Junior Knights team that lost to the Chief’s under-18 side in Hamilton on Saturday. He came on for the final 15min at halfback.
However, Hughes’ talents aren’t only being recognised in the 15-man game. A decision to play touch rugby over the summer five years ago because cricket was becoming “too boring” appears to be reaping rewards.
Next month Hughes will travel to Malaysia to play for the New Zealand under-18 touch team against eight other nations, including Australia, South Africa and the United States, at the Youth World Cup.
After playing rugby union since the age of eight, he took up touch at age 11 and quickly found his feet in the sport, going on to represent Canterbury at under-15, 16, and more recently at open level, where he helped the men’s team to third at nationals.
Hughes says his recent success in the 15-man code has been helped by the level of footwork and decision-making that has come with playing touch at a high level.
Hughes plans for next year are to make the No 9 jersey his own. Following secondary school, he hopes to be involved in the Crusaders academy and work his way through club and representative rugby.
But if his All Blacks dream doesn’t come to fruition, he also has a back-up plan.
“My mum is Japanese, so if it doesn’t work out here then playing for Japan could be an option.”