Boys To Men - Tim Copeland

In February 1995 myself and another ‘Pommie’, Joe Nasson (memoirs already published) left our homes in York on a frosty February morning to embark on a 7 month trip down under to New Zealand. We were both just 18 and it was our first time away from home for any real length of time. The aim of our trip was to see the world, learn some rugby and make new friends – we exceeded our expectations in every department.

We arrived at Petone RFC just in time for pre season – we thought we were fit – how wrong we were! Gary French murdered us but we were loving it and were starting to get to know our new team mates. A trip to Napier for a U19 mini pre season tour was the ideal opportunity for some team bonding. What a trip! We played a handy bunch of farmers and hammered them – this is going to be a special season I thought.

We trained hard, played hard and drank hard during those 6 months at Petone and had some memorable games. Playing on Petone 1 as a curtain raiser to the Prems was always special. At that time the Prems had some awesome players – Tana and Mike Umaga, Marty Leslie, Jason O’Hallaron, Simon & Tim Mannix, Alex Telea, Inoke Afeake, Greg Kingi, Cam Warren and not forgetting my now very good friends Glen Japeth and Tucky.

I don’t remember ever losing at Petone Rec, we came close in a game against MSP but Daniel Dews scored a superb solo try in the dying minutes to seal a memorable win. The celebrations were immense – not that I remember too much about it. The team we had the most trouble beating was Hutt Old Boys. We lost to them twice that season which was a very painful experience especially as they would rub our noses in it in Bed Rocks later in the evening!

Frenchy was a tough task master but training was fun and never repetitive. He was always thinking up new drills to keep us all interested. One sawdust pit session sticks in my mind – we were beasted but what a great experience. The session was taken by Frenchy and some bloke called Andy Leslie, I rang home and mentioned it to my Dad - he nearly dropped the phone!

We had a pre game ritual. Staying out of Jacksons bar the night before was always a problem but we were dedicated, any sniff of booze and Frenchy would not hesitate to drop you, no matter who you were. The morning of a match we would always meet up with George Poutoa, Dan Farani and Big Coops at a Jackson Street café for a pre game brunch and talk tactics. We took it seriously – it was instilled into us, we respected the rules and were treated well. There was a dress code to adhere to before and after the game and we felt special.

The post match atmosphere in the clubrooms was brilliant. We were a successful U19’s side and the Prems rarely lost too. Sharing jugs and playing drinking games with the prem players was an unbelievable experience as was sharing a changing room with the Wellington Lions team when they trained at the Rec on the same night as us.

John ‘Bart’ Bartosh was Frency’s right hand man. What a legend! He used to look after us and his fantastic wife Pat (a fellow Pommie) would cook us a mean roast every now and again. He even lent us his car to go on a road trip – very trusting! We managed to get it back in one piece though.

Well what more can I say about our 6 months at Petone. It was the best experience I could ever have wished for at that age and my memories will last me forever. Joe and I still bore our wives with our stories and will do for years to come. We made friends that we still keep in touch and even if we don’t see them for a few years nothing changes.

I have been back on a couple of occasions since with my good friend Andy Murray and have stayed with Bart up in Korokoro. The hospitality we receive from Bart, Tucky and Jabbo is always fantastic.

I even dragged my wife to Petone for our honeymoon, it took a bit of negotiating but a week in Fiji swayed it! We watched the prems on the coldest day of the year NZ had had for 40 years – she wasn’t happy. Jayne went off up to Korokoro to get warm and I met up with Tucky, Jabs, Dan Farani, Ash Turner, Floss and Peanut – what a great night, I rolled in at 4am and managed to lose my camera with some of our wedding photo’s on it - what a great way to start married life!!

Andy and I came over again for the Lions Tour in 2005 and paid a customary visit to the Petone clubrooms to sink a few jugs but the less said about that trip the better!

Joe, Andy and I are making plans to come over for the 125th anniversary celebrations. We can’t wait to see all the friends we made during our trip and we hope to see as many of you as possible.

Until then, thanks for the memories.

Kia Kaha Kia Maia.

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