1st XV Thailand visit more than just rugby

Visiting Thailand for an international rugby tournament "opened students’ eyes to a world that exists beyond what they had ever imagined", says Hamilton Boys High 1st XV coach Cameron Moorby. The team shone at the tournament, but it was the activities they experienced off the field that really made the trip memorable. The team were supported to experience Thai cultural activities with an Asia New Zealand Foundation School Sports grant.

Cameron Moorby: "For every member of the team [the trip] provided the bug to travel and see more of what Asia has to offer!"

The Hamilton Boys High School 1st XV experienced the longest of seasons in 2022. On 10 December, 12 months to the day after beginning their journey together, they departed for the World Schools Rugby Festival,  held at the Pattana Sports Resort in Sriracha, Thailand.

Of the 30-large travel contingent, only the four coaches had been to Thailand previously; for the 26 players, it was a completely new and exciting opportunity.

The New Zealand 1st XV season had concluded back in September and for most of the team the tournament was an opportunity to re-group and experience playing together for one last time.

Although excited to get back out on the field again, it was the element of not knowing what was in store for us in Thailand and being able to experience a different culture that had our boys most excited.

Upon our arrival in Bangkok, we found our way to our team bus and were transported an hour south to the Pattana Sports Resort, where the tournament was to take place.

On the first night, we were treated to an opening ceremony, which was followed by a spectacular traditional fire show as a welcome to Thailand. The boys thoroughly enjoyed the show and were amazed at some of the tricks the performers were able to display while handling the blazing sticks and rings of fire.

After a successful first match, we had the opportunity to take some time off and go on an excursion that proved to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Hamilton Boys High rugby players posing for a group photo with an elephant

The team visiting an elephant sanctuary on the outskirts of Pattaya City

 Our tour guide led us to an up-close-and-personal encounter with elephants at an elephant sanctuary on the outskirts of Pattaya City. Many of our boys had never seen an elephant in the flesh before, let alone have the opportunity to feed and pat one.

Each of the boys were given bananas to feed several of the elephants at the sanctuary. As well as this, the boys were able to gain in-depth insight from our guide about the history of where we were and the history of the elephants that resided at the sanctuary.

That afternoon was spent exploring some of the suburbs of Pattaya led by our guide, before arriving at the Sanctuary of Truth Temple. This was a real eye-opener for our boys as they were able to witness for themselves some of the contrasting living conditions that exist within Thailand and the large gap between rich and poor.

That evening, we were treated to a Muay Thai exhibition. Unique among other martial arts, Muay Thai is a traditional Thai combat sport and the national sport and cultural martial art of Thailand.

The boys learned that Muay Thai was created hundreds of years ago and referred to as “The Art of Eight Limbs” due to the use of all eight points of contact as weapons of war. It was a great way to cap off what was an amazing day of Thai cultural experience.

Hamilton Boys rugby team watching an evening Muay Thai bout

The team watched an outdoors Muay Thai bout and learned about the history of the martial art

The next few days were spent dedicated to the tournament, which saw us successful against Millfield School of England in the semi-final and Grey College of South Africa in the grand final.

This match was also the 50th match for our captain Aki Tuivailala, a remarkable and rare milestone that we were able to celebrate together as a team.

The tournament was capped off with the exchanging of gifts between all teams from different countries. Another special memory in itself.

Two Hamilton Boys High School players holding up a trophy

The team won the competition, beating Grey College of South Africa in the final

Upon the conclusion of the tournament we headed an hour to the west to the coastline of Pattaya. It was here the boys were finally able to switch off from rugby and make the most of the hustle and bustle of Thai life. We visited the beautiful Jomtien Pattaya Beach lined with palm trees, beach umbrellas, street vendors, street food, tuktuk drivers and everything in between!

In the evening we headed into Central Pattaya for the boys to experience the night markets. They certainly made the most of their bartering opportunity and returned with more merchandise than they bargained for.

The entire Thai experience was something that opened our students’ eyes to a world that exists beyond what they had ever imagined.

The entire Thai experience was something that opened our students’ eyes to a world that exists beyond what they had ever imagined. For every member of the team it provided the bug to travel and see more of what Asia has to offer!

The Asia New Zealand Foundation’s support allowed our boys to see and feel what sport and rugby in particular can provide them with: the opportunity to see the world.

Each member of the team returned from Thailand with a greater understanding of its history and culture but most importantly, with memories that they will treasure for a lifetime.

Through the Schools Sports Fund, the Foundation supported the team to visit a elephant sanctuary and attend a fire show and Muay Thai match.