Today was probably the best day yet for Malindi Rugby. I know I’ve been saying this quite a bit lately, but I suppose this is a sign that things have been progressing at light speed for us over the last year!
Today, five of our home grown players, Athman Abud, Tyson Kiema, Taura Emanuel, Kelvin Kithi, and Ian Nyanje were in Nairobi competing with the best Under 19 age group players in the country for spots on Kenya’s National team. Many thanks to Roger Sylvester and the Driftwood Club in Malindi who backed the boys financially and made the trip possible. The Driftwood is one of the most beautiful spots on Malindi’s Silversands beach and incidentally, the best and only place you can watch rugby on a big screen with Malindi’s rugger crowd.
The boys apparently did well, although they said that (as expected) the Kakamega guys were physically superior, but they felt like they kept up. They also said that the Kakamega guys knew all the coaches, and that’s precisely why I was happy they went, our Malindi guys need to be part of the system/community and need to start networking and knowing the right people. I think knowing people and knowing what to expect can boost performance at that type of a selection camp.
At any rate, the thing apparently was a bit of a mess at the beginning, lots of guys didn’t have original birth certificates but photocopies (as is the custom here). I simply told the guys to ensure they had their birth certificates (I didn’t apparently use the word ‘original’ which is key here) and so they brought photocopies. At first they were turned away but luckily common sense prevailed and they were allowed to have a run around with the rest. Thanks for your understanding KRU!
I’m told it was mostly fitness testing with a bit of position specific testing, but no contact or scrimmaging/gameplay simulation apart from scrumaging for forwards. I already wrote to my contacts at the Union to ask them to give us a bit more advanced notice next time. I could have prepared our guys quite well, to be honest, the guys that went weren’t that fit, but luckily they were playing on and off with the Club against big guys, so they weren’t completely out of it. But had I known, I would have had them training hard!
I hope that some of them get called back, realistically, I think it’s unlikely that one of them makes the team. But as I said earlier, just their presence is a learning experience and three of them will have a chance to go back again better prepared next year, and hopefully they will tell their teammates about it and that will motivate them to be better players. On the other hand, I think there could be a chance that a)The selectors might want to diversify the national team away from just Luyas and Nairobi players. I saw a tweet saying that they look forward to the day when an Abdi gets on the Kenya team… I replied that there was a guy called Athman Abud trying out for the Under 19 team and he is 210 kilos and can run enough to play 7s in the nation; and b) that they might look at some of our younger guys in view of grooming them for next year, perhaps with some of point ‘a’ in mind; And c) that the sheer size of a couple of the players (Athman ‘Biggie’ Abud and Ian Nyanje are freakishly wide!) might make them attractive!
Well, anyway, as mentioned at the start, I’m EXTREMELY PLEASED!!! Also, can’t wait for the next twist in the road/development for Malindi Rugby. If we can start having an impact on Kenyan Rugby, I’ll be pleased. I think all of us need to push in the same direction to make sure Kenya Rugby grows in a “resilient” and “sustainable” way. In a way, Kenya Rugby could be looked at as a litmus test for what the country is going through… Corruption? Destructive Politics? Cronyism? Mismanagement… I think both Kenya and the KRU can rise above all of that stuff genuinely if every one of us believes that it is possible and we all roll up our sleeves and work. Karibuni to the winning team boys and girls! :) (Ps: sorry for being so cheesy, my mum and dad showed up for a visit today and we’re all feeling good after a great day!)
PPS: The following are bios of Malindi Players I sent to the KRU, in actuall fact, Alphan, Alex and Duncan were too old to attend the camp:
Tyson Kiema: Played in two 7s KSSSA National championships, Has been training/playing with Malindi High for 4 years now, generally played on the wing when he was young but graduated as the first choice fly half this year until I found how well duncan kicks. Kiema is by far my first choice Scrum Half at the club level and has been performing marvellously. He is extremely fit and fast, his major strength is his passing accuracy and his understanding of the game, what to do at the breakdown and basic strategy. He's also a clever bugger, one of the top students at Malindi High which is a provincial school.
Kelvin Kithi: Also played in two 7s KSSSA National championships. Has been training/playing with Malindi high for 3 years (he is a form 3). His two older brothers also played at Malindi High on Provincial Champion 15s and 7s teams and both play for Malindi RFC at present. He's lanky and fast, has been playing in the second row because of his size and toughness (I don't have many big guys here!), but aspires to play back row and might this year although would be an extremely good back at any position (especially outside centre I reckon). Decent rugby knowledge, and willing to listen and learn.
Athman Abud: Played in three KSSSA NAtional Championships (two 7s and one 15s). Has played for three years at Malindi High always on the first team by nature of his size, at 110 kilos probably the biggest coastarian in school rugby. He plays both prop positions well, but can move enough to play on my sevens team. Strong tackler and decent ball carrier and passer (although I'd like him to pass less!). Built to last.
Taura Emanuel: I think only played this year, is a form three, but made it on the first team as a flanker this year and will probably be captain next year. Bright, sharp, hard, strong, fast, loyal, excellent tackler, perhaps my favourite player at the moment. Played back row at school but I have tried him at scrum half for Malindi RFC when Kiema wasn't available and he did extremely well. He could probably play anywhere on the pitch, he's hard an you'll love his tackling and bravery. The kind of player that can carry a team on his shoulders.
Alphan Mwinyikombo: Big fellow and team leader. Extremely fit, good tackler and quite big. Took over some games. Perhaps not the sharpest tool in my tool box but he makes up for it in pure effort and strength and is always on any team of mine if he is fit which is almost always. Also a good guy for rallying the troops, often speaks up for the team. He also could do well in the backs and has an unbelievable distance on his kicks, great drop kick as well as place kick for goal!
Alex Karissa (Gaza): Another team leader, transferred to the school this year after learning the game in fertile rugby breeding ground of Taita. Put him at flanker as he has the highest fitness levels but prefers to play in the backs. Quite lanky, very fast and quick, magnificent 7s player but not as disciplined as I'd like in 15s as he makes up his own script often as he goes along, often with great results (Quade Cooper style). Also a team leader, very Charismatic, I think his mum is on the county government… A big reason for our success this year.
Ian Nyanje: Another fellow who has a great frame for rugby. His fitness is not what I'd like it to be but he makes up for it with his size and body awareness. He is an excellent ball carrier and adds a great deal of mass to the pack. He's a form two, so lots of room to grow, still lots of maturing to do. He was the other first choice prop on the 15s team but did not make the team consistently playing sevens because of speed/fitness issues.
Duncan Maghanga: Was a winger at the start of the season and then when I realized how well he kicked, moved him to fly half. His kicks for touch were pure magic, and he is accurate when going for goal from distance. He is also pretty good at organizing the backs although his game knowledge is not magnificent as he only joined us I think consistently at the beginning of this year. He was a leader of the 7s team that went to nationals this year, but hasn't been training with the team recently. Also one of the lead academic performers at the school (which is why I don't fault him for missing training), which is his reason for not participating in Malindi RFC matches this year.
Please contact me if you'd like any further info. I think we're sorted, but would love it if the boys could be billeted with nairobi based players… Otherwise do you have any suggestions for cheap (circa 500 ksh) accommodation near the pitch? As suggested I gave them Wasike's number, but I do have an assistant coach up there collecting them from the bus and bringing them to the accommodation. In the future, it would be great to know about this type of selection camp ahead of time, I would have pushed the players more physically and picked on them to perform at a higher level. I sort of took the foot off the accelerator recently in view of having them concentrate more on their exams, I would say that most of them are at about 70% of their normal fitness levels, although that's already pretty good.