Rugby union has never been stronger in Port Stephens, with the Nelson Bay Gropers senior team almost certain of reaching the premier grade semi-finals for the first time in more than a decade.
Similarly, the younger Gropers are enjoying a remarkable season, having fielded a record 10 boys and two girls sides in the 2018 Newcastle and Hunter junior competition.
The club’s success on the field has resulted in a series of selection honours with two players – 16-year-olds Jack Vincent and Boston Kerapa – chosen in the under-18 Combined High Schools NSW team and a tour to South Africa in 2019.
Another four players – Freeman Kerapa, Toby Fraser, Logan Fenwick, and Liam Page, all aged 15 – have won selection in the NSW Country and Gen Blue NSW Rugby Union squads.
There are many reasons for the club’s successes, but parents talk of an exceptional club culture whereby the coaches, trainers and committee work extremely hard to ensure that all players, boys and girls, have a fun and enjoyable experience.
The Gropers junior secretary Kellie Vincent said that the rep honours were a huge bonus to what has been a very successful season for Nelson Bay rugby.
“We are proud of all our members and congratulate our representative players on their selections,” she said.
“The rep selections have been a result of a concerted team effort.”
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A Year 11 student at Tomaree High School, Jack Vincent has been plying his trade for the Gropers and other representative sides for eight years.
“I enjoy taking on the ball-playing role and the kicking duties,” the prolific No. 10 said.
Joining him on the tour to South Africa next year is Hunter Sports High student Boston Kerapa, a strapping No. 8 with eyes set on higher honours down the track.
Asked if the Waratahs or Wallabies were on his radar, the Wildfires and Academy star was quick to respond: “No, the All Blacks”.
Boston’s younger brother Freeman, along with Fraser, Fenwick and Page, have been busy mixing their regular club rugby with representative weekend training camps.
The NSW country team they represented defeated ACT in their first match, but went down narrowly to Sydney in their round two clash. All four young men are in line for a NSW Waratahs under-15s jumper to be chosen in the coming weeks.
The 15s coach Mitch Fraser, a former junior and senior Groper who has coached the boys for many years in both Nelson Bay and Hunter Wildfires teams, was a very proud man.
“The selection of these four players in NSW country is unprecedented by our club,” he said.
Nelson Bay junior teams will contest their first round of semi-final matches this weekend.