Mt Albert Grammar School. MAGS. All Aucklanders know the name, know the initials. Rugby has formed a central plank in the school’s legacy since its birth in 1922. While the landscape has changed, with 30 sports now on offer for the 3100 students – making it the second largest secondary school in the country – and girls admitted in 2000, it remains a force in Auckland schools rugby circles. Based in the heartland of league in Auckland, it has produced some fine Kiwis, including Fred Ah Kuoi and Sonny Bill Williams.
There are 18 All Blacks to fill the hearts with pride, plus Portia Woodman, and 23 1A First XV titles, second only to Auckland Grammar, which has racked up 66 since the dawn of the competition in 1896. In the last 30 years, MAGS has also fielded some top sevens teams which have taken the spoils at the Condor Sevens. MAGS has produced some great teams down the years. From 2007-10 under the coaching of Charlie McAlister, there were three 1A titles and the 2010 national Top 4 crown.
The First XV of 2016 easily slots into that category, a superb side, led by Waimana Riedlinger-Kapa, with Caleb Clarke running rampant, often at centre, Niven Longopoa running freely from the back or wing, and marshalled by the late Geoff Moon. This side beat Auckland Grammar 50-0, an unprecedented hiding for the standard-setter. But it had to fight tooth and nail to edge Sacred Heart 15-13 in the 1A final, and beat Hastings BHS 14-13 in the Top 4 decider. In 2021, the First XV made the top four placings for the first time since 2016, though Covid-19 prevented semifinals.
The 100th season of rugby at MAGS was acknowledged. I’m ushered into the headmaster’s office. There to greet me are Pat Drumm, who has been at the helm since that redletter rugby year of 2016, and director of rugby Nick Leger, a long-time teacher and rugby coach who knows what makes young men and women tick…
Continue this story in our June 22 issue – on shelves now!