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New role... Albion Excelsior Rugby Club rugby ambassador (From left) Shaun Curry and Mataura Licensing Trust board member Alan Byrne, Millennium Motors director Evan Fricker and club president Kevin Holland. PHOTO: Lucy McDonough.

This year’s Albion Excelsior Rugby Club rugby ambassador will not have far to report for duty. In fact, he lives next door to the clubrooms.

Shaun Curry was named ambassador based on his past role as strength and conditioning coach for the Steel netball team and his present work in the same role for the Stags rugby team.

Curry said he wanted to be involved in rugby and the community and the ambassador role gave him the opportunity to do this.

“It is a chance to give back and give support at the grass-roots level,” Curry said.

The Mataura Licensing Trust has supported financially the ambassador role, which is a four to five-month part-time position.

MLT operations manager Bob Vercoe said planning for the role started several years ago, based on a concept created by the Albion Excelsior Rugby Club.

The idea was for a rugby ambassador to visit schools in the MLT area to promote rugby to pupils.

“I think the very first ambassador was Norm Hewitt, the All Black hooker,” Vercoe said.

The ambassador role was also supported by Millennium Motors, which supplied a car, and Sign Advertising, which put the signage on it.

The feedback on the role had been very good, Vercoe said.

“It’s been extremely well received by the schools and the parents of the children have given a lot of positive feedback on it.”

The ambassador taught pupils basic hand-eye co-ordination skills and used games such as Rippa rugby to give them a feel for the game.

Some of the children had never touched a rugby ball before.

“Normally, what happens when kids play sport with a ball is it’s like bees around the honey pot, so you’ve got to try and spread them out to be able to get them to pass the ball and run with the ball.”

Vercoe said having the rugby ambassador visit provided a great opportunity for the children to get out of the classroom and run around the paddocks, letting off steam and having fun.

parents or their teachers telling them about sport and this brings another level of encouragement into the game for kids of that age,” he said.

In recent years the ambassador role had been filled by local rugby identities of varying ages, some of whom still played rugby and others who coached.

Vercoe said the rugby clubs in Gore had good numbers of school children and it was hoped having a rugby ambassador would increase skill levels and enthusiasm among primary school children.

“The position brings another perspective and encourages the children to get out there and give rugby a go and run around a bit.”