If it wasn’t quite apple pie and motherhood, it was the next best thing: hot dogs, kids and cheerleaders.
Oh, and there were cute dogs with Stars and Stripes flags.
The USA Sevens rugby team arrived in Wellington this week for the two-day festival that is as much about fancy dress costumes as sports. Still, the Eagles have won the Shield here the last two years in a row and Coach Al Caravelli said he is hoping to do better this year – he’s sensing an upset, he said.
The U.S. is in a tough opening-day pool, with England, South Africa and the Cook Islands. The Eagles will play the first game of the tournament at 1 p.m. on Friday.
But Monday it was all about getting to know the team. The event was open to the public and kids from all over Wellington showed up for the lunchtime event. The Eagles played touch rugby and had foot races with anybody – young, old or cheerleader. They signed autographs and just hung out with anyone who wanted a chat.
They also met the Eaglelites, the group of cheerleaders from Wanganui who will be trying to get the crowd at Westpac Stadium fired up for the Eagles during the games and on Thursday’s parade through the streets of Wellington.
Hot dogs and sodas were provided to all comers. The Eagles stuck around until every kid had fallen exhausted to the ground after all-out touch rugby games under the (for once) hot sun of Wellington and every autograph had been signed.
Next up is the parade of nations that takes place on Thursday. All 16 participating teams will take to the streets of Wellington on floats and give out various goodies to the huge crowds. Then, on Friday, it’s down to the serious business of rugby.
After three rounds of the nine-round IRB Sevens series, the Eagles are in 11th place out of 21 competing teams. They are on 17 points and need to up their game if they are to be serious competitors for a medal at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
The team enjoys their time in Wellington, they said, and will have to knock off either South Africa or England in the first round to amass some serious points here. After Wellington, the tournament moves to Las Vegas for the USA Sevens next weekend.
By Jarrod Beckstrom, USA Rugby
CHULA VISTA, Calif. – Twenty national team players and prospects will arrive in camp at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif. on Friday January 20, 2012 to prepare for the New Zealand and USA legs of the HSBC Sevens World Series.
With the announcement in November 2011 that 15 national team players would receive full-time training contracts, the structure of the first camp of 2012 varies from previous team assemblies.
A core group of contracted players are joined by a ‘taxi squad’ during pre-tournament camps. Any combination of full-time and taxi squad players can be named to the 12-player squad that represents the USA in international competitions.
Ten of the 12 players selected for the first three legs of the World Series in Australia, Dubai, and South Africa are all at camp, providing experience to a number of newcomers to camp. Veterans Mark Bokhoven, Mike Palefau, and Matt Hawkins provide experience and leadership to a very young camp roster.
All-American and Davenport University standout, J.P. Eloff, will be in camp after an impressive club sevens season with the Chicago Lions. Eloff is the younger brother of former Eagle and Rugby World Cup veteran, Phillip Eloff.
Former Junior All-American (JAA) Apelu So’oalo of the Hawaiian club the Kalihi Raiders will join the camp as well. So’oalo scored a crucial try for the JAAs in the 2011 Junior World Rugby Trophy in the USA’s win over Zimbabwe. In August 2011, So’oalo earned All-Star honors and helped the SoCal Griffins win the 2011 All-Star Sevens National Championship in August.
Schyulkill River standout Greg Ambrogi will be in camp after recovering from an injury sustained in the 2011 Men’s Club Sevens National Championship after a collision with fellow USA camper Maka Unufe.
Unufe debuted for the USA in the 2011 Pan American Games, but missed out on the first three stops on the HSBC Sevens World Series. Unufe’s Pan Am teammate, Rocco Mauer, also missed the first three stops of the Series.
Blaine Scully and Roland Suniula return to the squad after injury ruled them out of the November camp and the first three World Series events.
USA MEN’S EAGLE SEVENS CAMP | JANUARY 20-27, 2012
Garrett Bender (Minneapolis, Minn.)
Tai Enosa (San Diego, Calif.)
Colin Hawley (Trowbridge, Calif.)
Rocco Mauer (Cleveland, Ohio)
Folau Niua (East Palo Alto, Calif.)
Blaine Scully (Sacramento, Calif.)
Roland Suniula (Boston, Mass.)
Shalom Suniula (San Diego, Calif.)
Zack Test (Palo Alto, Calif.)
Peter Tiberio (Naperville, Ill.)
Maka Unufe (Provo, Utah)
Greg Ambrogi (Schyulkill River; Havertown, Pa.)
Mark Bokhoven (Denver Barbarians; Ames, Iowa)
Miles Craigwell (Old Puget Sound Beach; Boston, Mass.)
Andrew Durutalo (Old Puget Sound Beach; Seattle, Wa.)
Jean Pierre Eloff (Davenport University; Pretoria, South Africa)
Matthew Hawkins (Belmont Shore; San Diego, Calif.)
Nese Malifa (Glendale; Glendale, Colo.)
Mike Palefau (Utah Warriors; Salt Lake City, Utah)
Apelu So’oalo (Kalihi Raiders; Honolulu, Hawaii)
The Wellington Rugby Sevens Tournament is right around the corner! Amidst all the fun, excitement, and costumes, we’re taking a moment to welcome the players – namely the USA Eagles Sevens team. And to do this we’re hosting a welcome event for anyone who would like to come wish the guys luck, get a photo taken, and maybe even toss the ball around a bit. If you’re going to be in Wellington come on over to Anderson Park, in the Wellington Botanic Gardens, from 1-3pm on Monday, January 30th to welcome this year’s team to the city.
There will be free food!
By Kyle Jones, U.S. Embassy Wellington
Paris, May 18, 1924 in front of 21,000 spectators, 25 men including former medal winner and coach Daniel Carroll shocked the rugby world with their 17-3 win over the dominant French National team. The U.S. had successfully defended their 1920 Gold medal, making them the only team in rugby history to complete such a feat.
It has been 88 years since the men in the picture above won that Olympic Gold Medal. For 88 years Rugby has been excluded from the Olympics because, upon the final whistle in 1924, the French spectators were so enraged at the their nation’s loss they stormed the field and attacked the U.S. team. The awful publicity resulted in the sport being dropped from the Olympics. Until 2016.
Rugby has officially been given a second chance. But, unlike the original Olympic format of 15-a-side, it will be the faster-paced Sevens style rugby that will be part of the 2016 Olympic Summer Games in Rio De Janeiro. So, 92 years later, Team USA will defend their Gold Medal just as they did in 1924.
A week ago, Baltimore was just another name on the map for Auckland teenager Pita Rona.
Now, it’s a place that represents not only his future as a sportsman, but also as a young man attempting to do something no New Zealander has done before.
The 17-year-old signed a seven-year contract with Major League Baseball team the Baltimore Orioles in Auckland yesterday, becoming just the fifth Kiwi to sign up with a professional team in the United States.
A New Zealander has never played Major League Baseball, although former Black Sox Travis Wilson came close, missing the Atlanta Braves team by one roster spot after spring training in 2001.
Rona follows in the footsteps of Wellington catcher, and first cousin, Te Wera Bishop, who signed a contract with the Boston Red Sox last April.
A longtime New York Yankees fan, Rona admitted he couldn’t quite locate Baltimore on a map of the US but said the opportunity to make the Big Show was one he was going to take with both hands.
“I’m really grateful for this opportunity,” he said.
“It can financially set me and my family up for life. I’m actually looking forward to doing all the hard work and trying to improve myself to try and get higher and higher as the years go by.”
Rona was offered the contract after being seen in action by top Orioles scouts David Stockstill and Brett Ward on Monday, as he trained with the New Zealand under-18 baseball team in preparation for an upcoming Oceania tournament in Guam.
Scouts often judge the calibre of baseball prospects using five different indicators, or “tools”: running speed, arm strength, hitting for average, hitting for power and fielding ability.
Stockstill said that Rona, who has been scouted by the Yankees and Red Sox in the past, had impressive “tools” in all five areas, and can turn into a top baseball player.
“He has a very quick bat, a very quick swing and the ball jumps,” Stockstill said. “There will need to be some adjustments to add a little more length, because you have more time with the baseball.
“We see an athlete who will be able to make the transition fairly rapidly and fairly successfully,” he said.
Yesterday’s signing caps a tumultuous two months for the Rona family, with the new Orioles signee one of three former softball players involved in a controversial axing from the Black Sox just two months ago.
Along with his father, Brad, and Black Sox outfielder Ben Enoka, Rona was blacklisted from playing for the national team after it was revealed they had been playing club baseball in Auckland.
The decision to axe the trio from the squad stemmed from an email sent to all Black Sox players from management warning them that if they played baseball, at any level, they risked being cut from the national team.
First stop for Rona in his baseball journey will be the MLB Academy on the Gold Coast this year, before attending Orioles spring training in Florida in 2013.
After that, there are likely to be visits to the Orioles Dominican academy then back to the Gold Coast, before heading back to the US for outings in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League.
Stockstill, however, said there will be no rush. “It’s our job to make sure wherever he goes he can compete successfully,” he said.
From NZ Herald:
There comes a day when every young man must leave the nest and that time has arrived for basketball phenomenon Steven Adams.
This weekend, the 2.15m (7 feet 1 inch) centre has departed New Zealand for the United States on a journey that could – and many say will – ultimately end with a spot in the National Basketball Association (NBA).
Like any parent, adopted or otherwise, Blossom Cameron has mixed feelings about watching her boy walk through the departure gates at Wellington Airport. First stop is Notre Dame Preparatory School in Baltimore, where he’ll spend a few months before heading to the University of Pittsburgh.
“He’s in a different phase of his life,” sighs Cameron. “Now I get to sit at home and worry whether someone else is feeding him properly. He’s changed a lot – he’s grown up and matured, but he’s still Steven.”
Cameron became Adams’ legal guardian when he was rescued from a potentially destructive lifestyle in Rotorua and brought to the capital to pursue his basketball dream.
While she clothed him, fed him and ensured he improved his grades at Scots College, American-born hoops mentor Kenny McFadden fine-tuned his obvious court talents and pulled the strings that have set him on his path to the big time….
With the Wellington Sevens just around the corner, check out some of the players that are likely to come to New Zealand in February:
The USA has climbed the world rankings in sevens, and continues to compete with the best teams in the world. The team travels all over the world for the HSBC Sevens World Series, including South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, and the United Kingdom.
Every year the USA hosts a leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series, where the best men’s sevens teams in the world battle it out for the annual Sevens World Series Championship. The USA has been included as a World Series stop since 2003, marking the first time the U.S. ever hosted an official IRB-sanctioned international sevens tournament. With a worldwide TV audience and 16 national teams converging annually in the U.S., the USA Sevens promises to boost rugby’s profile within North America.
The USA Men’s Sevens Team is coached by Al Caravelli. In 2006-2007, the U.S. program really started evolving into the Team we see today, winning the Cup and going undefeated at the Bangkok Sevens in 2006 and winning the Shield trophy at USA Sevens. Those successes, as well as the overall record of the team, prompted the IRB to promote the USA to become a core member of the IRB Sevens Series.
In October 2009, the sport of Sevens Rugby was selected, along with golf, to be included in the Olympic lineup for the Games in 2016. Watch the U.S. Men’s Sevens Teams as they build a winning team for those Games.