Callum Jones in action for the Northland U16 side. Jones has been picked, together with mates Izaiah Dunmore and Bradley Knight, in the Blues U17 development programme. Photo /Supplied
Three musketeers may not pique much interest outside of Kaitaia and surrounds but if their rugby trajectory and spoils are anything to go by, it won’t be long before the trio sets the stage alight at a much higher level.
Izaiah Dunmore, Callum Jones and Bradley Knight, all 16, have had such a barnstorming rugby season for three different sides that the Blues’ scouts decided to give the trio an opportunity to shine in the franchise’s U17 development programme next year.
Dunmore scooped the Player of the Year gong at Kaitaia College, the Kaitaia U16 and Northland U16 sides, Knight scooped the Best Forward Award for the same teams and Jones was named the Best Back.
Each collecting a significant accolade is a massive achievement for the Northland teenagers, especially when they’ve had to travel hours to get to and from training and the sacrifices their parents made.
“I am not done yet. I want to play for Northland one day and the Blues and eventually the All Blacks. That has always been the dream,” Izaiah said.
He plays openside flanker, a position he said suited him given the number of collisions and the amount of space that needed to be covered, although he’s also pulled on the No 8
The Blues development programme, he said, would be an ideal platform for him to develop his game further in his quest to play at a higher level.
Dad Victor Dunmore is beyond proud of him.
“They’ve had a massive season. The boys grew up together and played together through the grades, go to the same school and the gym together and Izaiah is one of those kids that puts in the extra work, not just on the field, but in the gym as well.
“He also played basketball but put that aside so he could focus on rugby and it’s paid off for him.”
Bradley said the opportunity to train at the Blues with his best mates from Kaitaia was “pretty exciting”. The trio’s love and commitment to rugby happens naturally as they’ve played together for such a long time, he said.
His dad took him to rugby training when he was seven and Bradley never looked back since.
Mum Amber Knight said sacrifice from all who love rugby have got the three boys to where they are.
“We live on Coopers Beach and when the boys come down to Whangārei for training, we’ll car pool and we also got help from generous employers who allowed us to travel.”
“These kids don’t get many opportunities, especially those up north. Bradley wants to play for Northland one day so we’ll just see how far rugby can take him. We won’t push him if he doesn’t want to but he’s a humble and quiet boy who doesn’t show a lot of emotion,”
Callum, nephew of Kiwi rugby league great Stacey Jones, from Kaimaumau is the northern-most rugby player in New Zealand.
Dad and Jones’ older brother Jamie said his son had always wanted to play league but since the Far North was more rugby-orientated, he took up rugby.
“Because they live in the Far North, it’s hard for these players to get recognition. It’s hard just to get to the games. Nearly all the games they played this year, it took them two hours to get there and when they got selected for the Northland U16 team, they had to travel to Whangārei. It’s a big commitment.”
Jamie Jones played league in Auckland and in Australia. His 8-year-old daughter has started playing rugby and Jones said her interest grew further after she watched the Black Ferns in action in Whangārei.
Izaiah, Callum and Bradley will attend the first Blues U17 development programme on November 26.