Words Adrian Morgan | Images Clare Toia-Bailey
Coaching a club team that had won the competition the previous season but had only five players returning is not a task that many would volunteer to take on.
Wayne Soper, life Member of the Alexandra Rugby Club, has done just that this year. And talking to him, you can tell it hasn’t been easy. Alex is sitting at the bottom of the table with just one win so far this year. As Wayne says,
“Whilst they are doing lot of things right we are just not getting the right number on our side of the board.”
To highlight the point, last week Alex played a strong Matakanui side and managed to take a 7-0 lead into the break only to have Matak pull away to win in the second half (29-12 at full time). And in their White Horse Cup challenge earlier in the season, Alex led Maniototo for 70 mins only to go down 30-24. Sometimes the results ladder only tells part of the story.
Despite being at retirement age, the popular caretaker at Clyde Primary School maintains a busy rugby schedule with two practices a week as well as Saturdays spent on the sidelines guiding the Premiers. But it’s been like that for a while. In fact it’s his second stint coaching the Alex Premier side.
Wayne or ‘Sopes’ as he is affectionately known, has had a lifetime involvement in Rugby:
“I was first involved in Rugby when I was 5 which isn’t yesterday. When I finished playing way back in the late 70s I started coaching and I’ve been involved with coaching or administration of rugby ever since.”
Chatting with Sopes you can tell he has a real affection for the people he has met through his involvement in Rugby. He says the friendships that he has developed over the years are what keep him involved and what he sees as being the most rewarding aspect of his involvement. He also enjoys seeing players develop as rugby players on the field but also as people when he meets up with them down the street or at the pub.
Given his involvement in rugby for many years Sopes is finding that more and more he is seeing the kids of the young guys he has coached in the past coming through. Maybe they are passing on some of the skills that Sopes has taught them to their kids. Maybe seeing Sopes still coaching will inspire them to get involved in some way and make them feel that it’s now their turn to give something back.
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