Crusaders poach star schoolboy Parata

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

The world's most successful franchise is actively poaching Australia's finest schoolboy talent, with the Crusaders signing The Southport School's star flyhalf Campbell Parata.

Born and raised in New Zealand before his family relocated to Western Australia, Parata was spotted by TSS while playing in the Junior Gold Cup at the age of 15.

He was subsequently offered a scholarship at the famous rugby nursery and played 1st XV in Year 10 - a feat possible for only the very best schoolboy stars - earning an Australian Schoolboys Barbarians nod last year along the way.

One schoolboy scout told RUGBY.com.au Parata is the best playmaking prospect Queensland has produced since Sam Greene dragged Brisbane Grammar School to a drought breaking GPS premiership in 2012 and more advanced than both Mack Mason and Hamish Stewart at the same age - but he was never going to be a Wallaby.

When Rugby Australia approached the teen it's understood his mind was all but made up, his New Zealand based management locking in a deal with the Super Rugby champions ahead of his senior year.

Parata played for the Australian Schools Barbarians last year. Photo: Rugby Australia/Karen WatsonHe didn't trial for Queensland Schoolboys selection this year as a result - eliminating him from Australian Schools contention.

Rugby Australia head of national XVs programs Adrian Thompson said there was little the governing body could do to keep Parata from heading home, his heart already set on a return across the Tasman.

"He's probably a bit of a different case to the other kids that do this," Thompson told RUGBY.com.au.

"He's a New Zealand kid and a lovely kid and mum and dad are really nice people but at the end of the day they're from New Zealand and always wanted to go back there.

"It's a a bit different to Nick Frost who chose the Crusaders ahead of the Waratahs, for example.

"It was more the fact that the kid just wants to go home."

Thompson compared the hunt for Parata's signature to the chase for star NRL young gun Kalyn Ponga - who completed Year 10 and 11 on a scholarship at Churchie before heading north to play for the Cowboys U20s.

"Kalyn Ponga was a good example," he said.Carter Gordon is a promising playmaking prospect who has signed with the Reds. Photo: Rugby Australia/Karen Watson"He was never, ever going to be a rugby player - he was at Churchie for two years - we aren't losing those guys because we never actually have them.

"There are now quite a few New Zealand kids in Queensland.

"Queensland GPS schools are quite big on their scholarships and that's fine.

"They're just Kiwi kids that went to school here and always intended to go home."

He also pointed to the stockpile of playmaking talent within the U20s ranks - including star Year 11 Nudgee College flyhalf Reesjan Pasitoa - which ease the pain of losing a talent of Parata's standing.

"At the moment if you look at our Schoolboys squad you have Carter Gordon and Pasitoa from Queensland who are both 17 this year.

"Both of those guys are excellent and then you have Joey Walton from the Central Coast, who is again an outstanding 10-12.

"Then straight out of school you have Will Harrison and Isaac Lucas who went away with the 20s to back up Hamish.

"Then you have Will Goddard also in Canberra who will be right in the mix for the (Australian) U20s next year.

"Don't get me wrong it would have been lovely to keep Campbell but we wish him all the best because that's the reason he chose the Crusaders - it didn't really have anything to do with us as far as we knew.

"We had a chat to him when we were up for the U20s in April - we had a coffee - myself and (Junior Wallabies coach) Jason Gilmore had a coffee with his mum.

"We touched base with them and got them down to watch the 20s final and everything but they came back to us and just said that they were keen to go home."