• NRL camp selection a dream come true for Karamu High School student

NRL camp selection a dream come true for Karamu High School student

Karamu High School student Kleeshae Liddington-Tamati’s dream of becoming a professional Rugby League player could soon be realised, after being scouted for three NRL training camps.

The Year 9 student is one of 35 up and coming Rugby League players selected from New Zealand to take part in the ESP Trust Educational Rugby League Program.

ESP Trust is a charitable organisation that provide sporting based life education coaching clinics to young and aspiring Rugby League players.

Kleeshae will attend three camps, to be held in Auckland in July, October and December and hosted by the Brisbane Broncos, Wests Tigers, and Melbourne Storm.

The selection is a “dream come true” for Kleeshae who has been working towards his goal since he was just seven years old.

“I just feel very privileged to get this opportunity,” the 13-year-old says.

“The dream has always been to play professional rugby league as soon as possible for as long as I can in my life.”

While he knew scouts had attended the 2021 New Zealand Māori Rugby League tournament, he was unsure as to whether he had made the cut.

His parents Te Rei and Trace Liddington were the first to find out the news.

“I wasn’t even at home at the time my mum got a call from ESP, so she had to ring me to tell me. I was with some of my friends, and we were all stoked. It was pretty cool to hear,” Kleeshae says.

“Mum is proud. She is just so excited for me knowing that this is my dream, and this might be where my dream starts.”

He has played for a number of Hawke’s Bay rugby league teams M.A.C, Tamatea RLC, Ngati Kahungunu 10s, Flaxmere Tigers, RLHB 11s, JellyFish and Ngati Kahungunu U13s.

He plays in the forwards, usually as prop.

Although he doesn’t know what sparked his love for the sport, he takes inspiration from his Papa Kevin Tamati, who during his professional rugby league career, played for the Kiwis (1979-1989).

“I just like league better,” Kleeshae says.

“I am facing people my own age compared to who I would in rugby union at this age, and I feel like I am able to get the ball more in league.”

He is looking forward to the camps and is excited to see what the future holds.

“I want to learn as much knowledge as I can to make me a better player in general and hopefully be selected for higher teams.”

Principal Dionne Thomas says Karamu High School prides itself on providing people with a melting pot of opportunities.

“It is exciting to see how Kleeshae has found his passion and is pursuing it with all he has. He has also thrown himself into kapa haka at school.”