Checking in with Kevin Gallagher '21. One of 7 Yale rugby players training and immersing in the rugby culture in Hamilton, New Zealand this summer. Keep up to date with all goings on with the Yale crew.
It’s been a really eventful past week and a half. On top of our time at St. Paul’s, we have done a bunch of cultural experiences, exploring, and, of course, rugby.
For the cultural experiences, we checked out the many exhibits of the Hamilton Hardens, a local botanical garden, which contains 21 themed exhibits. I took an especial liking to the Japanese zen garden there, which reminded me of our recent tour to Japan and Hong Kong. Another cultural experience was when we went to Rainbow Adventures, a nature reserve, where we saw Kiwi birds and a captivating bird show.
We have also explored a good bit. Our favorite excursions are jumping off of a 47 meter bungee jump, luging down a mountain in Taupo, boating in Paonui, a small beach town, cycling in the Velodrome, and going 80 meters underground in the Waitomo caves and seeing glow worms, during which we were informed that the glow worms are not actually worms; rather, they are “glow maggots.” We also have hiked two mountains during our time here, the most notable being Mount Pirongia. The hike was tough, but all the Yale Ruggers made it up to the summit.
Lastly, and most importantly, the Rugby has been phenomenal. We have seen two professional matches and trained nearly every single day. Our bi-weekly sessions with Paul Hodder are some of the most useful trainings, and we have been practicing with and taking notes on the Waikato University Premier Side so we can bring back a few New Zealand systems to Yale with us. This trip has broadened our knowledge of the game and given us a few ideas for the program moving forward.
We now depart New Zealand, making our way back home. We are seeing the Premier Sides play, getting brunch with the Headmasters of St. Paul’s and Hamilton Girls School, the all girl counterpart to St. Paul’s, and then bunking at Tama’s.
This has been an incredible adventure, where we learned so much about the rugby culture in New Zealand. We must thank St Pauls, the Chiefs, the NZRU and the Yale program for making this possible.
Simar broke his promise.
The day started off with weight training at 6 am. After a quick shower, we met with the mayor of Hamilton to discuss the possibility of a student exchange program between New Zealand, Yale, and Duram University in the UK. Shortly afterwards, we had another meeting with the Headmaster of St. Paul's, Mr. Lander, where we received our schedules for the next several weeks and were invited to the school house Haka competition.
When any team prepares to faceoff against New Zealand opposition, they are met with the Haka, which is a traditional ritual challenge between warriors. The Maori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, believe that this ritual challenge conjures the spirits of their ancestors to aid them in the coming battle. A popular Haka translates to:
'Tis death! 'tis death!
I may die! I may die!
'Tis life! 'tis life!
I might live! I might live!
When the rugby boys and I experienced the house haka competition, we were blown away. The sheer energy, poise, and power of the dance exceeded our expectations.
After the competition, we ate a quick dinner and then retired to Tama's place for the night.
After a good night’s rest, the boys and I left Tama's house around 6 for boxing and cycling at 6:30 am. Tama taught us the fundamentals of boxing right before another tough spin session.
While we are in New Zealand, we are helping at St. Paul’s Collegiate School, right here in Hamilton. St. Paul’s is a co-ed Anglican school with about 700 students. Simar and Max were assigned to Math classes, and I assisted in a history course.
The highlight of our day was a midday training session with Paul Hodder, a NZ U20 selector and a coach on the Chiefs, a New Zealand professional rugby team. We worked on skills and rugby IQ for just over an hour, before we went back to help at the school. Afterschool, we stopped by a supermarket, and then retired to Tama’s for the night.
The Rugby lads and I were up at 5:30 again for training, and we hurried to school afterwards. Today, there was an assembly at St. Paul’s, where we went in front of the entire school and introduced ourselves, what we do on campus, and what our majors are. Right off the bat, the assembly was electric. The winner of the Haka competition was also announced, and the boys performed their ritual dances again.
After that, it was a normal day at St. Pauls. Max and Simar helped with the same math classes, I helped out with another social sciences course, and Mateo was at Tama’s preparing for an internship interview for next summer.
We concluded the day with a pitch session with Waikato University’s premier club. We ran through their set pieces, and the boys and I were taking mental notes of what we want to bring back to Yale with us. After training, we went back to Tama’s and got some much-needed rest.
Today, Saturday, was our first rest day. We slept in until around 9, made some breakfast, and went to watch the A and B sides of the Waikato prims play. Both sides fought hard against Fraser Technical University, but they weren’t able to pull out a victory in the end.
After the game, we hung out with the lads in their club house, shared a meal with them, then headed back to Tama’s for Chinese food. We then met up with some of the team later on to check out town.
The day started late, as we slept in until 9 am. Right off the bat, we packed up our stuff at Tama’s, made a quick breakfast, and got ready to go to Tihoi, a wilderness school affiliated with St. Paul’s about two hours south of Hamilton. All year 10 St. Paul’s students spend 18 weeks in this adventure camp, where they partake in activities such as caving, mountain biking, and camping, as well as develop their leadership skills. Since we are only in New Zealand for a month, we opted to stay for just a night instead of the full program. We drove down in the early afternoon and reached Tihoi about an hour before sunset. After introducing ourselves to the boys and having some tea with the director, we settled in for the night in the cabin.
Oh, one thing that you should also know is that Max does card tricks. They’re really spectacular card tricks. The that-just-knocked-my-socks-off type of card tricks to be precise. He twiddled and flips those cards like no other, and he can guess which card is yours every. single. time. He did a few of his tricks for the boys at Tihoi, and he is always keeping us entertained. Simar, his loyal apprentice, also has a few tricks up his sleeve, but he has a long way to go.
We woke up around 7 am to help with cabin inspections, and we joined the students for breakfast. Each cabin of boys cooked their own meal, and I had some delicious bacon and chocolate pancakes. After breakfast, the boys and I debriefed for the day over some coffee, and we helped out in the classroom. We then took a two-hour hike in the New Zealand bush. Naturally, this built up our appetites, so we dined again with the boys before heading back to Hamilton; except now, once we return to the city, we will be living with Bill Donaldson, a close friend of Tama’s.
Although we had left Tihoi, it’s effects were still lingering: Max had been ‘poisoned’ by the boys. You see, Max promised to eat breakfast with Purple Cabin but showed up to Gill Cabin. A huge mistake. Purple cabin wrote him a letter notifying him of his mistake. To rectify the situation, Max chose to dine with Purple cabin for dinner, where he enjoyed a delicious meal of raw beef. This was all too evident when, while we were driving home, Max blessed a New Zealand 7/11 with a mighty tactical chunder.
On the bright side, the two Yale rugby girls, Ann and Debbie, arrived today! We met up with them when we stopped off at Tama’s before heading to Bill’s place. Overall, it was a very full day.
After sleeping through my 6 am alarm, the boys and I rushed to a 6:30 morning lift, in which we squatted and worked on lowers. We then started our Tuesday routine. We left lift at 7:15 for breakfast at 7:30. Classes started at 8 and went until we had a mid-day training session with Paul at 9:15. After an hour and change, we changed back into our number ones and went back to class until the end of the school day, at 3. We drove back to Bill’s, took a three-hour nap, then rushed to Waikato University training at 6. We got back home around 8:15, where we showered, changed, and hung out with the Yale rugby girls before we turned in for the night.
One thing that was unusual about this particular Tuesday was that Max is still dead from the food poisoning. The poor lad spent the better portion of the day in bed. You shouldn’t’ve missed that breakfast, my friend. A rookie mistake….
Watch out New Zealand, the Rugby lads have arrived. Most of the men’s crew arrived last night, and Max arrived this morning. The players over here are Max Lukianchikov, Mateo Beccar Varela, Simar Chadha, Dan Marsh, and myself, Kevin Gallagher.
Our day started off bright and early at 6:00 am with a spin cycle session with Tama, where Dan valiantly struggled to keep pace with the fifty-year-old next to him. After we finished our workout, we then picked up our rental car, ran some errands, and cried a little bit over Mateo’s driving ability on the left side of the road. Max, from Britain but also California for past eight years, believes he can drive on the left no problem, but I decided to take out extra life insurance anyway. Once we miraculously made it home in one piece, we rested up to get over the jetlag. It was a full first day!
Our second day started again at 6:00 am with a lower-body lift with our personal trainer, Stacey, after which we grabbed a quick breakfast at St. Paul’s Collegiate School. Promptly after breakfast, we drove down-island to see the All Blacks Sevens’ practice, and afterward, we were able to chat with their coach and some of the players. After a light lunch, we tested our “Bronco” times, which is a popular fitness test that entails a modified suicide circuit. Max took home the gold and got the best time, but promptly chundered in a public restroom. No pain, no gain, my friend. We then worked on some tackling and conditioning drills with the New Zealand trainer.
After we finished up with the All Blacks, we drove over to the Velodrome, an Olympic cycling complex, where we talked about high-performance athletics and Olympic training. After learning about the importance of exercising and nutrition, we grabbed some burgers. To prepare for our last training of the day at 6:00 pm, we chilled at Tama’s house. We practiced with the Waikato University Premier Club Team. We became well-acquainted with the lads over some conditioning and tackling drills, and then went back to Tama’s to turn in for the night. Once we got home, Simar promised us that he would start eating normal quantities of food but said it doesn't really matter because of his fat burner pills: we will keep you posted as this develops.
Mateo Beccar Varela
Mateo Beccar Varela, originally from Buenos Aires, studies economics at Yale and will be entering Junior year this Autumn. Aside from playing for the rugby team as a second row, Mateo is involved with an on-campus startup, Snackpass, the Club of Argentinian Students, the Yale Undergraduate Diversified Investments group, and Greek life on campus. This summer, Mateo will be interning at Alliance Bernstein in New York. Having never been to New Zealand before, he is very excited to see the nature around Hamilton, particularly Sanctuary Mountain.
Max Lukianchikov is a sophomore at Yale University currently studying mathematics. Although originally born in London, Max has lived in San Francisco, California for the past eight years. At Yale, Max conducts mathematics research, assists with a climate policy organization, plays as a center on the rugby team, and serves as President of the Yale Magic Society. After graduation, Max intends to pursue a career as a professional magician. In New Zealand, Max is looking forward to spending a lot of time outdoors, eating a lot of food, and playing a lot of footy.
Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Computer Science, Mathematics, French
Yale CS, Rugby
Kayaking, Rafting, Pretty much any water sport, Caving (Not a huge fan of heights)
Majoring in Mechanical Engineering, Ann's main academic interests lie in the field of Math and Science. She's especially focused on the subject of Material Science and would love to pursue that field in her graduate studies. Besides her major, Ann also shows keen interest in studying post-revolutionary Mexican art, and is fluent in three languages: English, Mandarin, and Spanish
Outside the classroom, Ann is a passionate rugby player and spends most of her free time training. During her year as an exchange student in Yale, she represented the school in the Ivy's 7s and 15s games. In her home university, The National University of Singapore, she has represented the school in both local and overseas tournaments. Nonetheless, as a former field hockey player, track athlete, and ballet dancer, Ann remains familiar with a wide range of sports. Plus, to complement her interest in sports, she enjoys learning about sports science and has taken introductory courses in sports taping, diet, and nutrition.
In New Zealand, she hopes to try out other different water sports, like kayaking and rafting, as well as to learn about sports that might complement her rugby training, like boxing or bouldering. She'd also like to explore natural sites like the Waitomo caves, Raglan, and Piha beach.
Academic interests are psychology, math, and economics. Aside from rugby, I'm in YUDI which is a finance club, I work on Farnam Insights, which is my college consulting startup, and I love playing board games. I really will do anything athletic and outdoorsy. I really want to go hiking and sightseeing. Being outdoors and busy is the most important thing for me
My name is Kevin Gallagher, and I plan to major in economics and statistics & data science. I am from Darien, Connecticut, and I have lived here my entire life. At Yale, I am part of the Entrepreneurship and Business Group, Yale Entrepreneurial Society, and the Rugby Team. I also co-founded a small startup social venture called Trees of Life, brings potable water to those in need, which I spend a good deal of my time working on. I also study German at Yale.
In New Zealand, I hope to explore the scenery around Hamilton. I find caving, hiking, and bungee jumping particularly interesting. I’m completely open to anything, and I am looking forward to experiencing the New Zealand culture.
Tour Diary #8 - June 16th 2017
Just like that, our time in New Zealand has come to an end. Scott and Vlad flew out to San Francisco this morning, Joe departed for Virginia this afternoon, and Alex leaves for New York later this evening. We didn’t train much over the last few days, instead focusing on strengthening the relationships we have built over the course of our stay. On Tuesday, St. Paul’s organized a farewell dinner for us, Tama, and all of the parents, administrators, and friends who have made this program such a success. The school was kind enough to give each of us a St. Paul’s tie and a credit in the school store to purchase some St. Paul’s apparel. Overall, we’ve had a wonderful time in New Zealand. Our rugby and fitness have improved markedly, as has our understanding of a vibrant culture once unfamiliar. We’d like to thank Greg McWilliams, Warren Heffelfinger and the YMRFC alumni, the faculty of St. Paul’s and the University of Waikato, and the Hamilton families who welcomed us into their community. In particular, we’d like to thank Tama Dean and his son, Temaia, for putting up with us for nearly five weeks in their home. We hope you have enjoyed keeping up with our blog, and we thank you for your continued support of Yale Rugby.
Signing off for the last time, Alex O’Neill 2020
Tour Diary #7 - June 11th 2017
Another fantastic week in NZ. Joe went to Queenstown, where he had the opportunity to hike up some of the most beautiful mountains in the country. The rest of us spent the beginning of the week training and exploring Hamilton. Everyone is in much better shape than when we arrived a month ago. On Thursday, we visited the Waitomo Caves for a four-hour expedition through rock formations at around 200 feet below sea level. Later today (Sunday), we're going to surf at a historic beach that's less than an hour from Hamilton. Overall, it's been a fantastic trip. We'll send in one more post on the last day, but with four days left, our New Zealand travels are almost over.
Tour Diary #6 - June 6th 2017
This has been one of the most thrilling weekends yet. After a tour of the Chiefs’ grounds that included stops at the player tunnels, the press box, and even the sidelines of the field, we had the pleasure of taking in a great rugby match. The Chiefs beat the Australian Waratahs 46-31 largely on the backs of winger James Lowe (three tries), halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow (two tries), and fullback Damian McKenzie, who showed off some incredible playmaking skills. After the match we headed to Pauanui, where we spent two nights enjoying great food and favorable conditions for boating, hiking, and relaxing on the waterfront. Looking forward, this week is also packed. We’ll be spending a lot of time in the gym with Tama, but Joe and Scott will be otherwise engaged for the next few days. Joe is in Queenstown, while Scott will spend two days at a large local company learning the ropes and helping out where he can. We’ve got some exciting day trips planned for later in the week, and we’ll let you know how they go in the next post.
Tour Diary #5 - June 2nd 2017
This week has been another exciting period for the Yale Rugby boys. All of us spent time with host families from St Paul’s this week learning about New Zealand family life. Vlad and Scott stayed in the middle of Hamilton, while Joe and Alex boarded with families in the surrounding farmland. Yesterday (Friday), we went to the University of Waikato for some high performance testing of our strength, speed, aerobic efficiency, reaction abilities, and other qualities. Having this information will allow us to customize training programs that we can bring back to New Haven. Today is going to be packed - we’re getting a tour of Waikato Stadium, where the Chiefs play, and afterwards we’ll watch the team play the Warratahs. As soon as that ends, we’re heading to a host family’s home on the beach in Pauanui. We’ll let you know how those activities go in the next post.
Tour Diary #4 - May 28th 2017
Rotorua was great fun for the guys. We went boating on Lake Tarawera for a few hours, complete with “biscuiting” (tubing) and a trip to the famous geothermal pools. Before we left, we visited the Rotorua luge course and rode the mountain gondola. A great time in a beautiful small town. We returned to Hamilton earlier this evening and met the host families we’ll be staying with for the next week. Alex and Joe are posted with the First XV halfbacks, Luke and Connor. Scott and Vlad are staying with a friend of the St. Paul’s program. We’re looking forward to getting to know the team better and to experiencing New Zealand family life. The next few days won’t be particularly busy outside of team trainings and lifts at the University gym. It should be a great opportunity to immerse ourselves in NZ culture and become better rugby players.
Tour Diary #3 - May 24th 2017
A packed week for the boys. Over the weekend, we visited a Maori marae (lodge) for an overnight visit. Maori students taught us a haka and other traditional cultural practices. On Saturday, we took in a club game between the Melville and Marist clubs. This week has been filled with important meetings to help provide a stronger foundation for our training. We got to meet with Wayne Smith, the renowned All-Blacks coach on Tuesday, as well as several members of the Chiefs staff. All the while, we’ve been training with the St. Paul’s XV, the Waikato U21s, and other groups as arranged by Tama. Looking forward, we’ve got a trip to Rotorua and then home stays next week. More on those in the next post.
Tour Diary #2 - May 18th 2017
The boys have spent the last few days getting to know Hamilton and training with local teams. We have been helping Tama and other coaches run boxing and sprinting drills for the younger St. Paul's rugby players in early mornings and then doing our own lifts and trainings during and after the school day. The highlight of our experience with the school so far was the afternoon we spent watching a lively Haka competition between the seven student houses. We also observed the University of Waikato's U-21 side's training, which we plan to join on Monday. Yesterday, we met with local business leaders to discuss establishing a short-term internship program for Yale students. Today, Friday, is a really big day for us: after a morning training session with Tama, we will attend St. Paul's assembly, where the school will formally welcome us. This afternoon, we leave for an overnight stay at a Marae, a traditional Maori residence. We'll keep you updated as our trip continues.
Tour Diary #1 - May 15th 2017
The boys have finally arrived in New Zealand. Scott and Vlad came in yesterday, and while they were participating in a fitness session with the St Paul's 1st side early this morning, Alex and Joe made the drive from Auckland to Hamilton with Tama. Our day as a unit began at the Chiefs practice, where we chatted with some players and coaches about their upcoming trip to Fiji to play the Crusaders. We then went to lunch at the school, where we got to meet the team in anticipation of our first practice this afternoon. Vlad promises that he will eventually start eating normal quantities of food - we'll update this storyline as the trip progresses. This evening, the boys trained with the St Paul's team and got personalized scrum coaching from Kane Hames, a prop for the Chiefs. We also met the Korean national side and got a chance to mingle with their players and coaches. It's going to be an early night for us as we're still jet lagged and have fitness training early tomorrow morning. After such an exciting first day, we can't wait to see what the rest of the trip holds for us.