Jimmy McLeod knows his way around the rugby pitch and his obvious love of the game is infectious.
He recently took up the role of rugby development officer at the Mid Canterbury Rugby Union and has been sharing his enthusiasm and skills with emerging young players from schools around the district.
The 32-year-old is Methven born and raised and has been playing the game since he was a nipper.
He played for Mount Hutt College, represented the Methven club more than 100 times at senior level and also played for Mid Canterbury and in Christchurch.
Jimmy started his playing days as a hooker, switched to prop and finished as a number 8.
Rugby is in his blood, with his father Murray a former rep player, and his cousin Dallas a Canterbury and Crusaders player.
Jimmy said his role was to grow the game and numbers and to support that growth.
“It starts with introducing the game to kids at school and in the clubs and then nurturing them through the various ages groups.”
Like a number of sports, a big challenge was to keep players interested and involved in the game at youth level, he said.
Jimmy has already visited a number of town and country schools to share rugby programmes.
He has been full time in the role for the last six weeks and was an assistant coach for the Hammers in the recent Heartland Championship campaign.
An important aspect of his job is to connect with and support the district’s many volunteer rugby coaches.
“A lot of the coaches are the parents of players in the team and it’s important to support them with coaching advice and programmes and also with regular check-ins.”
Another goal for the new development coach is to continue to grow the women’s game here.
“There are currently around 48 players involved at Under 15 and First XV level and those numbers are trending up, so I want to push forward and get more girls involved,” Jimmy said.
Before taking on his rugby role, the father of three was a butcher in his parent’s former business, Dry Creek Meats.
“Rugby is a passion and for me it doesn’t get any better than being paid to be involved in the game I love.”
-By Mick Jensen