Story courtesy of College Sport Media
Hutt Valley High School is one of the biggest improvers in Wellington First XV rugby. In 2021 they were ninth in Premier 3. This season they were fifth in Premier 2 only missing the semi-finals by a whisker.
Their improvement is effectively 14 places higher than two years ago, passing a third of all senior open-weight teams in the four-division competition.
The rivalry with neighbours St Bernard's College is keen in any sport, but especially rugby.
After finding some new sponsorships and cultivating an improved culture in the pre-season of 2021, HVHS fancied their chances of unsettling St Bernard's. It wasn't to be. HVHS was steamrolled 86-0.
On August 9, HVHS won the annual fixture 27-19 in a boilover of epic proportions. St Bernard's had beaten Premier 1 semi-finalists Wellington College earlier in the season.
Marcus Alexopoulos played both games as an openside flanker for HVHS. In the first game, he was a tiny, wide-eyed, apprehensive Year 11. This season he is a confident, assertive captain.
"Fulltime against St Bernard's is the best feeling I've had in rugby. The boys worked so hard to win that game and maybe we thought it couldn't happen until it did,” Alexopoulos said.
"We stuck to the game plan for 70 minutes and I think they were surprised by how focused and competitive we were. We've got great coaches who told us not to panic when things got tough.
"In 2021 we actually thought we'd do well against them. We brought into a false hype and got absolutely smoked. People talked smack about us for days and it was embarrassing.
"Our manager Danny P (Daniel Peckston) was on One News Good Sorts that day. He'd found some money for us, and sacrificed a lot for us, the coaches had so much belief in us and we go and lose 86-0. It was BS."
When Alexopoulos was Year 9 HVHS had two teams. Now they have four with two composite girls' teams as well. Alexopoulos is one of only four players in the First XV who's played rugby right through college. Fittingly his last appearance for HVHS was his 50th in a 40-7 win over Whanganui High School.
"We don't have caps or blazers at HVHS, so I was really surprised and humbled when my jersey had the date and number of games inscribed. We get our jersey represented to us at the end of the season so that's really special," Alexopoulos said.
In honour of his contribution, Alexopoulos was awarded the Osborne Gibson Cup for First XV Player of the Year. He received the Forward of the Year trophy as well as a Patu for his loyalty, talent, and commitment.
"The only regret from the season I have is not making the Premier Two semis. We beat Paraparaumu College who was third and only missed out on points difference. We had a bad game against Town. That sucked but I'm still proud of the boys," Alexopoulos said.
A Hutt Old Boys Marist junior Alexopoulos intends to do a trade in 2024.
Note: Alexopoulos is the first HVHS player since Jeremiah Paku in 2016 to play 50 games for the HVHS First XV. Jeff Evans, Francis Tanuvasa, Junior Tanuvasa, and Simi Siu are others since 2013.
Article added: Friday 22 September 2023
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