Fri. Jun 14th, 2024

Armidale local and rising rugby star Kai Sell-Mitchell has been selected to play for the Australian Raptors u18 rugby academy in its upcoming tour of the United States.

First established in 2022, the Australian Raptors Rugby Academy is a non-for-profit organisation that aims to develop coaches and players both on and off the field to be the best version of themselves that they can be. In a recent training camp, Kai impressed the selectors with his strong work ethic and impressive skill set, earning him a spot in the tour squad.

Kai currently plays rugby for the Armidale u18s side and has also represented the New England in junior rugby fixtures.

As an alternative pathway for developing young rugby players, the Raptors Academy has toured twice since its inception in 2022, taking an u15s side to Ireland and an u16s side to the United States. This has given its players the opportunity to play against a number of high-profile youth rugby sides including the San Diego Legion academy, Ulster Rugby academy and St. Michaels College in Dublin.

In the leadup to the Raptors’ tour of the United States, Kai is focusing on a number of domestic representative rugby opportunities, including his recent selection in the Central North Country Championship side and possible selection for NSW Country.

Kai says that NSW Country Champs is a great opportunity for young players in regional NSW to further their rugby and play against strong opponents from Sydney.

“They definitely have bigger teams because there’s more people. They have more subs, bigger players.”

“We’re going to try and play a fitter, faster game and tire them out.”

Growing up in New Zealand, Kai was embedded in a strong rugby-playing environment; one which encouraged him to push himself.

Having played rugby in both Christchurch and Auckland, he was given a strong foundation upon which to build his rugby playing skillset.

“I started to figure out that I liked [rugby] a bit more than playing it on the weekends with my friends. I wanted it to be a part of my future, to be a job.”

“Here, League takes priority in the rugby culture, but there, Union is everything. They pretty much breathe it.”

In New Zealand, Kai says that professional rugby players, including members of the All-Blacks playing squad, would regularly attend local club trainings.

“They come out to the local clubs and train and do programs. You’d get former players coming in and teaching all the time. They’d make a day out of it, helping out the youngsters.”

Pathways in regional Australia can be quite difficult to follow, with the majority of representative rugby opportunities being found in major urban centres like Sydney and Brisbane.

Kai hopes that the effort he puts in now will form the foundation of a future in professional rugby, where he ultimately wishes to play for the Waratahs and the All Black u20s.

Kai’s family is raising money to support his dream trip on GoFundMe.

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