James Mortimer 29.Oct.2013Gardyne family
When first talking to the young 10-year-old, you would not expect him to be part of the playing ranks.
His encyclopaedic rugby knowledge speaks of a little boy who spends all of his time carefully learning everything he can about the game.
This young boy is far from just a scholar, but a halfback, five-five and wing – we were corrected when it was suggested he was a utility back.
Clearly the Arrowtown local is a master of his three backline trades!
It is not however his on field prowess that attracts attention, but the fact that this little Kiwi southerner, who with the accuracy of a scoreboard master writes down the team before the match, is something of a punter.
Amidst a cast of thousands, young Brayden has a skill that many of us do not.
He is a sniper accurate predictor who has risen to rule the ITM Cup tipping charts, just missing out on top spot, but coming second overall in a competition boasting nearly 1,000 pundits and crystal ball gazers.
Proud mum Nicole gives in to her son’s rugby cravings most of the time, driving him to practice for training with the Arrowtown juniors team, while Brayden was given full access to the computer when he decided he would pit his rugby knowledge against a cast of hundreds in the ITM Cup tipping competition.
For the bulk of the competition Brayden was near the top of the leader board, and as the season drew to a close, second placed Brayden’s excitement began to filter down to Nicole and the rest of the family.
It was here that Mum and Dad noticed that there were some conditions that came with the competition, with individuals needing to be 18 to claim prizes, which led to a few enquiries coming from the Gardyne household.
“We were waiting to see what had happened,” Nicole said.
The young genius, who Mum proclaims can recall any rugby fact or number, finished second overall, an agonising four points away from the eventual winner.
“We were trying to work out what was happening,” Nicole said breathlessly.
“Brayden had done everything himself, and we were pretty sure we were looking good to win.”
With this it was a somewhat let down Brayden that went back to his rugby, and he continued to connect to the game, only to be greeted by two more small chapters of disappointment.
First he was hoping to catch the Wallabies in an open training session before the match in Forsyth Barr Stadium, but the run was cancelled at the last minute.
Then there was the All Blacks flying visit to the nation, and young Brayden begged his parents to take him down to meet his heroes.
Nicole, who works full-time, and Dad Craig who is out all hours tending the farm, were devastated when prior commitments meant they were unable to take Brayden to meet some of his rugby legends.
The young lad was of rugby stock, but even the inherent Southern toughness gave way as young Brayden spent the next few days in tears, overcome with disappointment that he hadn’t had the chance to catch a precious glimpse of players he knew inside and out.
One only needs to glance at Brayden’s ever present notebook to see how well he knew his rugby, with all the names, scores and major plays dutifully noted down with the accuracy of commentator.
This knowledge was obvious when looking at his tipping performances, and a few phone calls were made to see if a young boys dream could come true.
Nicole had spoken to some people at New Zealand Rugby, who asked if she and Brayden could set aside some time on the coming Friday.
“Brayden knew nothing!” Nicole said.
“He was asking ‘was it to do with my tipping score’ but we worked hard to try and keep it a secret.
“We even had to change our entire computer and email passwords so Brayden wouldn’t be able to catch on,” his excited mother continued.
As Friday came it all appeared to have the makings of another day, with Nicole saying that some people from New Zealand Rugby were keen to interview Brayden, who were dutifully impressed with the prediction skills of this 10-year-old fan.
“Would you like to hear what they have to say?” Nicole asked Brayden, no doubt struggling at this point to keep the secret under wraps.
“I guess so,” Brayden said, who was becoming agitated with what seemed to be just another day…
Nicole and her son sat patiently in their car waiting when another pulled up nearby and a bunch of big lads got out.
“What!!!!!” Brayden nearly screamed.
“There’s Andrew Hore, and that’s Richie!” he cried as he realised what was happening.
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, with Rugby World Cup in tow, along with Hore, Ma’a Nonu, Francis Saili and Cory Jane – had taken a detour from their Queenstown visit to head to Arrowtown to congratulate young Brayden on his efforts.
The response and thrill of the young man was clear, as the smart Arrowtown local was literally speechless when we asked what was going through his head at the time.
“Ummmm,” he said.
“These are the All Blacks, I was amazed.”
It was the realisation of a dream for the young Arrowtown rugby player, who said that the players were bigger than he expected and were really strong when they shook his hand.
“They were huge, it was really special and really cool and really awesome.”
As Brayden relaxed with the All Blacks, he proudly showed McCaw his book with all of the team lists and statistics from every match he had ever watched.
He showed some Test schedules, but reserved a Crusaders and Chiefs page for the All Blacks captain.
“Ah yes, that was when we beat them,” McCaw said.
“No it wasn’t Richie,” Brayden said.
“That was when they beat you to win their second title.”
Having already put on his signed All Blacks jersey, Brayden continued to tell his heroes about his short rugby career.
“Richie asked me if I played rugby, and I told him I was with Arrowtown,” Brayden said.
At that point Richie turned around to Hore and asked how his seniors were going, with the All Blacks hooker playing club rugby for Maniototo in Arrowtown.
“I’m pretty sure we beat them,” the grizzled rake said.
The banter continued when Jane suggested to Brayden he didn’t need to go back to school now, but the first thing on the young man’s mind was to tell his friends and family about his special day.
“It was the best day of my life,” Brayden said.
A future All Black if his dream comes true, he would score plenty of tries if he ever wore the black jersey, with his goal of playing for the team only stronger now that he had seen that his idols were “pretty cool.”
He will be back in front of his television, tattered notebook in hand, when the All Blacks play Japan this weekend, a match that Brayden has already clearly predicted.
“I think they should win by 100 or more,” he said.