Schoolboy takes on the big boys
ACT Schoolboys captain Andrew Robinson training with the Tuggeranong Vikings. Photo: Colleen Petch
A technicality thrust teenager Andrew Robinson into a battle against men almost twice his age, but the schoolboy star hopes the challenge will help launch his Super Rugby dream.
Robinson - the ACT Schoolboys captain - wanted to make the step up into the Canberra under-20s competition this year.
However, at 17 years old he was told he was too young to play for the Tuggeranong Vikings Colts team.
Instead of returning to the junior ranks, Robinson decided to make a giant leap into the ACT premier division.
Now he's a regular in the Vikings' second grade side and is getting a taste of first XV action against the best players in Canberra.
And he's the only schoolboy playing in Canberra's top-grade competitions.
''The original plan with me and my mum was that I was going to play Colts,'' Robinson said.
''But because there's some rule in place in Canberra that you have to be 18 to play, I'm ineligible.
''I just went straight up to second grade … I was a little bit worried to start with, but I knew I had to go and get stuck into what I normally do.''
Despite being pitted against opponents twice his age and double his size, the year 12 St Mary MacKillop College student hasn't taken a backwards step.
The scariest moment of his rise through the grades came in his first game.
The outside centre was preparing to defend when veteran Royals prop and former ACT Brumby Matt Weaver spotted 84-kilogram Robinson in the back line.
''He ran straight at me,'' Robinson said of 40-year-old Weaver.
''He's a big boy, lucky someone came across to help me.''
The Vikings are easing Robinson into the John I Dent Cup cauldron.
Instead of throwing him straight into the action, coach Dan McKellar and Robinson have agreed on a plan to give him 15 minutes a game from the bench to help him with the transition.
Robinson will lead the ACT Schoolboys side at the national championships at St Igantius College in Sydney next month.
He is also fighting to win a spot in the Australian Schoolboys team and McKellar believes the rising star has shown he's ready for representative honours.
''We exposed him pretty early in the trial games and physically he has no issues at all and mentally he's confident,'' McKellar said.
''For his own development we decided it's better for him to continue his development against men.
''He's continually challenged and he's handled everything thrown at him so far.
''With his first touch he beat three or four defenders and ran over the top of another so everyone has that confidence in him.''
Robinson admitted he's still nervous running on to the field, but he's determined to match it with his more experienced rivals.
''It was pretty nerve racking knowing you're competing against grown men and some of them are paid to play and train,'' Robinson said.
''Back in my own age group people are just going to school and being normal like me.
''But I'm not nearly as nervous as I was to start with … I feel comfortable in second grade but I'm still finding my feet in first grade.''