Nelson's Mitchell Drummond will be a part of the Crusaders squad when it plays a pre season game in Motueka next month. Photo: Phillip Rollo.

Hometown hit out for new Crusader

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Mitchell Drummond is still coming to grips with the fact he’s now a Crusader. The All Blacks haven’t arrived back for training just yet but there are still plenty of big names alongside him. In a few weeks time Richie McCaw will be his captain, IRB Player of the Year Kieran Read will be his team mate and so will another nearly 20 past or present All Blacks.

The 19 year old, who attended Nayland College in Stoke before shifting to Nelson College where he led the first XV in the Press Cup, will be the youngest player in the Crusaders Super Rugby squad. While he admits he still has to “pinch himself” when asked how it feels to be a Crusader, Mitchell is hoping a pre-season match against the Highlanders in Motueka will give him an early chance to prove he’s up to the standard – and what better way than in front of friends and family in the town his dad grew up in.

“That will be pretty special. Obviously my old man was born and raised in Mot so going back there for my first game will be a pretty special day,” he says.

Mitchell compared the first day of being a Crusader to Christmas Day, highlighting the amount of free Adidas and Crusaders kit that is distributed to each player. “Day one you get a couple of bags and a whole heap of footwear which was cool.

You open your bag and it’s crazy the amount of stuff in there. This is the stuff I used to buy from the shops but now you’re part of a group that’s doing it. I still have to pinch myself and some days I still can’t believe I’m here doing this.”

The first three weeks of pre-season training was heavily focused on fitness. “Having to do it every day was the hardest thing. You’d get up five days a week and be out pounding the roads. It was tough but pretty enjoyable. Obviously the All Blacks weren’t there, they’re all overseas but it was a pretty cool environment to be part of.”

With Andy Ellis and Willie Heinz both firmly established as halfbacks in the Crusaders, Mitchell is likely to be seen as a long term prospect, but he’s happy to bide his time in his debut season. “I’m just soaking it all up and learning as much as I can and if I get an opportunity to get out there and have a crack well hopefully I can put a bit of pressure on them.”

The Crusaders take on the Highlanders in Motueka at Sportspark Motueka on Friday, February 7. Tickets are selling for as little as $15 and are available from Nelson School of Music, Theatre Royal, Nelson i-Site, New World Nelson, Richmond Mall, Hampden Hotel Murchison or online at makos.co.nz.