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Former All Black launches new rugby academy

Nic Duff
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Former All Black Casey Laulala coaching his SMART Rugby Academy  Instagram

Former Crusader and All Black Casey Laulala launched SMART Rugby Academy at Christ’s College last week.

The academy started out as private lessons, but the growing interest from students looking to pick the brain of an ex-player led to the academy being formed.

Laulala said the eagerness from the students was “very humbling”. He added they focus on individual and position specific skills for the players.

“The first question is always, what position do you play? From there we put together a program where they can see each step of their progression.”

The academy got its name when Laulala was looking for “a cool name” and stumbled across SMART goals, which is an acronym used to set goals that are achievable.

“I thought, you know what? If I’m going to achieve something within this program it might as well use something like this that has meaning.”

His own goal for the academy is for the students to “see the progression of their skill to a level where they can enjoy [playing rugby].”

The 39-year-old said he wanted to grow the academy organically and have the results speak for themselves.

“When you have the kind of organic growth, it tells you that they want to be there.

“If they come to you then you can maximise your time with them.”

Laulala transitioned seamlessly into coaching once his playing days were over, including stints with Racing 92 and Toulon in France. The kids in the academy typically range from Year 9 to 11 at school.

"It's purely about giving back.”

The two-test All Black made an “easy decision” to move his family back to Christchurch after requesting an early release from his contract with Toulon last year.

“It was time to come home.”

Laulala played 61 matches for the Crusaders from 2004-2009, which included three super rugby titles. He played his last match of professional rugby in 2017.