11 September 2019
It’s not just the All Blacks who are playing in a rugby world cup this month.
Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) Able Diver Zane Douglas, from Wairoa, is in Japan with the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) team to play in the International Defence Rugby Competition (IDRC), the military equivalent of the Rugby World Cup.
The NZDF team, known as the Defence Blacks, comprising servicemen from the RNZN, New Zealand Army and Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) and one civilian, will play in the competition against military teams from Australia, United Kingdom, Fiji, Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Canada, Georgia, Japan and France.
Able Diver Douglas, 23, joined the RNZN in 2014, after finishing at Wairoa College.
“Originally I was going to join the Army, but a friend told me about the travel you get with Navy. He said, ‘Do you want to be in Waiouru, freezing cold, or in Auckland? I’m used to warmth, so it was an easy decision,” Able Diver Douglas said.
After training initially as a seaman combat specialist, he changed to a diver trade after two years.
“I’m always looking to challenge myself,” he said. “And, for me, being a diver is the pinnacle of the Navy. I thought I would aim for the biggest goal.
“I love being a diver. There’s always something new to do. The biggest challenge is passing the Able Divers’ course. Nothing else in my experience in the Navy has come close.”
Able Diver Douglas played First XV rugby at school, and then gained selection in the RNZN team as a second-five/centre, although he held off playing rugby while doing his diving course for fear of injury.
“I trialled for the Defence Blacks, attended two camps, and here we are,” he said.
He was surprised at the science behind their training.
“We’re treated like professional athletes, where you’re watching your nutrition, your body weight, and they give you things to work on,” he said.
He is rapt to have been chosen to represent the NZDF in Japan.
“I’m really chuffed. It’s a bunch of good lads, and it’s a great chance to test our ability on the field and mix with mix with military people from other countries off it.”
The Defence Blacks flew to Japan on Tuesday, and will play Australia Defence Force in the first round on Sunday.
This will be the third IDRC competition, with the British Army winning the first in 2011 and the Fijian Army winning the second in 2015.