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Massage students help Tonga's World Cup cause

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

While the Tongan players showed signs of being in pain from their earlier encounters against the All Blacks and Canada at Rugby World Cup 2011, the 22 team members had no qualms about the massage service provided by a group of NorthTec students.

Prior to Wednesday night's game against Japan in Whangarei, and again before last week's game against Canada, nine Level 6 students on the Diploma in Massage at NorthTec practiced their massage skills on the Tongan players.

Tutor, Lorraine Barton, said the sessions counted towards part of the student's assessment for the sports massage paper on the two-year Diploma and the experience was about having the students "out in the field and putting theory into practice". Lorraine said the 20 minute massage sessions on Wednesday, were based around the player's specific requirements and aimed at alleviating any ailments they might have been carrying into the game against Japan to "make sure they were in optimal condition and as physically prepared as possible, she said.

Tongan team physiotherapist, Lee Santos, said that having limited tournament funds compared to some of the other teams competing for rugby's biggest prize, the offer for the students to provide the massages for its players had helped the team enormously.

Lee said that nine NorthTec students "came through for them" and that the load had been lightened for their small medical team of three. This, said Lee, was vital as it meant the medical staff had more time to concentrate in other areas such as on injury assessment.

"In this tournament, when the game turnaround period is quite short, it is very important the bodies of the players are able to recover as much as possible. Massage helps flush out toxins in the body and the boys can then relax more which means they perform better all round. Anything that helps them feel more relaxed is beneficial to them," he said.

Providing the massages was beneficial for the student's development Lorraine said. "A lot of the other world cup teams would use their own massage therapists and would be quite specific in their application so as not to bring anything new to the table. Therefore, the trust the Tongan team had shown in our students to do the job was a leap of faith that NorthTec and the students were thankful for," she commented.

Lee described the arrangement as a win-win for both the team and NorthTec's students. "The boys get their massages and the students are learning at the same time," believing that hands-on experience is best."

It was a late night on Tuesday for the students, who started the massages around 9pm and did not finish them until near to midnight, with a sports taping assessment the next morning.

The massages took place at the Kingsgate Hotel where the Tongan team were based.

Student, Deb Rivers said that while her classmates were likely to be the envy of many adoring Tongan fans, for her it was fantastic to be part of the Rugby World Cup and having the opportunity to massage the players was a priceless opportunity.

"I'm here as part of a class and there is a nice vibe and energy. We have had wonderful feedback and it is so good to have been given this opportunity."

Tonga won the match played at the Northland Events Centre last night 31 to 18.

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