25th August, 2021

In 2020, Matt Burns created a programme designed to support students at Whangarei’s Kamo Intermediate. Through this programme, students are now rallying together to rejuvenate a once thriving Northland rugby league facility, Jubilee Park.

Matt Burn’s programme better develops the students’ learning in a more personalised fashion to keep them focused and in school. Burns centred his attention on students who found it challenging to engage in the classroom, so he created activities that would entice them to attend rather than skip class. In 2021, Burns was joined by two extra staff members and now intends to impact not just their school but also the community around them.

Once a week, Burns meets with the students to engage in group activities designed for fun and learning outcomes. They have created platter boards, learnt how to use power tools and even had an overnight stay at school where the boys prepared and cooked a traditional Māori Hangi.  

Burns stated, “Our students need guidance, they are not particularly enthusiastic about schooling, and so it was a priority for me to find a way that allows them to still be interested in school. We identified the troubled students and wanted to redirect their energy into activities and now into the community.

Besides the leisure-type activities, Burns wanted to focus on activities that gave back to the community around them, deciding to focus on once-thriving Northland rugby league home ground, Jubilee Park, now a run-down reserve in the local area.

Jubilee Park was once a prestigious rugby league venue, being the home to top-flight rugby league in Aotearoa’s north but has been abandoned since 2011. The reserve has been drowned in graffiti, waste and even multiple fires in the last few years. Once a bubbling host for Northland rugby league, Jubilee has become a forgotten icon with huge historical ties.

“Our intention now is to allow our activities to benefit others around us, as well as ourselves. We intend to make rugby league park, Jubilee Park an operational field for the schools all around Whangarei and Northland to use. Rugby league has always been a part of the culture in the north and restoring the park can be one step in the right direction.”

The group of teachers believe the rejuvenation of Jubilee park can inspire an expansion of the game for inter-school, club rugby league and sport in general in the Northland region.

The project will involve the students busting down the fences around the park, mowing the grass and equipping the reserve with equipment such as slides, swings and goalposts, fit for rugby league. The students will also learn to connect professionally with businesses and companies to gain sponsorship and learn valuable life skills.

Burns continued, “Eventually, we would love the local board to support our cause and become the driving force behind the restoration of Jubilee Park. We have even been in contact with local primary schools as they are also interested in the usage of the reserve.”

Rugby league was once religious in the north, and the students of Kamo Intermediate are in position to make that a reality once again. With the help of staff and local business’, the game can be reborn and thriving in what is a rugby league sleeping giant.

Matt Burns created a programme to keep struggling students in school, which now seconds as an integral community initiative working to keep an important part of Northland Rugby League history alive.