Young Rugby Prodigy Jason Emery Signs with Highlanders

Jeff CheshireAnalyst IIOctober 3, 2012

WHANGAREI, NEW ZEALAND - SEPTEMBER 05:  Jason Emery of Manawatu celebrates scoring a try against Northland during the round four ITM Cup match between Northland and Manawatu at Toll Stadium on September 5, 2012 in Whangarei, New Zealand.  (Photo by Kenny Rodger/Getty Images)
Kenny Rodger/Getty Images

The Highlanders have signed Manawatu centre Jason Emery, one of the best up-and-coming talents in world rugby. The move may come as a surprise to some, as Emery is just 19 years old and in his first year out of school, but rest assured, this kid has bucket loads of potential.

At school level, Emery was a superstar, spending three years in the Palmerston North Boys' High School First XV and captaining the side in his final year. He made the New Zealand Secondary Schools side in 2010 as a Year 12, a remarkable feat that very few players achieve. He would score a try in the side's 30-21 victory over Australian Schools in October 2010, looking good before he was hampered late in the second half of the match with an injury. 

2011 saw him receiving national honours once again, playing a key role in a New Zealand team that would eventually go down to the Australians 26-19.

Upon leaving school, Emery was included in the New Zealand U-20 team to play at the 2011 World Championships. Again, an impressive feat, given he was only 18 and will be eligible to play for the team again in 2013.

You wouldn't have known this from the way he played, though, putting on some outstanding performances and emerging as one of the stars of the tournament. His team progressed to the 2011 Final before falling to the home side, South Africa.

He then returned home, where he represented Manawatu in the ITM Cup in his first season of provincial rugby.

The kid has an impressive resume. But what all of this doesn't show is the potential he boasts, the skills he possesses that make him so highly thought of.

He is a strong runner, possessing the ability to break tackles and spot holes in the opposition defence. His ball handling is of the highest class, and his offload is one of the best going around. He can also pass, kick and tackle well.

Possibly his best skill, though, comes in his support play and his natural instinct of knowing where to be to keep a play going or finish off a break. This is something that can't be coached and will come of extreme value to his future teams.

At just 19 years old, he remains a work in progress and may struggle to see much playing time for the Highlanders with All Black Tamati Ellison in front of him. But his time will come and, should he stick around, he has potential to be a star for the Highlanders for many years to come.

If he can do at the top level what he has been doing at grade level, he will be one of the best in the world.

Having been a member of the Otago Boys' High School team that was unfortunate enough to have to come up against him at the New Zealand U-15 Tournament in 2008, this writer can say with experience that Emery is a player who will cause any number of defence problems for his opposition.