Damon Ngatai is legendary for his coverage of the rugby paddock – but he’s not there to play the game.
The Bachelor of Recreation and Sport graduate doesn’t actually rate his skills with the rugby ball, but he is highly-valued as a video analyst who is helping sharpen up the performance of the region’s most promising players.
Recently awarded an EIT-Hawke’s Bay Rugby Union Scholarship in acknowledgement of his contribution to the sport, Damon took on his voluntary job while studying for his degree at EIT.
He has now staircased to EIT’s Diploma in Hardware and Operating Systems, so the scholarship – normally given to elite rugby players in the HBRU Academy or Magpies – is supporting him while he fine tunes his skills working with computer hardware.
EIT biomechanics lecturer Marcus Agnew, who introduced Damon and fellow classmates to the effectiveness of video analysis in honing the techniques of sports players, says his former student has done really well.
“He developed so much during his three years doing the degree. The students need to gain work experience for their professional practice and write a report on that. That’s what led to him doing video analysis. I set up the opportunity for him to meet with the rugby union.
“They gave him the job and he learned to use the video analysis software at weekends, going away with teams and developing his videoing skills.”
Damon started by filming players in Hawke’s Bay’s Under 20 team and can now be seen racing up and down the sideline videoing members of the EIT-sponsored Hawke’s Bay Academy.
Back at his Tamatea home, he uses the specialist software to separate out the footage which allows individual players to see how they measure up in different aspects of their game. With coaching guidance, they can then work more effectively towards improving their techniques.
Academy manager Joe Payton says Damon is obviously learning vital skills that are going to benefit him in the work place. When he completes his diploma studies at the end of the year, he will be well set up for a career working with professional rugby teams.
As it is, he is already picking up other contracts.
That’s quite an achievement for someone who played just one season as a winger while attending Tamatea High School. Damon, who has enjoyed badminton for the last seven years, feels his time at EIT and work experience with the Hawke’s Bay Rugby Union have taken him a long way in learning to communicate more effectively with others.
“I was a bad emailer,” he says, “sending the information, but in an unstructured sort of way. Now I’m talking to a lot of different organisations and have become more technology-based.
“It’s been great that I’ve had these opportunities for professional development. That’s been my most significant area for personal growth by far.”
Damon is one of a number of recently-announced recipients of this year’s EIT-Hawke’s Bay Rugby Union Scholarships. Others are Zane Rangi (in the final year of a Bachelor of Visual Arts and Design), Bronson Neera (carpentry) and Kaleb Sweet (carpentry).