New Saint not guaranteed success

While the rest of his peers from Pioneer Secondary School will study at Boon Lay Secondary from next year as a result of a merger of the two schools, Azyzul Azhar will go his own separate way.

The Pioneer rugby player will be taking a different route from his friends by transferring to traditional schools rugby powerhouses St Andrew's Secondary.

While the fly-half, who will be in Secondary 3 next year, is in the process of finalising the move, he is excited at the prospect, even if it means that he has to leave his team-mates, and his family will be renting a flat in Commonwealth, which is relatively nearer to the school in Potong Pasir compared to his current home.

Azyzul shares a room with his mother and Primary Six brother in his grandfather's house in Jurong West, just a five-minute walk from Pioneer Secondary.

He feels that joining the Saints will boost his dream to become a national rugby player.

"The reason is because I really want to make my father proud," Azyzul, 13, added.

His father, Azhar Abdulah Thani, is a former schools rugby player with Bedok North Secondary. He would take time off from his work as a paramedic to support his son whenever he played for North Vista Primary. But Azhar died of liver cancer five days before Azyzul received his PSLE results in 2014.

"He would always give me tips and he's the loudest cheerer at the sidelines," the student recalled.

"I chose Pioneer because I could continue to play rugby and I didn't want to trouble my mum by choosing another school that is far away.

"I'm amazed that Saints would offer me the chance to join them.

"I have to choose between friends or my future. I know that it's a bit selfish to make this decision, but think it's the best for the sake of my future to achieve my dreams."

But he is aware that joining the Saints does not guarantee him a spot in the team for next year's Schools National Championships, as he will be among more than 100 students in the CCA.

Saints' assistant coach Marcus Yeo said: "He has to fight for his place, work hard to get into the team, and prove to us with his discipline and commitment. There's no short-cut."

But Azyzul's Sec 3 senior in Pioneer, Javier Tan, will not have to worry about his chances of making it to the school team when he joins Anglo-Chinese School (Barker Road), as the No. 8 has been offered a scholarship by the school.

Javier said: "I think it'll take me to another level, and with better facilities and a different environment, I'll get to improve my rugby skills."

But not all of the handful of Pioneer's players wanted by other schools will leave. Rushil Zainal has already decided to turn down a chance to join ACS (Barker). The Sec 2 inside-centre said: "It's not about how good the school is, it's a matter of loyalty and I don't want to leave my friends."

Alvin Chia

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 15, 2016, with the headline 'New Saint not guaranteed success'. Print Edition | Subscribe