Jason Qareqare: How Queen Ethelburga’s pupil took Super League by storm with Castleford Tigers

THE surprise Super League breakthrough of Castleford Tigers’ Jason Qareqare has inspired young and old at his school – Queen Ethelburga’s Collegiate near York.

Castleford Tigers' Jason Qareqare: During the warm-up to face Hull FC. Pictures: SW Pix

Less than a week after his stunning debut for the club, the 17-year-old winger is in Daryl Powell’s squad again for tomorrow’s derby at Wakefield Trinity.

Qareqare scored with his first touch, and just 45 seconds into Thursday’s 30-12 loss against Hull FC, producing a remarkable finish as he rounded England’s Jake Connor with ease in front of the Sky Sports cameras.

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He had been thrust into the side at late notice following a glut of injuries but was back in school the following morning.

Video footage captured the moment Qareqare, who lives in Sherburn and previously played at Kippax Welfare, was mobbed by classmates who took great joy in celebrating his memorable feat.

He is studying maths, business and sport at the independent school where Rob Rawlinson, the former hooker who won the Powergen Cup with Leeds Tykes in 2005, is Head of Sport.

Rawlinson told The Yorkshire Post: “It’s brilliant to see what Jason did. He’s a great lad and typical Fijian; from a grounded family, everything is ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, you walk towards him and he opens the door...

“He is just a really polite, grounded lad who came here on a taster day. Literally within 30 seconds I said to Rob Hardwick – our Lead Coach of Rugby – he looks class. It was just the way he moves. There was something about him, when you looked at him, that you thought ‘he’s got it.’”

Drmatic debut: Castleford Tigers' Jason Qareqare scores their first try against Hull FC.

Qareqare’s emergence has understandably caused a stir at the school.

“Good on him and that reaction from the rest of the lads, it’s about shared success isn’t it?” added Rawlinson.

“Because of Covid, a lot of them haven’t played a rugby game in 12 months – Jason has still yet to play for us! – so to be able to celebrate something at the end of the year was such a highlight for them.

“One of the most pleasing things was a lad in Year Seven who I was registering for an athletics lesson. He asked if that was who’d been on TV the night before and if he could say hello.

School days: Castleford Tigers' Jason Qareqare.

“I said ‘of course’ and he said to Jason how he’d not really seen him play but he’d seen him on TV and thought it was brilliant.

“Jason gave him a hug and shook his hand and it really made this lad’s day. A lot of lads when we were doing PE were asking about Jason; there was certainly a good buzz around Friday.”

Qareqare got the call from Powell during a maths lesson and Rawlinson recalled: “He came into my office and was in a right state shaking and saying he’d just spoken to Daryl.

“I was asking Daryl who?! He could have cried he was shaking that much. But he couldn’t play until he signed on for them as he was just an academy lad so his mum was coming to pick him up to take him to the club where he signed a professional contract.

Jason Qareqare playing for Queen Ethelburga's School.

“What a great experience. I spoke to him on Thursday to see how he was – and he was on his way to buy some new boots! They certainly did him some good as he did that with his first touch.”

For Rawlinson, Qareqare’s classy ‘in and out’ effort evoked memories of former Tykes winger David Doherty, who, at just 18, scored a similar try that left England’s Michael Horak in his wake in the 2005 Powergen Cup semi-final against London Irish.

Provision at Queen Ethelburga’s, where Qareqare is in his first year, has unwittingly helped prepare him for his surprise debut.

Rawlinson said: “Although we haven’t played any fixtures this (school) year, as part of our performance pathway here, Jason’s still got seven sessions per week of rugby or strength and conditioning built into his timetable.

“So, all the way through the pandemic, he has been doing skills and S&C.

“It’s probably done him the world of good really compared to some academy lads like him who might not have done anything for 12 months

“We’re not precious about school results and beating other schools. It’s all about their development and where they end up.

“A lot of our basketball students and quite a lot of football students now, are going on to scholarships in America.

“It’s about developing them as much as we can while they’re here and hopefully we’re then putting them on the first rung of the ladder. Whereas Jason, in his first year, has gone straight to the top level already!”

Tigers, who have Niall Evalds, Daniel Smith and Gareth O’Brien back but lost Adam Milner, James Clare and Brad Graham, have asked if Qareqare can train with them fully for the next fortnight.