Sporting triplets in one team are a rare thing indeed but Rosmini College have their own teen trio in the Wyllie brothers who have played basketball together since primary school.
In fact, it was only last year when Chris, Josh and Liam first played without each other all in the same team, but the 13-year-old triplets are charging around the basketball courts and shooting hoops together at this week’s AIMS Games in Tauranga.
The youngest, Liam, is fraternal and not identical like Chris and Josh but their coach Tony Pompallier said he was the outlier of the trio from Rosmini College, a school based in Takapuna in Auckland’s North Shore.
Naturally, Pompallier has never come across triplets all playing in one team in more than 30 years of coaching basketball. Their mum Melanie, who was previously the finance manager for the New Zealand Breakers for seven years, is also the team’s manager.
“It’s very rare and it’s quite amazing,” Pompallier said. “They’re all different but the youngest one [Liam] is probably the character.
“He’s very loud, mischievous and aggressive [on the court] too. The other two are quiet, mellow and chilled, but they’re coming out of their shell a bit now.”
Twins in professional sport are not so uncommon. Playing in the NRL for South Sydney Rabbitohs are the identical Burgess twins, props George and Tom, while utility backs Brett and Josh Morris spent three years together with Canterbury Bulldogs.
All Blacks and Crusaders centre Jack Goodhue, who is in Japan ahead of the Rugby World Cup that starts next Friday, is twins with Blues and Northland lock Josh Goodhue.
The only sporting triplets of note were from Estonia: the identical Leila, Lily and Liina Luik, who ran in the women’s marathon at the last Olympic Games in Rio three years ago. They called themselves the “Trio to Rio”.
Rosmini College’s triple threat of Chris, Josh and Liam are in year eight and their team happens to feature two students with talented sporting genes: Zion Vagana, nephew to former Kiwis internationals Joe and Nigel Vagana (league), and Matt Dalton, son of the late Tania Dalton (netball) who was a Silver Fern from 1996-2007.
The Wyllie brothers said they treat each other like any other team-mate on the court but added that “all three of us are the most competitive”.
“It’s a good sport to play with friends and it’s also a lot safer than rugby, I guess,” said Liam, who also pointed out that he was mum’s favourite.
All three were playing at the same time in different spells during their 33-17 win on Tuesday over Francis Douglas Memorial College at the 16th AIMS Games, a week-long event with more than 11,500 intermediate-aged athletes from New Zealand and the Pacific.
Pompallier said it works when he plays them all at once, or when interchanging them like for like.
While admitting there is still plenty of trouble identifying who’s who with Chris and Josh, the coach said it was easier to pick out Liam, who was “like a team leader”.
“They are pretty close, they feed off each other. If one’s hurt, the other ones are hurting, too. They play together and get stuck in.”