New All Black Jackson Hemopo was only eight months old when his father Barry died.
Despite having little memory of his dad, Hemopo says he was on his mind when he ran onto the field in Dunedin last month for his All Black debut against France.
“Making them proud is another reason I play rugby and want to do the best I can,” he says.
“I do remember him. I have lots of video of him and it’s a huge part of my mental game.”
When Hemopo got the call-up for the All Blacks, he thought the news was too good to be true.
“I thought it was a prank call. But then it came out on Facebook and so it confirmed for me that it was real.”
Putting on the black jersey is the highlight of Hemopo’s career. The 24-year-old climbed the ranks, playing 1st XV for Palmerston North Boy’s High School and then onto the Highlanders.
“It’s my job and everyone wants to do well in their jobs. Making the ABs is the pinnacle in my job. If I can get a few more games under my belt, then that’s the goal. I don’t want to be a one-cap wonder for the All Blacks.”