Rugby is a part of life in Gisborne

By James Perry

For most young rugby players the All Blacks is the pinnacle dream. 

However, a couple of Poverty Bay players  have aspirations which are a lot closer to home.

Winiata Tarawa has been selected to play for the NZ Heartland U19 side that will play at the Jock Hobbs Memorial Tournament beginning in Taupō next week. 

The Heartland side is made of at least player from each of the unions which make up the Mitre 10 Heartland provincial competition.

The outside back says his selection as Poverty Bay's sole selection came as a shock.

"I didn't even know.  I was at work and got all these texts and calls, I was like 'eh? what is this?' and got home about five o clock, checked on my Facebook and just got a few messages from the Heartland teams and all of that," Tarawa says.

The Jock Hobbs tournament has seen many players go on to play at Mitre 10 Cup and super rugby and even All Black level, including recent All Black squad member Te Toiroa Tahuriōrangi. 

For Tarawa however, home is where the heart is.  He is happy just playing rugby at home.  On the possibility of being scouted by a bigger union he simply says "if it happens it happens. [I'll] just try my best and rep Gizzy hard." 

He was presented with a Poverty Bay playing jersey last night to take with him to Taupō.  He said he will take it with pride and make his team, and his YMP club side proud.

Meke-Pio Brown is not only a rugby player, but is also a member of kapa haka group Tu Te Manawa Maurea.

While there are still dreams of a black jersey, he says having been involved in kapa haka from an early age in Te Tai Rāwhiti, there is one bigger goal for him, and that is winning the prestigious Te Matatini festival.

He says that while most boys from New Zealand grow up wanting to become an All Black, Te Matatini is held in equal esteem among him and his whānau.

Tarawa will join his Heartland teammates on Thursday night ahead of the tournament in Taupō next week.

Meanwhile, the Poverty Bay Heartland Cup side will take on Whanganui this Saturday in Gisborne, aiming to get back in the winner's circle after their first loss last weekend.