What do Sione Asi (Otago BHS), Isi Tuivaga (Otago BHS), Ciarahn Matoe (King’s College), Paripari Parkinson (St. Kent’s), Ereatara Enari (St. Kent’s), Sean Paranihi (St. Kent’s), Brian Enari (St. Kent’s), Rupena Parkinson (St. Kent’s), Joey Te Huna (Sacred Heart College) and Otere Black (Hato Paora College) all share in common?
Aside from being among the elite talent in New Zealand First XV rugby (six of the boys have represented their country at Barbarians level or higher) all ten boys attended Tu Toa College in Palmerston North.
Asi has played 58 games for the Otago BHS First XV and has been contracted to Manawatu for two years. What would have happened if all ten players had stayed together at Tu Toa?
“Tu Toa was a very special place. It helped shape the person I am today. I will never forget my time with the brothers there. I guess we would have had a pretty good team, but the two brothers running the school fell out which meant it split. My circumstances changed which forced me to move on,” Asi says.
Asi attended St. Peter’s College in Palmerston North as a Year 9 before switching to Tua Toa in Year 10 where he debuted at First XV level. His parents moved to Oamaru which saw him enrol at Waitaki BHS and spend a season in their First XV. When his cousin Tui Katoa made the move to Otago BHS, Asi moved on with him.
Asi quickly forged a formidable reputation in Dunedin.The 130kg plus prop impressed with his mobility and scrummaging. Twice he earned selection for the New Zealand Barbarians and in 2015 he helped Otago BHS reach the National Top Four.
“The best thing about Otago Boys’ is the fact we set high standards and our coaches don’t allow us lose sight of that. It’s been awesome to be around great players like Sio Tomkinson (NZ Under-20’s),” Asi says.
Asi identities last season’s Highlanders final against Southland BHS as his favourite game.
“We won 32-20 and I scored a hat-trick. It was a great performance by the boys and the crowd and atmosphere was really big. The interschool games are all pretty special to be honest.”
Asi earned a provincial union contract with Manawatu for two years and from next season the deal will be upgraded to a full ITM cup contract. With professional rugby in sight why did Asi decide to return to school for a Year 14 season?
“I didn’t feel ready for the open road. My parents moved from Palmerston North back to Oamaru which meant I was without accommodation. My younger brother Tevita is in the First XV this year and it’s been great to play with him and hopefully act as a mentor.
“My love and passion for the hoops is huge. I think I can learn a lot by being a leader in this year’s team,” Asi explains.
Asi has played very little rugby in 2016. In a pre-season ten’s tournament he suffered a labral tear in the shoulder after making a tackle.
He played manfully in the drubbing suffered against Sacred Heart College, but then missed two months. He returned off the bench for the Land Rover First XV clash against Southland BHS which turned into a disaster for Otago BHS. Otago was beaten 32-19 and lost their 60-game unbeaten streak against Highlanders region schools.
“That was a tough afternoon. I think the boys got overawed by the occasion. We got tight and didn’t express ourselves. Full credit to Southland, they played well, “Asi says.
Otago have since accounted for Timaru BHS (41-6) Southland BHS in a colts rematch (35-12) and Christchurch BHS (43-19) since the TV setback. Asi made a big impact in the Christchurch game and believes Otago are approaching their best form. What does Otago need to do to be a contender at the National Top Four again?
“We have to win the pressure moments and be disciplined. Last year a couple of key moments went against us and we lost. We are learning to make better decisions under pressure,” Asi insists.
Asi is affectionately known as Panda. It was a name given to him by his cousin Tua who was known as gorilla. His father is a social worker and mother a nurse in Oamaru. Asi has attended four high schools and is grateful for the friends he has made in Dunedin.
“It’s been a bumpy road sometimes, but I am lucky to have built relationships with some great people. I would especially like to thank the Morrison and McDowell families as well as the hostel boys for what they have done for me,” Asi concludes.
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