Twenty-year-old Aucklander Christian Mika made his name on the local scene with Otahuhu and the New Zealand Warriors in the lower grades. He spent 2016 with the Gold Coast Titans playing Holden Cup. Here’s a bit more of his story. (Main photo: Christian Mika playing U-17s for Counties Manukau. Credit: photosport.nz).
KLC: You grew up in south Auckland with a couple of brothers and a sister, tell us where you went to school and how you started in league.
CM: I went to De La Salle College in Mangere, I did all my schooling there and I am a proud De La Salle boy. I started footy with the Otahuhu Leopards at U-12s and finished with them when I was U-17 playing in the first division Fox Memorial comp.
I played a year with the Fox side at Otahuhu and was with the Warriors’ U-20s, but they had a really good team that year so I looked elsewhere. The Gold Coast was there and that was a good opportunity.
And you have spent this year over with the Titans’ U-20s, a bit of a change of environment for you…
Yes! But it’s good over there, life is pretty comfortable and the weather is good, so that really helps. But it’s good because I am out of my comfort zone and it’s a good stepping stone.
The first couple of weeks were hard, but after a while I got the idea of it. As long as the mind is busy, the schedule is packed, then you can’t really think of it.
Were there other options to stay with the Warriors?
There were a few options, but I thought if I stayed in New Zealand it would be too comfortable. But if I took a leap of faith I could see how far I could go. I really like where I am at and the fact that I am trying to achieve a little bit more.
We see a lot of Kiwi guys move away and excel in their footy, how much of a difference has it made for you?
It does make a difference and that is a big factor. It is a big advantage and that independence kicking in makes you start from the beginning, Little things like having to make your own food, mum isn’t there to make it for you after training and everything.
It makes you grow up fast because if you don’t then reality bites really quickly.
Your older brother Constantine has already gone through the process you are in the middle of, having played for Newcastle, Hull KR and now Toulouse. Does that help you?
It does give me an advantage given that he was the first one of us to go through what I have been though. He knows what is good, what is bad and what the pros and cons are.
Even though he is a forward and I am a back, he knows the insights and it’s really good, I have been learning a lot off him.
He has given me some great advice about putting myself in a good circle, filtering out all of those who are bad. Surrounding yourself with a good system is important.
He has taken full advantage of his career to see the world. He loves footy but when he travels it’s a bonus. He said to travel the world when I am young, because once you start seeing little Mikas running around then you are pretty much cemented!
You played Fox Memorial footy against fully-grown men before your 18th birthday, has that helped you to better adapt to the U-20s competition?
It’s a different ball game. The 20s comes from an NRL system, so the whole game is fast. But the Fox is local footy, ‘islander footy’, where you pick up the ball and run it real hard. It’s very physical, but the 20s is more about the speed and thinking fast.
What’s next from here for you?
We will just see what happens, if I get an NRL contact that’s a bonus. The goals for the next few years would be to get a start in the Q (Queensland) Cup or a train-on trial with an NRL side. But all I can do is focus on my game. I am turning 21 in January so this is the last year I could play 20s.