From the Hibiscus Coast to Merseyside, Nathan Ashe has packed plenty into his footy career so far. We caught up with the Hibiscus Coast Raiders halfback to talk playing Super League, the Raiders’ chances this year and what it’s like lining up for Brian McClennan.
To start with, can you talk us through your junior footy and how you got started?
I started playing footy for the Raiders when I was four, I got dragged along to one of the trainings, and 23 years later I am still playing and finally back with the Raiders again. I’ve been back from the UK for three years, but stopped playing about five years ago due to a few injuries and getting old.
You played some top-level footy in the UK as well?
I got picked up while I was playing over here in Auckland and went over to England to play with St Helens. I spent a few years in their academy and got signed up to be full-time and live out my dream of being a professional rugby league player for a couple of years.
I think I played about 15 Super League games all up.
How does a boy from the Hibiscus Coast come to be scouted by St Helens?
It’s a world away! But my brother was over there and his mate was mates with an assistant coach at St Helens. A few videos were sent and the rest was history. I found out and within a month I was moving to England.
But I loved every minute of it and wouldn’t change a thing.
What was it like playing for the Wests Warriors (a London club made up almost totally of Kiwis and Australians)?
I was there for the first couple of years of the Wests Warriors. It was a proud moment playing with them and all the Kiwi boys, and coming into the London comp and winning it and beating the top teams, it was an awesome moment for us Kiwi boys.
It must have been special watching their Challenge Cup run a couple of years ago then?
Watching that was bloody awesome. I was a little bit jeleous I wasn’t over there playing, but the run that they put in in that Challenge Cup was unreal. Some of the teams they knocked off… they should all be proud of themselves. I certainly was.
Coming back to local footy, how influential was your new coach Brian McClennan in your decision to play this year?
You never miss a chance to play under a coach like ‘Bluey’. When I heard he was coaching here again I jumped at the chance to get down and put the boots on. He’s an awesome guy, great coach, you learn a lot off him and he makes it enjoyable as well, which is the main part.
There’s a good vibe at the club right now.
You’ve added a couple of forwards to the roster who bring some genuine size – do you feel the squad is better this year than it has been in recent seasons?
I think so. Hibiscus Coast have sort of always struggled for size. We are lucky a few of the boys from East Coast Bays have come over to give us some size, which hopefully will help us get to the top.
That’s the goal. To win everything we can is the goal.