This week we chat to one of the captain’s of the Mangere East Hawks’ Fox Memorial side, Netane Vi.
Let’s start at the beginning – was it always rugby league and was it always at Mangere East?
I started off at Otahuhu but have been Mangere East since. I had a little break and tried union at one stage but didn’t enjoy it – there’s too much kicking in that game – so I came back to league.
I played at Mangere East right through from the U9s.
You spent some time in Australia as well?
I gave it a crack over there for a few years and played at the Dragons in the SG Ball and then played a handful of games for their U20s.
There are a lot of guys I played with there who are in the NRL now and it’s good to see them living the dream. I played with Addin [Fonua-Blake], Matt Dufty, and played against guys like Brandon Smith too.
Having played against Smith at a young age, is it any surprise to you that he’s doing so well now for the Melbourne Storm and Kiwis?
Na, no surprise there mate. Even in the junior grades he was always one of the best, if not the best, on the field.
That showed in the Test against Tonga. I think he was the best on the park form either team and he was the difference.
Who is the most talented player you have taken the field with so far?
Dufty was always good and one of those guys you are just happy he is in your team. Coming up against Brandon too was always tough. Those two stand out.
Mangere East are sitting mid-table after the Qualifiers. How do you assess the start to 2019?
Coach Richie [Blackmore] has assured us that the comp isn’t won in the first few rounds. We went down in some games we should have taken and then got up in some games where we probably weren’t favoured.
We have strung a few wins together and have built some confidence. There’s so much more to learn and it’s a good challenge for us.
And how are you enjoying your role as one of the side’s captains?
Loving it. It’s a good challenge for me, especially being one of the younger guys. But we are lucky to have guys like Kimi Uasi who has all the experience and has been there and won a Fox title.
I am enjoying the role, there’s ups and downs, but that’s all part of it.