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Being named captain of New Zealand was an unexpected honour, and it came out of the blue. It wasn’t something I’d thought about, to be honest.


I got a call from Kiwis coach Michael Maguire. He had liked what I brought to the team and the values I have and uphold is part of the part of the direction he wanted to take the Kiwis. He’d spoken to me a little about being a part of the team’s leadership group.


I got the call when I was out driving with my wife and kids. He said, ‘You know I spoke to you about being part of the leadership group, what do you think?’


I said, ‘I’m excited to be part of that group and help out as much I can. Lead wherever I can.’


He said, ‘What do you think about leading that leadership group?’ I said ‘what do you mean?’.


‘I want you to captain, to lead our team this tour,’ Madge said.


I just went quiet. Then I kind of mouthed to my wife, ‘Did he just say what I think he said?’ I stayed quiet for quite some time. Then Purdy gestured like ‘quick, you have to answer’.


I said, ‘Sorry mate, I was just floored by what you just told me’. I told him I didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes who’s been there before me. That’s the last thing I wanted to do.


I’d go home every day and be worried. ‘What’s going to happen with the kids?’ I’ve got this beautiful life planned out in my head … and at that time I couldn’t think of a way clear.


There were a lot of older boys who had been there before me, and playing for New Zealand means so much to everyone of us. But I told him, ‘If that’s what the boys want, if I have their full support, I’d love to do it.’


He called people and I called my mum and dad Kara and Joe and my manager Tyran and asked them what they thought. Every single one of them thought I should do it. That it was an awesome achievement. My mum said it was what I was born to do, lead! Be an example through my actions on and off the field.


The next day I rang Madge back and he reassured me the boys were on board and agreed with it. I told him I would take it on and give it the best I can.


My great-grandfather Steve Watene captained the Kiwis a long time ago. So one of my goals was to do that, but I thought maybe when I was 30 I might get the chance.


To have that dream come true, it’s a massive thing for my family. I always wanted to put our name back where it once was.





There are so many players in our team who have been there and done that. I can get counsel off them.


My personal approach hasn’t changed much – I’m just doing exactly what got me there. ‘Just keep doing what you are doing’ is what Madge Maguire has always told me.


I find it hard to express how proud it makes me to stand in the front row when we do the haka.


That was one of the main factors why I chose to play for New Zealand. I couldn’t stand across the paddock with a team watching the haka. I would have felt that I had to jump sides and join in! It’s special.


New Zealand v Tonga is a huge game and occasion, not just for our countries but for rugby league. 


I’m Tongan as well and have a lot of family that support Tonga. It’s going to be a special night night for my family on both sides.


Playing against them was the loudest atmosphere that I’ve ever faced in my life. You can’t talk to anyone out there.


There’s a lot of respect on the field. We’re all Polynesians but as soon as we cross the white line, it’s a war you want to win.


It’s not hatred but we respect the battle and give it all. 


You know you’re not just pulling on a jersey for a game of footy. You’re pulling it on for your country, your family and all the people who have been there before you.


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