Nick's got Direction
Nick Afoa's singing has been heard the world over, but Coca Cola Christmas In The Park is still a top gig for him.
He made his debut on the world stage at the 2003 Rugby World Cup in Australia when he performed God of Nations before the All Blacks' games.
He was still at school and got the job after the New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive saw him perform the national anthem at a provincial game.
"I just happened to be in the right place at the right time," the singer says.
"I was only 17 and I got to travel for free and meet all of the players.
"I had to make the decision to pull out of seventh form, but there was no way I was missing it."
Singing has always been a part of his life.
"I'd always sung at church from about 5, but I didn't take it seriously until I was about 15 or 16 and opportunities came to sing in front of crowds."
The World Cup tour had extra meaning for the teenager, who was a New Zealand representative rugby player and played for the Ponsonby Rugby Club.
Later that year he made his first appearance at Christmas In The Park.
His commitments have prevented him from performing at the event since, despite being asked each year to audition.
"This year I got this need to go back. Christmas In The Park is about more than the songs. We used to go when we were kids. We'd take food and spend an hour looking for parking - it was fun," the Mt Albert resident says.
Suburban Newspapers, publisher of the Central Leader and part of the Fairfax Media Mighty A Network, is the major print media sponsor of Christmas In The Park.
Collections taken up during the December 8 event will go to Surf Lifesaving New Zealand.
Mr Afoa will take the stage four times during the evening show which usually attracts an audience of more than 250,000.
Among his numbers will be a One Direction song: "They asked me at the auditions if I minded. It's not really my style, but I know it will go down well with the crowd."
By day, Mr Afoa works in schools facilitating an addiction education and counselling programme for Odyssey House.
He's given up rugby, but still sings anthems at games.
Last year he did the honours at the final of the Rugby World Cup.
"In the last few years I realised I was getting older and my knees were giving out. I decided my job and singing should be my priority."
Recently he formed his own band called Sould2U which gives him a chance to perform original music.
"We're a merger between soul, R&B, funk and gospel," he says.
Visit christmasinthepark.co.nz for more details.