Digs first, rugby second for Super recruits

TOBY ROBSON
Last updated 05:00 14/11/2013
Hadleigh Parkes
Getty Images
PARKES IN WELLINGTON: Auckland rugby captain Hadleigh Parkes has confirmed he will play for the Hurricanes in the next Super Rugby season.

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Cardiff Vaega's No 1 priority since being selected for the Hurricanes has been finding a place to live in Wellington.

Ditto for new Super Rugby team-mates Mark Abbott and Hadleigh Parkes with the flat-hunting exercise a spinoff of the new players' collective agreement.

For the first time since Super Rugby began, players from outside the region must both find and pay for their accommodation in 2014.

As a result Vaega, 22, faces a tricky task as he tries to relocate from Invercargill, searching for a place suitable for his Palmerston North-based partner and young child when they visit.

Napier-based Abbott said he was "close" to nailing down a bed in the capital where he plans to flat with Blues recruit Hadleigh Parkes.

Up until now those responsibilities lay with the franchises, who sourced and paid for apartments, houses or flats in advance of the season.

Under the new collective, players apply to the New Zealand Rugby Union for a weekly rebate, $350 for singles and $500 for families as well as some travel costs.

Hurricanes manager Tony Ward said the franchise was required to assist and put players in touch with landlords, but said the new arrangement placed more emphasis on the individual.

"It has made it a bit tougher on the players because they are coming to a new city and the cost of accommodation in Wellington as opposed to say Invercargill, Dunedin or even Waikato is a bit of a shock to some of them," he said.

"Another difficulty is landlords typically want a 12-month contract and they are saying actually we only want nine months with some flexibility.

"There are not many jobs you have to relocate twice in a year going from province, to franchise and back to your province."

Ward can remember the early days when a large chunk of players came from out of town via the draft.

With upwards of a dozen properties needing to be found it cost the franchises "a fortune", he said.

Vaega admits he was surprised when he found out he'd be sourcing his own flat, a difficult prospect for someone currently still living in the deep south.

"Yeah, I just thought they had allocated apartments for out-of-towners, but over the years its changed and players have gone and done their own thing.

"They're putting an emphasis on players getting their own accommodation but they're still there to help, so it's all good."

He's getting used to the transient nature of being a professional rugby player having shifted from Auckland to make his name with Southland.

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And he is thrilled to pick up his first Super Rugby contract a bit further north.

"I felt pretty fortunate. Its closer to the family in Auckland and to my partner who stays in Palmy, so its worked out pretty well," he said. "It's way closer than Invercargill and money-wise it makes things a bit easier [to head home].

"I've got some family in Wellington, but I don't really know too many people. The only guy [in the Hurricanes] would be TJ [Perenara] from way back when we went to Iranz together, but I don't know if he remembers me.

"I can't wait to get there, to learn off the older guys who have been there, done that. That's the exciting part of it for me making that transition to fulltime professional sport."

Up until the Hurricanes came calling he was planning a summer in Auckland before a long pre-season with the Stags.

Likewise, Abbott was set for an off-season at the family farm outside of Christchurch before joining Hawke's Bay's off-season training group.

Like Vaega, the 23-year-old said he was relaxed about shifting base and hunting for a place to live.

"I went to university in Christchurch so I hadn't really been anywhere else until I moved up to Hawke's Bay.

"Napier was a bit smaller than Christchurch, but was a hell of a nice place and now it's time to move on to the next place and have a look around."

Abbott, who has a bachelor of commerce in international business, saw travel as part of any working life.

"I was looking for new opportunities. It was a bit congested in Christchurch so I thought I'd try my luck elsewhere and it seems to have worked out pretty well."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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