In the speedy George Tilsley, the Manawatu Turbos just might have snapped up another player from under Wellington noses.
The Te Kawau fullback, who has played for the New Zealand sevens team, has been signed for a year, primarily as a wing.
He has come up through the Wellington age-group sides, from under-16s to under-20s and sevens for the past two seasons. He has also been played on the wing for Wellington development sides.
Tilsley can cover 40 metres in about 4.9 seconds and thus will be one of the quickest in the Manawatu ITM Cup squad.
His specialty is scoring long-range tries and he bagged another from 60 metres last Saturday.
The 20-year-old had a chat in Palmerston North with Turbos coach Jason O'Halloran late last year.
"We said there were opportunities but we didn't pressure him too much," O'Halloran said.
But first he had to try his luck in club rugby and Bryan Matenga secured him for Te Kawau. Tilsley has been commuting from Wellington since, often with Fijian wing Vili Dakunimata.
"He has been pretty impressive with the ball in hand," O'Halloran said.
Their chat took place before Tilsley was brought into the NZ sevens team to play in the world series tournament in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, in mid-December. He had been spotted by Gordon Tietjens in a regional sevens tournament in Palmerston North.
He got to play Australia and South Africa and the Kiwis won.
While he is a standby national sevens player, the next national camp isn't until November.
"My next goal is to hopefully have a successful season and make the starting lineup," he said.
"At this stage I'm not focused on the bright lights. I'm just grateful to be given an opportunity."
Tilsley knows he is young and has plenty to work on in defence, positioning and decision-making.
He is not long back from four weeks in Europe where it was worth his while to play for English team, the Templars, at three tournaments. He also went to Sri Lanka in 2010 with Manawatu's NZ Legends coach Paul Claridge.
Tilsley works for Westpac Bank's Porirua branch and is looking to move to Palmerston North in the next two weeks. He and his partner Alana are expecting their first child, a daughter, on September 11.
Tall and lean, at 1.92m and 92kg, Tilsley's late father was a Kiwi and his mother is a Papua New Guinean from Okapa in the Eastern Highlands. She still lives there.
George played rugby league as a prop there until age 11 when the family moved to Wellington in 2000 to live at Titahi Bay. He played for the Tawa College 1st XV before leaving after the fifth form to work. He did a business management course, worked as a lifeguard at Tawa Pool and was in customer service with Jetstar and Work and Income.
At 17 he played senior rugby for Tawa.
- © Fairfax NZ News