When Keepa Mewett descended on the Turbos, he figured he would know at least one of the players.
But no. He had last played for Massey Colts back in 2007 and found he had a totally new group to get acquainted with.
Mewett had played against Manawatu for Bay of Plenty in a pre-season game, but that was it.
The new Turbos lock was barely a rugby player back then. He had attended Longburn Adventist College as a boarder from Australia and was head boy in his final year at the school.
There was no rugby at the school. He just played basketball and touch.
From there he went to Massey University, secured his business studies degree in finance and first picked up a rugby ball at the age of 18 - nine years ago. In his second year in 2006, his team won the Manawatu colts grade.
"I only played because my mates were playing," he said.
Mewett would have to be the most travelled player in the Manawatu squad. He came to Palmerston North when he was 15, but courtesy of his father's job in mining, he had lived all over Australia
"Another reason I came here was so I could settle down," Mewett said. "Because both of my parents were Maori, I wanted to check out New Zealand."
His mother's whakapapa is Ngati Porou and his father's Ngapuhi, from Northland where the Turbos have their first competition match on Sunday.
Keepa, 27, was born at Mt Isa (Queensland) and has lived in Geelong (Victoria), Western Australia and New South Wales. Now his father is managing a mine in Turkey.
After doing an office job in Sydney, Keepa worked in an underground gold mine near Bathurst to save money before paying to attend the Inside Running Rugby Academy at Mt Maunganui. Former Manawatu and England player, Dan Ward-Smith, is the strength and conditioning coach there.
Mewett also had a two-year stint playing for clubs in England and Scotland and seeing a lot of Europe.
Later he returned to Mt Maunganui, hooked up with Tauranga Sports, where former Manawatu loose forward Hamish Gosling now plays, and has since played part of two seasons for the Bay of Plenty Steamers.
Last year he injured his shoulder which required an AC joint reconstruction entailing three to four months recovery. That meant he played only the last six club games this year and that was where Manawatu forwards coach Jeremy Cotter checked him out.
"I let Jeremy know that if there was an opportunity here I would be keen to be considered," Mewett said.
Manawatu aren't flush with 1.98m, 117kg locks, while the Bay had plenty.
He first wore the green-and-white in the pre-season win over Wellington, coming on at halftime after only a few days with the team. He enjoyed his 55 minutes against Tasman more, his clean lineout take leading to Newton Tudreu's scintillating try.
Mewett also fancies chasing a spot with the New Zealand Maori team to Japan and Singapore.
- Manawatu Standard
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