Rugby was everything to Nick Afoa, but when an injury permanently sidelined the New Zealander, he turned to his other passion - singing.
Now, he's been cast not just in any show, but a new Australian production of The Lion King, the highest-grossing show in Broadway history.
Although his co-stars have resumes boasting drama degrees and theatre credits, Afoa has had no formal acting training.
The last musical he was in was a high-school production of South Pacific.
Yet his raw talent saw him win the coveted role of Simba, which he will bring to the stage when the show opens in Sydney this December.
Afoa says the eight-hour-a-day rehearsals can be as gruelling as a rugby match.
''I'm not getting bashed up and tackled and stuff but it's just as hard,'' he says, as he learns how to use and stretch different muscles for the physically demanding role.
''I got told off from the physio (because I was) doing heavy squats and bench presses.
''He says they told him to stop doing the rugby weights and switc to Pilates and yoga.
''I'm like, yoga? I play rugby man, c'mon,'' he laughs.
But to pull off Simba's limber, feline movements, and challenges such as a singing cartwheel, Afoa is throwing himself mane-first into the process.
Afoa says the leap from rugby to singing wasn't as huge as people might think.
''They go hand in hand,'' he says.''After a rugby game, you've just spent 80 minutes beating your body up and then you come back into the changing rooms and you just chill out and sing some songs.''
And singing was a passion he never had to defend while growing up in Auckland, where he attended a private school on a rugby scholarship.'
'(My friends), they get a bit cheeky sometimes, but I've always been known as 'the singer guy', even in the rugby teams,'' he says.
Afoa first discovered he could sing in church, and as a teenager was encouraged by teachers to join the choir.
When he was 15, an elderly couple came up to him after church, nearly in tears, to tell him how much they had enjoyed his singing.
''It was that moment where I was like, 'man, I can give that kind of joy to people through singing' and I think that's what it's always been about for me,'' he says.
But rugby was always the dream and Afoa played every week from the time he was 13 to 22 years old.
Then, just when his life goal to play for the All Blacks was nearly in reach, Afoa hurt his knee at a rugby tournament overseas, rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament.
He tried rehab, but his knee was never the same, and Afoa, who had been singing national anthems at major rugby matches since he was 17, decided to follow that path.
''It was an opportunity for me to go ok, I guess I was blessed to pursue this a little bit more - take singing a bit more seriously,'' he says.
Last year, that meant singing at the Rugby World Cup Semi-Final.
But in a perhaps prophetic moment, Afoa wasn't asked to sing the New Zealand anthem, but the Australian one, a move for which he copped ''a lot of flak back home''.
Now, Afoa has moved to Australia for the musical and says it's taken him a while to get used to the pace of Sydney.
He's not the only cast member of The Lion King who is far from home.
While the cast is largely Australian, aside from New Zealand, performers also hail from Ghana, Puerto Rico, China, South Africa, Brazil, Jamaica and Thailand.
As Afoa talks about his excitement for the coming movie-turned-musical, it's hard not to think of the famous song a young Simba sings.
But while the cub was counting down the days until he was king of Pride Rock, Afoa is looking forward to his professional theatre debut, and having his wife, mum, sister and agent in the audience on opening night.
Afoa just can't wait to be king.
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