It's been a harsh introduction at Wigan for former NRL superstar Matt Bowen, but he is loving his time there nonetheless.
The 31-year-old, who has travelled north without his partner and kids, was torn to shreds by locals during his first competition match for his new outfit, which ended in a 24-8 home loss to Huddersfield last weekend.
Disgruntled fans labelled him "Fatty Bowen" on social media during the match, where he was also put on report for a late tackle.
But during Wigan's training run at Waikato Stadium yesterday, the little fullback didn't look too much bigger than he finished last year's NRL season with the North Queensland Cowboys, who he played 270 games with since debuting in 2001.
Both he and Wigan coach Shaun Wane have no concerns over his fitness, and put the criticism down to the club's passionate fans needing something to vent due to the loss.
"No worries there. I don't know, it could be the TV blowing me up a bit more," Bowen quipped. But it's been great. I enjoy playing in front of those fans over there, they're really passionate about their footy and they want a winning team, so we have to do that.
"It's only been one game that we've played in front of them, so I just can't wait to get back over there and start playing, it should be great.
"We'll give them something to cheer about when we get back."
A fair chunk of Wigan fans should be on hand tonight too, when the team take on the Warriors in Hamilton, ahead of next Saturday's World Club Challenge against the Roosters in Sydney, where more than 3000 are expected to make the trip.
Bowen is looking forward to an improved team effort tonight after what had been "a long two days" of travel.
"All the boys are excited and can't wait for the hit-out," he said.
"It's a pretty good part of the world and nice to come down here and see the place."
Wane was sure the fans would soon embrace Bowen, who played 10 State of Origin matches for Queensland and one test for Australia.
"He's played in the grind of the NRL for many years and he's been there and done it, playing State of Origin.
"He's one of the best players in the country and we're very very pleased that he's chosen our great club to come to."
Bowen has been adjusting to a totally different climate, going from the heat of Townsville to the rain and cold of England, but said that was one of the things he had to weigh up when making the move, and is enjoying the change.
Something else he's looking forward to is catching up with his family, when they will reunite in Sydney.
"I haven't seen them for the past six, seven, eight weeks. It'll be exciting times when I see them."
- Waikato Times
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