Fight for Life cause personal for Elliot

Ranger, Flavell join rugby union team

LIAM NAPIER
Last updated 13:48 25/10/2012
Hika Elliot
LAWRENCE SMITH/Fairfax NZ
HIKA ELLIOT: "If we find out it is Paul Gallen it's going to be an awesome challenge. Come December 15 we'll be ready to throw down."

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Fight for Life is a very personal cause on a number of fronts for All Blacks end-of-year-tour hopeful Hika Elliot.

The stocky Hawke's Bay and Chiefs hooker was today unveiled, along with Northland and Blues star Rene Ranger and former All Black Troy Flavell, to join Carlos Spencer for the rugby team in the battle of the codes on December 15 in Auckland.

Elliot is likely to be paired against NSW State of Origin captain Paul Gallen, while Ranger, who recently escaped an assault charge, could square off against fellow league enforcer Greg Bird. The bruise brothers will be bolstered by Willie Mason and Jarrod McCracken.

It is understood a professional fight, female clash, and one additional rugby versus league match-up are yet to be announced.

"If we find out it is Paul Gallen it's going to be an awesome challenge. Come December 15 we'll be ready to throw down," Elliot said.

There was a lump in Elliot's throat as he spoke of his reasons for accepting the challenge and raising awareness of prostate cancer.

The 26-year-old lost a close friend to cancer this year and his father recently survived an operation to remove a tumour from his lungs.

"It's a personal thing for me," Elliot said. "My father just had an operation to remove his cancer. The doctors are positive they've got it all and with further treatment we'll be right.

"I had a friend that passed away from cancer earlier on this year. Israel Dagg was a pallbearer at the funeral so it's pretty close to home.

"Too many young people are dying from cancer here in New Zealand. It's a silent killer. What I can do in terms of lifting the profile, getting men checked and get them to stop being so staunch about their health. At the end of the day we're playing Russian roulette with our lives."

Outside of the ring, Elliot faces a nervous wait this week. He is fighting Wellington's Dane Coles for the third rake's spot in the 32-man All Blacks squad which is announced in Christchurch on Monday.

Elliot rebuffed probes that his inclusion on the charity boxing card suggested he had missed All Blacks selection, and would instead play for Jamie Joseph's Maori team, which has a three-match tour of the United Kingdom, starting next month.

"People are questioning my involvement in this, whether or not it's hindered my selection in the end of year tour, you only have to look at Liam Messam and Sonny Bill Williams," he said.

"Liam probably played the most consistent rugby of his career this year, being a regular starter in the All Blacks has shown that.

"Sonny turned a new leaf coming to the Chiefs after his fight. He was one of the standout players in Super Rugby and the All Blacks.

"I've had a few emails but no communication over the phone. This is going to be a big week in terms of selection. Fingers crossed I'm involved in one of the two."

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With a background in kung fu, jiu-jitsu and mixed martial arts, Elliot is more accustomed to throwing kicks, than punches.

He hasn't been in the ring since 2008, when he claimed the New Zealand Open karate title but couldn't go on to compete at the world championships because of rugby commitments.

But he's already dropped from 117kg to 112kg with plenty of heavy bag work in training.

"It's something to keep me occupied and give me a focus outside of rugby. When you've been playing professional rugby for a long time, day in, day out, change is good."

- Fairfax Media

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