Dane Coles says his on and off field battles helped him find the consistency that earned him an All Blacks call up.
The 25-year-old Wellington hooker was one of two new caps along with Waikato halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow in the 32-man end of year tour squad named today.
His selection is a victory for perseverance coming five years after his provincial debut and after three long seasons in the shadow of All Black incumbent Andrew Hore at the Hurricanes.
‘‘It’s a pretty emotional time,’’ he said of hearing his name read out by New Zealand Rugby Union chairman Mike Eagle.
‘‘I’m just happy and humble. I was stunned. I was in another world. It took me a couple of minutes to pull myself together then I got another couple of phone calls. I was pretty happy.’’
Parents Steve and Sonya were in Australia visiting Coles’ uncle, but were quickly on the phone to congratulate their son and a visit from Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett soon followed.
It hasn’t always been such plain sailing for the dynamic Paraparaumu-born and raised rake.
He faced a few battles after moving to Wellington to play club rugby for Marist St Pats, then Poneke.
In his debut season for the Hurricanes in 2009 Coles was in the news after pleading guilty to disorderly behaviour after abusing and manhandling police following a drunken scuffle.
There had also been previous convictions for fighting in public and drunk driving, prompting the New Zealand Rugby Union to suspend him for one match and fine him $1000.
‘‘I was just a young fella from the Kapiti Coast and I wasn’t really used to the lime light,’’ he said.
‘‘I think I’ve just matured a bit and know the consequences now if you are in the public you have to be a bit careful with your actions.
‘‘That was a hard lesson, my name got dragged through the papers a lot and it hurt my parents as well. I never want to do something like that again to harm my family.’’
Today he made them proud.
Coles has been picked mainly for his dynamic play around the field, but put his selection, ahead of Hawke’s Bay’s Hika Elliot, down to his improved lineout throwing and scrummaging, and to getting regular game time.
Several years behind Hore had been frustrating, but made him work harder before his breakout season this year.
‘‘It’s made me a little bit stronger, a little bit hungrier to realise my dream,’’ Coles said.
‘‘There was a massive opportunity for a hooker to step up. I wanted to make that my goal and I did that. If you are staring in the No 2 spot you can play consistent rugby.’’
He feels as though he knows what to expect as an All Black after spending time in the camp earlier this year.
‘‘It was just the attention to detail. They are perfectionists. Obviously I’ll have a lot of info chucked at me because they’ve been together all year. I just have to do my homework and make sure I know my roles.’’
Who was the best-performed All Blacks forward on the northern tour?