Hoeata hopes Maori team tour history repeats
Back in 2010 Jarrad Hoeata used an outstanding centenary series with the New Zealand Maori to light the fuse on his professional career.
Dare he go back to the well one more time? The Taranaki and Highlanders hard man is certainly hoping so as he looks for another "kick-start" after leaving last night for the Maori team's three-game tour of England.
Hoeata, like several of his colleagues, still has higher ambitions and understands the benefits a tour like this can have, not only in terms of exposure, but in raising your stock with a certain head coach.
When Hoeata last played for the Maori in 2010 during a series that saw them knock off Ireland and England over consecutive outings, he was a disgruntled, seldom-used Chief with a career stuck in neutral.
Then Jamie Joseph, who moonlights as Maori coach around his Super Rugby commitments, picked the hard-nosed utility forward for his Highlanders and before long Hoeata found himself called into the All Blacks on the back of a standout campaign in Dunedin.
Now he finds himself in need of another dose of Maori magic, after a Super season curtailed by off-season pectoral surgery that saw the lock/blindside flanker cede ground in the national pecking order.
Hoeata said playing for the Maori was always something special for him and his family, but even more so as he looked to once again turn things round on the rugby field.
"For me that [2010 series] kick-started my career," he said before the team's official farewell at the Orakei marae.
"I'd had a year at the Chiefs but didn't get much time, then when Jamie got me down to the Highlanders it kind of kicked things off."
Hoeata never really got things going for the Highlanders this season but was feeling better after a solid campaign with Taranaki that saw the Amber and Blacks get within inches of a spot in the grand final.
"My confidence really came back and I enjoyed the way we were playing in the NPC," he added. "This is another stepping stone, hopefully a big kick-start, then I can rip into Super Rugby like I did after the last Maori tour."
Eyebrows were raised in some circles over the lightweight mature of the itinerary put up, but Hoeata said the focus was firm among a pretty capable group.
"Every game the Maori All Blacks play we go out to win - it's why we've got such a proud record. I don't think they've lost too many games, and we'll definitely be trying to uphold that proud record."
Hoeata expects to play lock in a pack that, with the likes of Hika Elliot, Ben May, Ben Afeaki, Jason Eaton and Tamati Ellison should have plenty of grunt.
"Scrummaging is their main thing up there, and they've got some big boys, but our pack's not too bad, and we won't shy away in that area."
He's also enthused about the Highlanders' additions for 2012, which includes a heavyweight trio of Tony Woodcock, Ma'a Nonu and Brad Thorn.
"It's crazy. Jamie's a pretty good recruitment officer. He's brought in some big guns, and the expectations will be huge next year.
"That injury kind of set me back this year, but I feel really hungry, really wanting to fire and get going again. It's like how I felt when I first went down there."
The Maori open their tour with a clash against the Leicester Tigers next Wednesday.
NZ Maori itinerary: 13 November, v Leicester Tigers, Welford Road Stadium; 17 November, v Championship Select XV, Castle Park; 23 November, v Canada, Oxford University.
- © Fairfax NZ News