Galu Taufale to make his Wellington Lions debut at the age of 29
Wellington Lions debutant Galu Taufale figured this would be his last year of premier club rugby.
After a decade slogging away, he was turning 29 without a single season of Jubilee Cup rugby to his name.
He'd even begun to think he was cursing the clubs he played for. Before he arrived at Poneke in 2012 he played one season of second-tier Hardham Cup rugby at Johnsonville, followed by four more at Wests Roosters.
In 2013, Poneke qualified for the Jubilee Cup after missing out in Taufale's first season, but the blindside flanker was stuck on the sideline with a torn ACL in his knee.
He recovered, but two more seasons in the second division followed.
"I thought I was the hoodoo, going to each club and only playing Hardham Cup, but I finally got the monkey off my back this year and played Jubilee Cup," Taufale said on Friday, after being named to start for the Lions against Hawke's Bay on Saturday.
"I was thinking this was going to be my last club season, then I got called into the Lions' wider training group and had games against Horowhenua and Wairarapa Bush."
He followed that up with three strong preseason performances which earned him his first provincial contract.
The only thing to do then was get time off from his fulltime job setting up events.
"I've been at my job for 12 years, so my boss knows what it's been like for me playing rugby all of those years. He was stoked for me to finally crack it and I was stoked that I could get the time off and still have the job there if I don't go further."
But he does have aspirations to continue this professional rugby gig.
"The goal since I started playing was to be a Lions player and to make my way up.
"As a little kid you always dream of playing for the All Blacks, as I got older that started slipping away, but I've still got a couple of good years - guys like Brad Thorn played till they were 40."
At the forefront of his mind are his wife, Ashleigh, and two kids Madden, 6, and Payton, 3.
Madden, a massive Hurricanes fan, turned six on Thursday. As an extra birthday present, his dad found out he'd be making his first start for the Lions.
Taufale's job now is to try hold down a starting spot when resting Hurricanes Brad Shields and Vaea Fifita return from niggly injuries.
"If I play well enough then I'll hopefully give the coaches a headache next week."