Tana Umaga encourages children to set goals

16:08, Apr 15 2014
Tana Umaga
SCHOOL SCRUM: Tana Umaga is mobbed by Whangaparaoa Primary School year 6 students.

Former All Black captain Tana Umaga originally wanted to play soccer but changed his mind when the awards started rolling in after a switch to rugby league in high school.

"I never received a player of the day, most improved, or any sporting award all the way through primary and secondary school until I was 16 years old," he says.

"Then I changed over to league and won something."

Next came rugby - and the rest is history.

Umaga has just signed up to stay on as coach of the Auckland-based Counties Manukau side until 2016.

He's also getting around the city's schools when time allows and inspiring a new generation of players.

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Among them are children at Whangaparaoa Primary, just north of Auckland.

"Anything is possible if you work hard enough. My sisters told me I used to draw 'I want to be an All Black' on the walls when I was a kid," he told pupils there this month.

"That was before I knew what goals were. Now I know what they are and work towards them. You can do that too."

Umaga says the most painful injury during his rugby career was an achilles tear just before his retirement in 2007.

"The injury wasn't too sore, but the operations and recovery were very hard."

Rodney Times