Jarrad Hoeata didn't want to go overseas when he was over the hill.
So having reached a critical crossroads, and after careful consideration, the former All Black decided to sign a three-year deal with the Cardiff Blues. That way, the 30-year-old believes he moves on with plenty more to offer.
Hoeata was offered contract extensions with both the Highlanders and Taranaki, but he told Fairfax Media yesterday this juncture felt right.
"It was either stay in New Zealand for another year or have a look at my overseas options," he said. "I thought it would be a good time to go while I'm still on top of my game and can contribute rather than going over as a bit of retirement thing."
At the end of this Super Rugby season Hoeata expects to have no regrets about his decision. He grew up in Papamoa and attended Tauranga Boys' College before moving to Canterbury for teachers' college.
With a host of All Blacks blocking his path in Christchurch, Hoeata packed his boots for Taranaki and never looked back.
In his first of seven seasons with the amber-and-blacks he was player of the year and made the New Zealand sevens team.
"Making that move kicked off my career," he said.
From there the versatile lock-loose-forward played three tests against South Africa and Fiji in 2011. The New Zealand Maori jersey is another close to his heart. Debuting under aggressive captain Rua Tipoki in 2007 is an especially fond memory.
Along with the golden-sand beaches in the Bay of Plenty, he now considers the 'Naki and Dunedin, where he's experienced turbulent successes and failures during 46 games for the southern franchise, home.
"I'm definitely sad to leave all those jerseys behind but at the same time my partner and I are really excited about this new chapter."
Former Hurricanes turned 'Naki coach Colin Cooper and Highlanders mentor Jamie Joseph have been major influences on Hoeata's career. Coincidently or not, Joseph has also been strongly linked to the vacant Cardiff Blues coaching job with officials expected to interview him, along with outgoing Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett and Auckland coach Wayne Pivac, in New Zealand later this month.
"I joked with him about it," he said of Joseph. "He reckons there's no seafood or diving in Cardiff. I'm not sure what his plans are."
Before confirming his pending move, Hoeata consulted former 'Naki captain Paul Tito, who played 124 games for Cardiff from 2007-2012.
"I've heard a lot of good things about the place. Obviously the Welsh are a very proud rugby nation and Cardiff is a great team. I know they haven't played that well this season but I had a good talk to Paul Tito. He loved his time there and the people. Hopefully I can go there any help them grow again."
- Fairfax Media
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