A year ago rookie New Zealand sevens rep Warwick Lahmert had all but given up hope of representing his country.
Twelve months on and the 25-year-old is about to depart for world series tournaments in Dubai and South Africa.
It's a far cry from November, 2011, when he was running around a muddy club ground in England after signing a low-key deal to play in Birmingham.
Then, out of the blue, veteran New Zealand sevens coach Gordon Tietjens sent out an invitation for him to join one of his training camps.
It was all the incentive the former Horowhenua-Kapiti man needed to get back on a plane and come home.
While things didn't fall into place immediately, Lahmert stuck steadfastly to his dream, trained the house down and eventually got a break last month when Tietjens named him to compete in the season's first world series event in Australia.
Things went reasonably well there, too, and the man they call "Wiz" left the tournament pretty satisfied in his own work, despite New Zealand crashing to Fiji in the final.
Since then he's been sticking to the training schedule and re-joined an enlarged squad in Mt Maunganui to battle it out for 12 spots on the plane.
The news he had made it came a couple of days ago.
"I was pretty dumbfounded, to be honest, when my name got read out, especially with all the ITM Cup players that were there in camp," he said.
"It felt like I was around a lot of stars, so it was a pretty emotional time for me when I got named."
Not that Lahmert wants that to be the high point of his sevens career.
"The hard work starts now," he said. "I had thought my time had passed because I had been to seven camps before and it's only the last two that have got me there."
So what's changed in his game to suddenly have Tietjens pen his name on the team sheet?
"I don't know. He told me to work on a few things, like my repeated speed and to show patience, which I did, I never gave up and he rewarded me with a crack at the Gold Coast.
"When I was there I just tried to do my best and it must have impressed him because he's giving me another go."
With a glut of halfbacks already at his disposal, Tietjens also encouraged Lahmert to adapt his game and play the hooker role.
It's a job he was enjoying, although he faces stiff competition from the experienced Lote Raikabula.
Lahmert will be joined in the squad by Taranaki's Kurt Baker, who will fly to Dubai after he's finished on the New Zealand Maori tour.
- Taranaki Daily News
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