Jarrad Hoeata loving life at North Harbour side shaking 'little brother' tag to Auckland
You don't need to be dyed in the wool North Harbour to get immense satisfaction out of thumping Auckland, just ask Jarrad Hoeata.
Promoted to the Mitre 10 Cup Premiership division after their 2016 Championship success, Harbour have been arguably the story of this season so far, racking up a four-from-four record to be the only unbeaten side alongside Canterbury.
Under new coach Tom Coventry, the former Chiefs assistant who is building on the work done by predecessor Steve Jackson, the North Shore-based outfit have accounted for Otago, Southland, Auckland and Counties Manukau to sit second behind the defending Premiership champions.
Another team on the rise, second-placed Championship side Northland loom as the fifth scalp in Whangarei on Thursday night.
But as Hoeata explained, there is little doubt it was their 57-10 round three thrashing of their biggest rivals that was celebrated the most.
"That was massive for us," said the 34-year-old who played eight seasons for Taranaki, collected 52 caps for the Highlanders and three All Blacks caps before taking up a contract with the Cardiff Blues in 2014.
"There are a lot of the boys in the Blues environment here [at Harbour] that have been seen as the little brother. We decided that is not how we are going to be seen, they can be the little brother.
"For guys like Jipper (Harbour captain James Parsons), who had won once maybe in eight years in the battle of the bridge, it was awesome to see how happy they were after that game.
"And, to be fair, in my early days with the Naki we got few towel ups from Auckland, so it was pretty good to be on the other side of the ledger."
Given how Harbour are travelling, it is easy to see why Hoeata is relishing being back on Kiwi soil.
The hard-nosed Mt Maunganui product played three tests in 2011 but missed out on the World Cup squad and in 2014, having "achieved everything I wanted to in New Zealand", ventured offshore.
Hoeata and his wife loved their three years in the Welsh capital, giving him the chance to experience a different style of rugby and them the opportunity to travel to 22 countries during that time.
The plan, though, was always to come home for "a season or two" and when a return to Taranaki wasn't possible for this season, Harbour gained the 1.95m-tall lock-loosie's services.
Hoeata admits his memories of Harbour prior to his departure meant he did a decent amount of ringing around before making the decision, but said all his research had proved reliable.
"It's just a lot of young guys really keen to do well, and the thing that's been most noticeable is they are not happy with just how they did last year, they're not done.
"They really want to push on and make a point it wasn't just a fluke they made it to they Premiership, they're not just going to be whipping boys every week and drop straight back down.
"You can tell people are enjoying not only that we're winning but how we're playing, with pride in the jersey. For a long time people didn't see that ... the goal really to just get that respect."
There is little doubt, on a personal level, Hoeata has already earned that with Coventry.
He has started every game as part of an understated forward pack taking plenty of pride in providing the "rock stars" in an exciting back-line with the ball they need to work their magic.
And while he was pleased with his own form, Hoeata said it wasn't the only reason he was happy with how his Harbour experience had panned out thus far.
"I did some coaching papers in the UK, it's something I'm looking at doing and I've really enjoyed helping out with the younger group.
"Being able to add value on the field has been a real bonus ... I was a bit worried how I'd go with the speed back here but I've actually found it really good.
"I still feel can mix it with most locks going round."