Howard Packman has quite the rugby CV, representing England at age grade – including the England under-20s squad that won the junior world championships in 2014 – and sevens. His father played for the Northampton Staints 376 times between 1982 and 1996, and Packman made it through the club’s academy to play for the senior team. Oamaru Mail reporter Gus Patterson puts a few questions to the Valley fullback about how he is finding rugby in North Otago.
Q Where do you come from, Howard?
I’m from a place called Northampton. It’s famous for its shoes but nothing really happens there – it has some decent country pubs but that’s about it.
Q Who were you playing for before Valley?
Last season, I played in the championship for a team called Ealing Trailfinders. We came second to London Irish, which is the team where Waisake Naholo is heading. I have also played for Bedford and Northhampton.
Q What do you do for a crust?
I play rugby fulltime in England – so it’s been a bit of a change coming to Oamaru and getting stuck into work. I’ve enjoyed it so far. Everyone has been incredibly nice and easy to get on with.
Q How did you end up coming to North Otago and playing for Valley?
I am close with a coach at my old club, Bedford – that’s where Colin Jackson used to be, and I got out in touch with him towards the end of the season.
With help from my dad, we sorted it all out and just came straight out. I had a few injuries the past two seasons so I didn’t need a break and I was desperate to keep playing. I also know Dan Lewis, who was here last year and he couldn’t say enough good things about the place.
Q How are you finding the rugby so far?
been great. I had a couple of weeks off with a hip problem but straight back into it with a good win over Maheno. Rugby is looked at differently here – it’s more focused on attacking rugby and skill rather than big men running straight into each other. The thing I like about Valley is if there is any input from players, coaches are willing to listen and implement it. If it doesn’t work, we try something else. It’s great to have a change of mindset with it. Boys get stuck into the beer and just enjoy it and get on well, something which could be improved back home.
Q What are you doing outside of rugby?
I’m working at Milligans. The guys there have been kind enough to give me some work so I can live and pay the rent. I’ve enjoyed my first few weeks there. The boys at Valley are looking after me – dinners, pool sessions and hikes. I say yes to most things I get asked to do as I don’t want to be just sitting around not doing something or seeing the country.
Q There is a chance you could be representing North Otago in the Ranfurly Shield challenge. What do you know about the shield?
I’m very excited about that game. It is not very often you get a chance to win something, especially something rich in history like the shield. I went to Fat Sally’s the other day when it was there to soak up some information and what it means to people here and I spoke to the president of Otago rugby about it. I’d love to win it and I’ll give everything I have to do so, which I’m sure the lads in the playing squad will also do. It is a great opportunity to show what you’re about against some top players.
Q Anything else you have on your North Otago/New Zealand bucket list?
Just to see as much as possible – all the top hikes, Queenstown and hopefully some skiing at some stage. My dad played with Buck Shelford and was coached by Glenn Ross and messaged them when I came out. I recieved replies a couple of weeks ago, so if I could get up to Auckland and over to Hamilton I would love to pick their brains and hear some stories they have to tell.
Q What are your ambitions in the game? Do you think coming to New Zealand will help your development as a player?
I still have international ambitions as a player. I take encouragement from some older guys at 28 or 29 getting their first call-ups back home. I recently turned 24, so I probably should have made this trip a few years ago, but due to injuries and the like it didn’t happen. I can take so much from the game over here and am just trying to listen and take in everything I can in training and games. It’s not just the rugby. It is also to grow as a person and just get some life experiences – putting myself in situations I wouldn’t get back home.
Q Who is the best player you have played with or against?
With – I would have to say Dylan Hartley and Teimana Harrison. Both from New Zealand and changed alliances to England. Against – Handre Pollard and Tevita Li. I picked these two just because of when we played the under-20s tournament – those two guys stood out above the rest.
Q What is your hidden talent?
I fancy myself at lawn bowls and think I’m pretty good. Dylan Edwards plays so maybe I could get a game with him, if he’s allowed out.