Toni Taufa just wants to be the best version of himself.
The loose forward has been a standout player for North Otago in his first Heartland campaign, but Taufa said his form was hard to explain.
‘‘I just try to do my best and make myself better and better. I learn a lot from the coaches, I ask them what to do to make me better and better,’’ Taufa said.
Taufa is quick in all aspects of the game — a powerful ballcarrier, over every ball at the breakdown and off the defence line. It has cemented him as a regular in the Old Golds starting line-up and Taufa was loving every minute on the field.
‘‘I really enjoy being around the the boys, I like the culture. It’s pretty fun, exciting and I learn a lot for my rugby career.’’
The Old Boys club player debuted in 2019 for the Old Golds in the team’s Ranfurly Shield challenge against Otago. However, work commitments at Pukueri’s Alliance Group forced him to miss the rest of the season.
Returning to the team ‘‘fulltime’’ this year, Taufa said playing for the Ranfurly Shield against Hawke’s Bay was the ‘‘best moment of my life’’.
Originally from Tonga, Taufa played under-18 and under-20s for Tonga before moving to Oamaru in 2018 for work opportunities. He was now settled in North Otago with his partner, Amiee Cook, and their young family.
‘‘I’ve got one daughter and one on the way. I really enjoy raising my family in this town,’’ he said.
North Otago is gearing up for a big match tomorrow against King Country, in a last-ditch bid to make the Lochore Cup final.
The Old Golds were fired up after last weekend’s 45-12 loss against Whanganui, Taufa said.
‘‘We need this win and we need all the boys to stand up, trust each other and trust our structure.
‘‘I’d ask all the North Otago fans to come along this weekend and support us, too.’’
Coach Jason Forrest said it was a big game for North Otago, and the team was desperate for the win.
In order for North Otago to make the Lochore Cup final, the Old Golds needed to beat winless King Country, and Poverty Bay needed to beat Horowhenua-Kapiti.
‘‘End of the day, all we can do it worry about what we’ve got to do this week — get five points for us and everything else is out of our control really,’’ Forrest said.
The Old Golds beat King Country in a pre-season tour earlier this year but Forrest said it was a completely different side now.
North Otago would take positives from last week’s match and go out to have some fun, he said.