Hitting the ground running . . . Matt Maui (left) and Adyn Anguna, of the Cook Islands, have joined Excelsior Rugby Club this season. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE

As North Otago Rugby Union’s connection to the Cook Islands continues to grow, more players are taking up opportunities in Oamaru. This week, Kayla Hodge catches up with Adyn Anguna and Matt Maui, who have joined Excelsior Rugby Club.

From playing rugby league in Australia to rugby union in Oamaru – there’s not a lot Adyn Anguna and Matt Maui won’t try.

Two months ago, Anguna (20) and Maui (22) arrived in North Otago after being presented the opportunity to further their rugby union careers in New Zealand with Excelsior.

Anguna went to high school in Australia, on the Gold Coast, and played rugby league in the Queensland Cup.

When Covid-19 hit last year, he opted to return home to the Cook Islands and started playing rugby union, as it was the only sport still going at the time.

League required more fitness and was a “different grind”, but the structures between the two versions were similar, Anguna said.

Maui played rugby league in Sydney.

After growing up playing union and sevens in the Cook Islands, he told his coaches he was not happy and they transferred him to Australia’s Randwick Rugby Club.

Being part of that club helped him develop, and made him a better person, he said.

When the opportunity to move to Oamaru came up, it was too good to pass up.

“[There’s] lovely people, a good small town and [we’ve] just got to get used to the cold,” Maui said.

Maui – a utility back – said Excelsior had been an incredible club and they were both determined to contribute to the Citizens Shield team.

“The club is just overwhelming to us when we first came in. They really like having us here as well, and we’ve just gelled well with the team – we’re doing our best to help.”

Anguna, a loose forward, said the environment the Oamaru players and management had created for them was amazing.

He debuted for the club when Blues got its first win of the season against Athletic Marist, 29-19.

“It was pretty good to get our first win, coming off a loss from Old Boys [which] was pretty shocking,” Anguna said.

Outside rugby, Maui was working at Lean Meats and Anguna was working as a painter.

They both planned to stay in North Otago for the year, work hard for Blues and try to make the North Otago Heartland side.