On the up . . . Athletic Marist prop Lisivani Tu'ifua was selected as part of the New Zealand Marist Colts team, and was named best forward in his inaugural tour. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE

Falling in love with Oamaru has helped Lisivani Tu’ifua take his rugby career further.

The Tongan-born rugby player moved from Auckland to Oamaru last year and said joining the Athletic Marist rugby club had opened doors for him in New Zealand rugby.

The 22-year-old was selected for the New Zealand Marist Colts side, playing four matches, on the West Coast, and in Nelson and Wellington. He was rapt just to be selected, but the experience was topped off when he was named best forward of the tour.

“I was pretty surprised. I had really good support from all the players and coaches,” Tu’ifua said.

As one of only a handful of props and due to injuries and other rugby commitments, Tu’ifua played nearly four full games for the team.

The New Zealand Marist Colts won all four games, including its match against Heartland side West Coast, and Tasman Makos under-19s.

“They were really hard, good teams. We came back in the second half to win.”

Playing four games in one week was exhausting, and there was no time to recover.

However, the experience, which included being coached by former All Black prop Steve McDowell, was great, he said.

“I really loved it, meeting the players, and I learnt a lot from Steve.”

Tu’ifua – who represented Tonga at the under-20 world cup in 2019 – would now switch his mindset to Heartland, having been named in the Old Golds squad for the first time.

He was excited about getting the most out of the representative season that he could, and was looking forward to it getting under way, after the first game was postponed due to Covid-19 uncertainty.

Tu’ifua’s sister, Onna Tangifolau, lives in Oamaru and during one of his visits to see her, he decided to move south, and had never looked back.

“I really like it here – it’s pretty chilled and the people here are so nice.”