North Otago and Maheno midfielder Sam Tatupu is looking to make his mark in the Heartland Championship. He talks to Oamaru Mail reporter Gus Patterson about the upcoming season.
Q Where are you originally from?
I am from Christchurch, a little town called Rolleston.
Q And you’re working at St Kevin’s College, what are you doing there?
I am teaching physical education and a little bit of outdoor education at St Kevin’s College. I am also the year 10 dean (pastoral care) and I work in the boys’ hostel with another North Otago player, Kayne Middleton.
Q What brought you to North Otago? Was it rugby or work?
I came down here to work at St Kevin’s. I did not know much about the place before I came here, so I am pretty happy that it is an awesome place to live and work.
Q How are you finding the rugby down here?
The rugby is awesome here. I like how each team has a small community behind it – the clubs are a lot more tight-knit than they are in Christchurch. There are also photos of the games by RINO every week, so most of the boys (Kayne) wait for the photo drop on Monday morning if they scored a try.
Q Outside of work and rugby, what do you enjoy?
I have found a good surf spot out at Kakanui. I spend my off days out there when it is warm. Other than that, I just like to kick it with my friends and family. But between work, the hostel, footy, and regular trips to see Simon (our physio) I am pretty busy.
Q And how did you end up playing for Maheno?
I did not really get a choice in the matter because my boss, and local sporting hero, Craig Smith, told me that I was playing for Maheno – end of story. Also, another workmate who was here from England, Mike Lawrence, was working at St Kevin’s and playing for Maheno. So it kind of just happened without me even saying ‘yes’.
Q What was it like winning the Citizens Shield this year?
It was epic. I was not able to play in the semifinal last year when we lost to Kurow because of concussion, so to be able to play the semi and the final this year and win it all was unreal. We also did not have the strongest second round this year, and everyone had kind of written us off. We lost to Blues 71-28 in the second round and the kids at school, along with Kayne who plays for Blues, were giving me beans for it. So to win the Shield and wear my Maheno hoodie to school on the Monday following was priceless.
Q What are your goals for North Otago this year?
There is a big squad with heaps of good players in it this year, so my immediate goal is just to make the team and log a Heartland cap. I have only played three games for the top side and they have all been pre-season (against Southland and Otago Country last year, and in the Ranfurly Shield challenge this year against Otago). Fingers crossed I can put my hand up to be a part of the top side this year. Aside from that, I just want to get better at footy. Like I say, there are a lot of good rugby players in the squad, so it is an awesome chance for me to pick their brains and learn a few things.