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Different turf . . . Tainui hockey player George Smith is enjoying his time with the club and his job at the Oamaru Veterinary Centre. PHOTO: DANIEL BIRCHFIELD

When a shoulder injury ended his rugby career, George Smith decided to take up hockey. As it turns out, rugby’s loss was the Tainui Hockey Club’s gain, as reporter Daniel Birchfield finds out.

Q How old are you, George?
I’m 26.

Q Where are you from originally?
A little place called Waikaretu, which is halfway between Raglan and Port Waikato. I’m off a sheep and beef farm up there.

Q Where were you educated?
Te Kauwhata College, then I went through Massey University in Palmerston North for seven years. I did a bachelor of science majoring in agriculture as well as a veterinary degree so it was a long haul, but definitely worth it. Both degrees work in combination very, very well.

Q How have you ended up at the Oamaru Veterinary Centre?
Basically, at the end of vet school you are busy looking for a job. I got in contact with these guys, so I came down and saw them and really liked what they do here. I thought the opportunity was too good to pass up.

Q Has hockey always been a big part of your life?
No. I played 10 seasons of rugby before I did my shoulder in fifth form. I thought my health was too valuable to keep going so I played hockey in my last two years at high school, and once I was at vet school I played through and continued to play down here. I love it.

Q How has life been for you at the Tainui club?
I’ve loved it. It’s a very inclusive club and they really took me under their wing. When you get to a new town, you have got to meet people one way or another.

Q Tainui has had a difficult start to the season. Is the club looking to make a charge now?
In the first round, we had a lot of younger players and it took a little while for people to get used to playing with each other, but we have improved hugely. The highlight so far is beating Temuka, so that gave us a huge amount of confidence and gave us a stepping stone for the second and third round. On our day, we could challenge a lot of teams.

Q What do you like to get up to when you’re not working or playing hockey?
I play tennis, a bit of squash and a few rounds of golf. I like to be in the outdoors, so I’m still travelling around the South Island. I really like being involved in the community.

Q What are you enjoying about working as a vet?
The opportunity to work in a really mixed practice. On any given day, you could be working with deer or cows on a dairy farm, or small animals. You never know what you are going to do next. Because of the size of the properties here, you are forever learning and challenging yourself. That’s really important … you need to be able to handle your basic skills. It’s a very busy practice.