Central midfielder Cole Eru has resisted the carrots from the "big city" rugby clubs and his Waipukurau-based club could experience an early reward for his decision today.
"If everything goes well we could make the top eight. We just have to stick to what we do well ... but at the same time anything can happen in sevens," Eru said as he pondered the Paladin Sports-sponsored Hawke's Bay Sevens at Central Park today.
Long-time Central stalwarts can't remember the last time Central made the top eight but Eru, 26, the sole Central player in the Hawke's Bay team which reached the quarter-finals at last month's Rotorua-hosted nationals agreed there was enough ammunition in the squad to tick that box off today. Pivot-hooker Eru will be joined by the likes of Daniel Hardwidge, exciting newcomer Jayden Milner from the East Coast and Kody Lancaster in the backs and workaholics Tomo Fogarty and George McPherson in the forwards.
Should the wet weather continue today the Central lads are expected to adapt easier than their Hastings and Napier counterparts.
"We've got a couple of big boys who will come in handy if we do have to play the short game. But we're hoping for fine weather so we can play the traditional game of sevens," Eru said.
The father of one who works as a roofing contractor for Turfreys in Waipukurau had several Napier and Hastings clubs chasing his services for this season but decided to have a third winter with Central.
"The family like it down here."
Eru said he learnt heaps from former New Zealand Sevens rep and Hawke's Bay Sevens head coach Tafai Ioasa during the representative campaign and has enjoyed bringing his learnings back into the Central team's environment.
"Defensive patterns, knowing when to hold and small stuff which applies around the ruck area have definitely been beneficial."
Once today's tournament ends his attention will turn to Central's 15-a-side training commitments and the Magpies wider training group sessions, which begin on Wednesday.
He is in his second season in the group and last year played for the Hawke's Bay Saracens.
"I want to give making the Magpies a serious crack again. I haven't had much of a break for more than two years now going straight from sevens to 15s but the body is holding up."
Eru did his first two years of secondary education at Napier Boys' High School before heading to Rathkeale College in Masterton for his final three years in 2006, '07 and '08. He represented Wairarapa Bush in the under-18 and under-18 age groups.
Before linking with the Central club he played for Waipawa and also had a couple of years in Australia where work, rather than rugby was the priority.
Central head coach and former Magpie Exham Wichman said Eru is proof a player can come from nowhere and make Hawke's Bay rep teams with a bit of hard work and dedication.
"Cole started out with Waipawa before coming to us and last year made the Saracens and Hawke's Bay Sevens teams. Cole has helped elevate sevens down here in Central and become a leader at the same time."
Today's tournament will involve 24 men's teams, 14 colts teams and eight women's teams playing 84 games. Napier Pirate Rugby and Sports are the defending champions and providing they are at full strength should join favourites Napier Old Boys Marist, national club championship quarter-finalists Napier Technical, Havelock North and Hastings Rugby and Sports as the Bay clubs in the men's quarterfinals.
It will be a surprise if Feilding Old Boys Oroua don't win a third consecutive women's title. Petone colts will also attempt a three-peat but they can expect close competition from the likes of MAC, Napier Old Boys Marist and Palmerston North Boys' High School A.
Former Black Fern and Hawke's Bay Tuis first five-eighth Rebecca Mahoney, who is Eketahuna-based these days, will be among the big-name referees in action. She was a finalist for the referee of the year award at the New Zealand Rugby Union Awards function last year and in 2011 captained the Eketahuna team to victory in the women's section of the Hawke's Bay Sevens.
Palmerston North's Brittany Andrews, who is also ranked among the country's top whistle blowers, will also strut her stuff.