Soccer: Mum's the word for centreback

By Anendra Singh

Is it simply a case of providence or one that entails a healthy dose of prudence from the very root of his existence?

One could argue Tuhiwai Kennedy was at the right place at the right time when he caught the eye of former West Ham goalkeeper Steve Baker during the national secondary schools' soccer tournament in Nelson at the end of term three.

Throw in the fact fellow Hastings Boys' High School first 11 teammate Toby Birchall's father had asked Baker, of Wellington, to help train the school's goalkeepers at the tournament and the game of chance starts taking shape.

That Baker is good mates with Wellington Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert also adds a little more spice to such coincidences.

"Steve saw me play and one night after a game against Tawa he gave Ricki Herbert a call," says the 18-year-old Cru Bar Maycenvale United centreback who spent a fortnight training with Phoenix players a week before the last term school holidays began.

"I was quite shocked when my school coach, Mr [Tony] Simons, told me I was going to train with Wellington Phoenix," says Kennedy, who on Wednesday attended the breakfast launching him as a member of the Chris Greatholder-coached 2012-13 Hawke's Bay United's greater squad for the ASB Premiership this summer.

On the flip side, there's the teenager's mother, Priscilla Kennedy, who believes the constitution of her son is built on the foundation of a dictum that calls on parents to invest selflessly in their children.

Priscilla should know because she single-handedly raised five boys in the face of adversity.

When Tuhiwai and twin brother Hami were born on August 26, 1994, she rejoiced but, tragically, a month later their father, Samuel, died.

"I banged on the doors for money from the iwi," says the registered enrolled nurse at the Mary Doyle Resthome in Havelock North where Tuhiwai also works four times a week.

"Mum's done a lot for us boys. She's worked really hard to give us what we want," says Tuhiwai who is part of the Bay United Youth campaign this summer, too.

A proud mum, who had to bide her time until the twins were old enough to gain full-time employment at the Hawke's Bay Hospital in Hastings, last night attended the Hawke's Bay High School sports awards at the Hastings RSA.

Tuhiwai and Hami, the school's basketball team captain, received accolades for their respective sports.

The twins' other sporty brother is former Hawks basketballer Rangi Kennedy, who now plays for Sydney and works there as an apprentice builder.

Priscilla's other sons are Robert, 36, the eldest, and Matthew.

"It wasn't easy, especially if you're a widowed mum," she says, reflecting and sharing Rangi's disappointment in not realising his dream of playing professional basketball in the United States.

In the mould of her half-glass-full attitude to life, she quickly points out Rangi has moved on and will be playing in a tournament embracing Malaysia and China soon. "I've lived a life where I put 100 per cent in for the boys to succeed.

"If you want your children to succeed you have to put in your support and have a positive outlook on life."

As for former Heretaunga Intermediate pupil Tuhiwai, Priscilla confesses she can't lay claim to any genetic qualities on her side, although they could be dormant. She doesn't have a sporting fibre in her body although the children's Ngati Kahungunu father was an avid rugby league player and softballer.

"I had an idea Tuhiwai had an interest in soccer," she says of her son who was born a few minutes after Hami and played Ross Shield rugby, too. "Tuhi and Hami have always had ability in sports," she says of the twins who have also delved into cricket for their school and the Cornwall Cricket Club.

Tuhiwai's work ethic is best exemplified as a child who diligently delivered pamphlets in mailboxes in the neighbourhood.

"In all honesty, I had no problems with him."

With his mother's endorsement comes a level of sobriety from the talented footballer when asked what the Phoenix training stint was like recently.

"It was really physical. In the first week there, I was sort of not keeping up with the pace and I couldn't find my feet," says the seventh-former who didn't find much time or space with the ball against the A-League players under assistant coach Chris Greenacre.

Much wiser, in the second week he stepped up.

"I had better control and put through one-touch passes so I was keeping up with the play."

It helped that Phoenix captain Andrew Durante and his men had managed to get a grasp of his first name.

"Andrew Durante is a real good character and he was complimenting me on the good things.

"I felt more like being part of the team with people calling out my name more often," says Kennedy, adding coach Herbert watched but would often stop play to point out things.

A Homeworx Pacific Premiership player for Maycenvale, Kennedy got on to the bench of the Dion Adams-coached Vale Central League side once last winter before they were relegated after just two seasons.

With the national summer league stipulating each team must have two youth players every game in their playing squad, Kennedy hopes to be in the equation this season as the Bill Robertson-captained side kick of their campaign on Sunday against Waikato United at Porritt Stadium, Hamilton.

"I'm not too fazed if I don't get picked," he says with a smile, comfortable in the knowledge that time is on his side and his youthful exuberance mustn't cast a shadow on the bigger picture.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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