TINO Nemani wants to be remembered more for his rugby exploits in 2013 than his hairdo.
Few Hawke's Bay Magpies fans will forget the Dennis Rodman hairstyle Magpies winger Nemani had for a fair chunk of last year's ITM Cup. Unfortunately for Nemani, his cup form wasn't as outstanding as the hairdo.
Injuries caused Nemani, 21, to switch to a midfield role for a couple of games, and he struggled. His confidence was obviously knocked, and upon returning to his regular wing role he still struggled to recapture the class which saw him gain Chiefs Super Rugby selection the previous year.
"One has to make the most of every chance you get at ITM Cup level and there are no excuses for my form last year. We just have to do better in the ITM Cup this year," Nemani said.
Nemani is aiming for a positive start to the year when he makes his debut for the HBS Bank Hawke's Bay Sevens team at today's Pre-Nationals tournament in Mount Maunganui. The Chiefs coaches are happy for Nemani to be playing Sevens this month as it will give him an opportunity to focus on one of his work-ons - beating his marker on the outside.
"The aim is to play well enough to get selected in the side to go to Queenstown for the following weekend's nationals ... I haven't been to the nationals before," said Nemani, before Thursday night's training for the side at Elwood Park in Hastings.
A Chiefs wider-training-group member for the 2013 season, Nemani, missed the Bay Sevens side's last trip to Tauranga in November because he was playing in a Sevens tournament in Fiji. He missed last month's Central Region tournament on Chiefs medical staff's orders because of a virus which was playing havoc with his endurance training.
"I'm dying to have a run this weekend," Nemani said.
He recently returned from a five-day holiday in Fiji with family including his father, former Fiji soccer player Maritino Nemani snr.
"There was no electricity after the recent cyclone there, but we got through it," Nemani said.
He hasn't ruled out another Rodman-style hairdo this year either.
"If Rodney Wayne Hairdressing are sponsoring the Magpies again, there could be another one," he warned.
Almost as significant as the selection of Nemani is the naming of former Hurricanes halfback Chris Eaton, who like Nemani will add valuable experience and leadership to the side in the absence of All Black Sevens squad member Gillies Kaka and experienced forward Adam Bradey, who are recovering from minor injuries in the build-up to Queenstown.
Bay manager Conrad Waitoa said Eaton, who is no stranger to Sevens nationals, has been training well with the squad and is keeping his fitness up in case of Super Rugby selection later this summer.
Others who didn't play in the Palmerston North-hosted Central Region tournament which Hawke's Bay won last month are New Zealand under-20 trialists Tamati Samuels and Sheridan Rangihuna of the Napier Technical club and promising Hastings Rugby and Sports forward George Crichton.
Havelock North's North Otago Heartland Championship player Tony Lamborn is unavailable because of work commitments and will be hoping his Palmy form will be enough to secure a trip to Queenstown.
The Murdoch Paewai-coached Hawke's Bay are seeded third for tomorrow's tournament and will meet Auckland and Counties-Manukau in pool play. With hosts Bay of Plenty, defending champions Taranaki, Northern Region winners Waikato and runners-up North Harbour, South Island runners-up Canterbury and Central Region runners-up Manawatu also entered, the quality of opposition will be as good as in Queenstown.
Bay team: Trent Boswell-Wakefield, Isaac Paewai (vice captain), George Crichton, Ihaia West (captain), Brad Nicol, Trinity Spooner-Neera, Penikolo Latu, Sheridan Rangihuna, Michael Vuicakau, Adam Blake, Tino Nemani, Peniasi Tokakece, Tamati Samuels, Chris Eaton.