The inclusion of Matt Matich in the Northland Sevens team has helped create a brotherhood ahead of the first tournament in North Harbour this weekend, team coach Peter Nock said.
Matich, whose brother Anthony died 10 days ago in a Dargaville car accident, had originally planned on coming home from Auckland University to play in last weekend's Northland Club Sevens Competition alongside his brother.
Now, the 21-year-old will stay in Northland for the summer and take what would have been his brother's spot in the Northland Sevens squad - withdrawing from the Auckland team which he had already been named in.
"I was coming up for the one tournament and playing with Tink [Anthony] and that [the accident] happened just before," said Matich. "Then I heard Tink was going to be named in the squad."
"All the [Western] Sharks boys were going hard for Tink, but, yeah, it was like something was missing. It's kind of like I've got that extra motivation now, when I'm doing the hard trainings I think of him."
Matich said staying in Northland would mean he can be nearer to his family at this difficult time, something his father would be grateful for.
"I think my dad's really happy about it, he's needed some boys up here. My other two brothers came over from Perth, one's heading back but the other will probably stick around until New Year's."
Nock described Matich as a "rock star" after he put on a strong showing at Monday's training.
"He fronted up at the first training and mate, he's a rock star, I can't speak highly enough of him," said Nock. "He just adds something to the team. There's real commitment in the team and I think Matty has set the bar."
Some of the players admired Matich's mana after agreeing to fill what was effectively his brother's spot in the squad, said Nock.
The team currently has an exciting feel to it and he believes they will be up to national standard come the National Provincial Rugby Sevens Tournament in Queenstown in January, Nock said.
"The team has a real local feel to it which has excited the boys. It's a fair comment that in the past there have been a lot of imports, but this year we are a bunch of brothers."
Nock confirmed Matich's transfer from Auckland's Sevens team was complete and he was all go for Northland.