NRL: Heremaia back in the fold

By Peter Jessup

When Aaron Heremaia gets his first run in the NRL he will be Warrior number 151 but he may have been closer to number 51 had he made the most of his first opportunity at the club.

Heremaia has been around the world pursuing a professional league career and now he is back, full circle, at the club where he first got a chance and blew it.

He played through the grades at the Manurewa club as a halfback/hooker then went to Hibiscus Coast under co-coaches Tony Benson and Brian "Bluey" McClennan, made the Junior Kiwis and was signed to the Warriors development programme in 2000, age 17.

"I had the attitude 'I've already made it' but that was the easy part," he said as he prepared for the game against the Roosters tomorrow.

Heremaia, now 26, is named 18th man for the second time this season. "I've got to be close, I'm a chance. I'm itching for a game, after playing the trials I just want more," he said.

From the Bartercard Cup and once cut by the Warriors he went to the Wests Tigers then North Sydney Bears, where he learned more about a number seven's trade under former Kiwis halfback Gary Freeman for two seasons and in 2003 was named the Bears supporters' club player of the year. From there to Halifax, Widnes and then Leigh Centurions, where Benson had been appointed coach.

He played well for them but when his work visa expired last year, came back to Auckland and played the 2008 season for the Warriors feeder side the Vulcans.

Good performances there saw him called into the pre-season and after showing form in the trials, he awaits his chance.

"It's a great challenge. It was good fun in the trials and I'm sure I'll get my chance, I just have to be patient and keep myself ready. This is the first full and proper pre-season I've ever had and by far the hardest so I'm feeling much better. I needed to get fit, lose some weight. I was just getting through games - now I'm confident I'll be playing consistently all the way through games."

He is a good field kicker and when at hooker likes to add variety to the team game by kicking out of dummy-half, studying experts such as Cameron Smith.

Heremaia has a one-year contract and knows he has to impress to fulfill his aim of becoming a Warrior long-term.

He also accepts that there is significant talent in front of him in Stacey Jones, Nathan Fien and Lance Hohaia.

"I know I have to show them what I can do. I know I can make it - the trials gave me confidence about that.

He wants to stick around "because I've done my travelling already".


* Born September 19, 1982, Perth
* 175cm 88kg halfback/hooker
* Junior club Manurewa
* 2000 Warriors development programme
* 2001 Junior Kiwis, Wests Tigers
* 2002-03 North Sydney Bears
* 2004-07 Halifax, Widnes, Leigh
* 2008 Auckland Vulcans

- NZ Herald

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