Northland's pack will have a distinctly Whetton feel to it in the ITM Cup this season as Gary's sons William and Jack have signed two-year contracts with the province.
Signing for the Taniwha was not a difficult decision. "I want to get as much experience at this level as I can and move my career forward," William, 23, says. He decided to move north at the start of the year. To some degree, younger brother Jack, 20, piggy-backed on William's contract negotiations.
"This is a step that I really wanted to make and I dreamed about doing it even when I probably wasn't ready," Jack says. "When I learned that Northland were interested in me, I jumped at the opportunity. I am raring to go."
William is a No8/blindside flanker, similar to his uncle Alan, while Jack is a lock like his 58-test father. The brothers were raised on the North Shore and up until this season had turned out for Northcote.
William has been playing for Mid Northern since moving north a few weeks ago. Jack has also moved north but is living in Auckland from Thursdays to Sundays to finish the club season with Grammar Carlton.
"The rugby up here is pretty hardy," William says, "pretty much like it would be in Southland, I would imagine, the two tips of the country. The lifestyle itself is also pretty rugged and anything but flashy with boil-ups after training and such like. I think it will suit me really well."
William and Jack know they will have to fight for spots. "There are some really good players up here," Jack says, "but our aim is to start regularly".
The advantage in signing brothers is that they push each other in training like no one else can. "You don't want your brother to beat you at anything," Williams laughs, "and if they slacken off during training you certainly let them know".
Despite their progress, neither brother says they are thinking much about Super 15 selection yet.
"It's at the back of my mind but I am not getting ahead of myself," Jack says. "I haven't even made my ITM Cup debut."
And they say they won't have any trouble playing Auckland or North Harbour.
"If anything, you go harder when you play the place where you are from," William says.
The brothers are well over the attention that goes with being the sons of Auckland rugby royalty. "You learn to deal with it but it has been more of an issue with Dad's recent profile (as chairman of the Blues)," William says.By Todd Nicholls