Maori All Blacks and Highlanders lock Tom Franklin is returning home to play for the Bay of Plenty Steamers in the 2017 Mitre 10 Cup.
Born in Opotiki, Franklin was part of the Junior World Championship-winning New Zealand Under 20 side in 2010. The 26-year-old lock has been impressive for the Highlanders and the Maori All Blacks, and spent time in the All Blacks squad last June. Noted for his attacking abilities with ball in hand, he should be an asset for the Bay of Plenty Steamers.
"I was keen to get back home and be around my family more and I am looking forward to the new challenge, to play for Bay of Plenty," says Franklin.
"I always thought one day I would love to play for Bay of Plenty and this opportunity came up and seemed like the time is right. It is an awesome opportunity and something I am really looking forward to," said Franklin.
Bay of Plenty Rugby Union chief executive Mike Rogers said: "It is always pleasing when we can bring back Bay players. With his Super Rugby and international experience, he will bring another level of professionalism to our team and I have no doubt he will prove to be a great contributor both on and off the field. Tom deciding to commit to the Bay I think highlights the confidence in how we are developing our environment."
Bay of Plenty Steamers head coach Clayton McMillan paid tribute to his character: "We are very pleased to have secured Tom's services for 2017 and have no doubt he will add considerable value to the team through his ability, leadership and professionalism.
"Tom was raised in the Eastern Bay, although he has forged his career in Otago and Highlanders colours. I know he has always maintained a desire to return home, to be close to family and represent the province he grew up in. That speaks a lot about his character and we welcome him home with open arms."