Hoani Matenga has finally achieved one of his great rugby ambitions.
The 31-year-old Steamers No 8 is one of two Bay of Plenty players – the other is fellow loose forward Mitchell Karpik – to make the Maori All Black squad for matches in Chicago, Chile and Brazil next month.
"It's been a dream of mine ever since I can remember throwing the ball around with the old man, and to make it at 31 with a few disappointments, not making it over the years, the meaning is a lot more," says the much-travelled and multi-talented Matenga.
Originally from Christchurch and part of a Christchurch Boys High School 1st XV that included future All Blacks Owen Franks and Colin Slade, Matenga has played rugby in Spain, France, Japan and Australia as well for the Blues and the Wellington Lions and was in the Highlanders wider training squad during his days at university in Dunedin.
That's when he was also the original bass player for a band called Six60 and is immensely proud of the extraordinary popularity the band has now, selling 50,000 tickets to a concert at Western Springs this summer.
"I'll be backstage with the boys there. I was talking to (lead singer) Matiu and he said come up and enjoy the show. It'll be a hell of a festival. They've made history there and so they should. They've been working bloody hard. You don't see all their behind the scenes stuff," he says.
"If there's ever a band that's worked hard to get where they are now, it's them. I'm hugely proud of them."
Matenga has finished the first year of a two-season deal with the Steamers and even though there is no semifinals place this weekend, he's not disheartened by some aspects of how the side went.
"I thought our forward pack was pretty dominant all year. Your performance as number 8 is always better when your forward pack is going forward," he says.
"In our tight five Kane Le'aupepe and Baden Wardlaw were outstanding and when your scrum is going forward you can look like a million bucks from the back of the scrum and I managed to get a few ball carries and a few good performances there, which was enough."
A self-styled rugby gypsy who'll have to compete with Akira Ioane for game time at No 8 in the Maori All Blacks, Matenga isn't overly optimistic about getting any more Super Rugby action though.
"You've always got a chance if you're playing in the Mitre 10 Cup, but I don't know how many contracts are up for grabs," says the player who doesn't even have an agent these days.
"They tend to sign these young punks on five-year deals straight out of school these days, so there's not many contracts on offer. But there's always injuries with the brutality of the comp, so yeah, I'm available, but it's always nice to have an off season in Mount Maunganui."