When the names Te Ao Taumatangi Billing and Manukau Whata were called at a Rotorua Boys' High assembly as the 2019 head boy and deputy head boy, the pair was shocked.

"I was a little bit like 'was that my name?' It took a couple of seconds to register," Te Ao Taumatangi said.

"It's something I've never thought of achieving in my life."

Manukau, 17, said when his name was called as deputy, his reaction was blank while it registered.

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"It was pretty mind-blowing."

Rotorua Boys' High School deputy head boy Manukau Whata and head boy Te Ao Taumatangi Billing, both 17. Photo / Stephen Parker
Rotorua Boys' High School deputy head boy Manukau Whata and head boy Te Ao Taumatangi Billing, both 17. Photo / Stephen Parker

Both the boys went to kura kaupapa schools, with Manukau only learning English from Year 9, and Te Ao only learning from Year 7.

Manukau hoped in his role he could "uphold the mana of Raukura" and bring the school success in rugby and kapa haka, some of his interests.

Te Ao Taumatangi hoped he could be a role model to those striving to be the head boy in the future

"I'm looking forward to the role. I'm excited and nervous for the year. I'm not used to being in the limelight.

"I'd like to be a great head boy that everyone looks up to. It's a big role and there are big shoes to fill."

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For Te Ao Taumatangi 2018 was a turbulent year. A bad rugby injury saw him bed-ridden for five days but he went on to play a key role in the school play.

This year the 17-year-old hopes to get back on the rugby field.

"It took a hard toll mentally ... It was a tough situation but my family were there 100 per cent by my side."

He has been named in a school squad headed to France in April this year but has yet to play his first game since the accident.

When asked what made him a good fit for the role, Te Ao Taumatangi said it was his ability to connect with people, particularly those in the school hostel where he's lived for four years.

"The first week is always the toughest, you're away from home, mum won't do your washing or cleaning.

"For some boys, that's really hard."

There are high standards in the hostel and Te Ao Taumatangi has high standards for himself too.

Both he and Manukau said they would bring their culture to the roles and embrace their Māori culture.

"I love who I am and I love our culture," Te Ao Taumatangi said.

Rotorua's other 2019 head prefects shared their reactions to the news in today's Rotorua Daily Post.