Aussie Warriors' import Blake Ayshford is loving Auckland, where he has settled in Pakuranga with his fiancee, graphic designer Maria Hahipene, and their two young children, Mason, 4 and Marley, 2.

Last year Ayshford was at a crossroads with the Cronulla Sharks and was contemplating a move to rugby union or Super League in England. That was before the Warriors came calling. The 27-year-old centre, with 124 NRL appearances, credits the move and the club for improving his life and he has never been happier.

"I needed to get out of the fish bowl that is Sydney and rugby league. It's rugby league all the time there.

"I've been able to take my mind off the game and that has helped me. Everyone gets on here and that's odd, but in a good way. There aren't the cliques you get in Sydney and that's what I love about it.


"The drinking culture isn't as strong here as it is in Sydney, which is such a positive. There are also a lot more laughs than you get in Sydney clubs, making it a much happier environment.

"I'm a laidback person and it's more cruisey here. There aren't as many people and there's a lot more room to move. I can see myself settling in New Zealand for good. I like the culture."

Ayshford can't speak highly enough of his new teammates. He was worried about their reaction when we called him a hunk. We think he'll get more of a ribbing when the mostly inked team find out why he has no tattoos.

"I'm scared of the pain involved," he admits. "If I was to get a tattoo I'd want to make it really mean something."

Hahipene, 26, from Whakatane, is enjoying being home, too. Her brother Leon is great mates with fellow league star Benji Marshall, also from Whakatane, and the couple met through him. "He texted me on Monday night to congratulate me on our win. We speak to each other regularly," Ayshford says.

The couple have been busy with work and family time since arriving and have yet to enjoy a night out. They're looking to send the kids to the grandparents' soon so they can check out Auckland's hospitality. First stop will be karaoke.

"I love karaoke. I like to think I can hold a tune. My go-to song? You might have heard it for my run-on song? Sweet Caroline."

With some wins under their belt, can the Warriors take out the season, Spy asked?

"The potential is certainly there. We've just got to work hard and keep heading in the direction we're going."