A lack of enjoyment while playing rugby in North Harbour was the signal for Shae Tucker ... it was time to return home.
"It was the first week of the Mitre 10 Cup last year and I didn't get selected. I played for the North Harbour Bs and picked up a hamstring injury. I tried to get it right for the back end of the season but was unable to," Tucker recalled.
"Now I'm home the big goal is to play for the Magpies."
Tucker, who left the Bay at the beginning of 2014, had his first outing in five months with 60 minutes for Napier Old Boys Marist in a pre-season romp against Palmerston North Marist at Park Island on Saturday.
He was happy with how his body coped and aims to build on that display during NOBM's quest to retain the Spillane Cup at the 87th edition of the tournament in Auckland this week.
"I know I always played for Taradale when I was growing up but Craig [NOBM head coach Gowler] persuaded me to play for NOBM," centre Tucker explained.
A former Hawke's Bay Ross Shield rep (two seasons), Hawke's Bay under-14 rep, Hawke's Bay under-16 rep (two seasons) and Hawke's Bay under-18 player, Tucker, 22, played 50 games for the university premiers while completing a bachelor of commerce and accounting degree at the University of Otago.
He also played for Otago B and in 2016 scored 36 points in eight appearances as a loan player for North Otago as they won the Heartland Division's Lochore Cup.
Clive loosie and 2017 Magpie Lucas Goodin was a North Otago teammate of Tucker.
Although Tucker has had talks with new Magpies head coach Mark Ozich he hasn't been offered a Magpies contract. The PwC auditor has to play his way into the squad.
"I decided at the end of last year I've got one more year to give my all to try and get game time at Mitre 10 level. The best opportunity to do that was to come home."
While Tucker has been with the NOBM club for only a fortnight he said it had been easy to gauge how keen they were to retain the cup this week.
He is impressed with the talent throughout the Green Machine's squad and is looking forward to competing with club veteran Migao Lauano for starts in the No 13 jersey.
Coach Gowler is anticipating a tough weekend which will begin with a match against hosts Auckland Marist at 6.30pm on Friday.
"Beating Auckland Marist on their turf would be an accomplishment in itself. We'll be missing a few players and leaving Napier at 7.30am by bus on Friday will mean it will be a big first day but we thought that would be better than asking our players to take two days off work."
Both of his Magpies halfbacks, Zac Donaldson and Ellery Wilson, are unavailable so Sam Weber will have the bulk of the game time in the No 9 jersey. Flanker Willie Benson will be available only for Sunday's play and winger Mitch Drew will again be on Hurricanes under-20s duty.
The other Spillane Cup fixture will see Hutt Old Boys Marist take on Marist Albion of Christchurch on Friday. The winners of both fixtures will meet in Sunday's noon final and the losers will meet in the playoff for third.
Hastings Rugby and Sports will play in the Ham Cumming Cup division two grade and will meet Taranaki's Tukapa Rugby and Sports at 3.15pm on Saturday. Hamilton Marist will take on North Harbour's Marist University in the other division two fixture.
The winners of Sunday's division two final will gain promotion to division one for next year and the losers of the division one third and fourth playoff will be relegated. Hastings co-coach Bevan Lynch said his troops would be aiming for promotion.
Magpies prop Jason Long will return to the side for the weekend after missing last weekend's pre-season trip to Taihape where Hastings Rugby and Sports recovered from an early 14-0 deficit to record a nine tries to four victory against Taihape Rugby and Sports, who had beaten Hastings in the corresponding fixture last year.
Add former Hastings Rugby and Sports props Aleki Vuki and Josiah Tavita-Metcalfe and it's easy to gauge the Hastings team won't be short grunt in the engine room. However, they will miss the services of Magpies hooker Jacob Devery for the next month as he recovers from a thumb operation.
"Basically this weekend we will be displaying loyalty to those who have put in the hard yards between October and February. Some players have turned up in recent weeks but we have to reward those who have trained hard over the summer," Lynch added.