HAVELOCK NORTH Rugby Club life member Tom Blake reckons he knows why captain Isaac Paewai is playing some of the best footy of his career.
"It's all the extra work Isaac has been putting in on his own to compensate for his new office-bound job," Blake said after the Progressive Meats Havelock North team's training session on Thursday night.
"It's 80:20. I still have a little bit of time on the tools," explained Paewai, a field service manager for Unison Fibre.
"I'm doing the extras on my own because it's Maddison Trophy time and we need to pick up our game. We can make the semifinals but we're definitely not there yet."
Paewai, 29, has an extra incentive to produce another top-shelf display today.
When the villagers host Altherm Window Systems Napier Technical in the round two Maddison Trophy encounter at Anderson Park and the feature match of their club day it will be his 150th outing for the hosts.
"It's just another game of footy. I'm happy to be playing and I'm keen to get out there and help the boys get the win," the former Magpies halfback said.
When the father-of-three who made his debut for the team in 2009 was reminded he is only the 10th player at the club to achieve the milestone he appreciated it a little more.
Former loosie Jason Skipper played 253 and a couple of Paewai's relations, Nathan Paewai and Adam Bradey, feature with 170 and 155 respectively.
"It's good to see a couple of the other boys from down home in Dannevirke on the list too," Paewai said.
A three-time Maddison Trophy winner's medal recipient - in 2010, '12 and '14 - Paewai, could mark one of his former apprentices in Johnny Bristol today.
"I'm not too worried whether it's Johnny or Dylan [Tech's other halfback Ramsay]. They both have their strengths and Tech keep rotating them from week to week. It's important we focus on our game because the Texans will be hurting after their loss to MAC," Paewai said.
Havelock North's third highest tryscorer in premier rugby with 67, Paewai, believed he could continue playing for several more seasons but was happy to take things "year by year".
"I've got to thank my partner Aorangi for allowing me to play. It's a good club to be around ... I've got a lot of good memories from my time here and certainly no regrets."
Paewai was quick to reply when quizzed on the best of his three Maddison Trophy title successes.
"That 53-10 win against Taradale in 2010. We had a pretty young team back then and scored some spectacular tries."
Along with Paewai, future All Blacks Sevens star Gillies Kaka and future Maori All Blacks five-eighth Ihaia West turned on plenty of razzle and dazzle.
The villagers player of the year in 2015 and '16, Paewai, has played in the Hawke's Bay Sevens title-winning team on five occasions - 2010, '11, '12, '14 and '15.
Blake, club president Conrad Waitoa and another relation, former Maori All Blacks and Magpies midfield back Murdoch Paewai, have been part of the coaching staff in both versions of the code for most of his career.
"As a rugby player, Isaac is a tactical mastermind, always looking for the next option. He is also one of the most physical attacking and defending players around," Waitoa said.
Another former Magpie, centre Star Timu, will play his 100th match for Auto Super Shoppe Hastings Rugby and Sports when they host Tanalised Napier Pirate Rugby and Sports in the feature match of their club day at Elwood Park today.
Other games will see K9 Petfoods Clive host Northfuels Central at Farndon Park, Jarks Tamatea host Taradale Rugby and Sports at the Hawke's Bay Regional Sports Park and MAC host defending champions WIT Napier Old Boys Marist at Flaxmere Park.
Meanwhile, Tamatea have lost five competition points for playing former All Blacks hooker Hika Elliot during last weekend's 66-30 loss to Napier Old Boys Marist at Park Island.
Hawke's Bay Rugby Union club development officer Gary Macdonald said the penalty was imposed for three reasons - Elliot didn't have an international clearance after returning from playing in France, he wasn't registered and the club was told by the union's registration officer prior to the game Elliot couldn't play.
Tamatea coach Matt Marsh said his club won't be appealing the penalty.
"We lost a prop with a head knock during the warm up. We talked about defaulting but at that stage it was 10 minutes before kick off and we didn't want to do that as we had defaulted to NOBM four weeks earlier. Hika was warming the boys up and said he was happy to play.
"While we accept the penalty, we're disappointed because the union have been so black and white about the ruling on this occasion when they haven't been in the past. It's hard enough playing in the competition and they do this to us not long after taking our two Japanese players off us too."
NOBM coach Craig Gowler said while he accepted it was "a rules are rules situation" it took the shine off how well Tamatea played in the 66-30 loss.