Talk about a timely comeback for Taradale Rugby and Sports outside back Brynn Uriarau last weekend.
In his first starting XV appearance of the season following surgery on a hand injury collected at the Hawke's Bay Sevens in February, former Chiefs Development player Uriarau became the week 13 winner in the tussle for the McDonald's-Hawke's Bay Today Club Rugby Player of the Year award with his player-of-the-match display in a 69-5 drubbing of Altherm Window Systems Napier Technical at Whitmore Park.
Uriarau scored two tries and was just as polished at centre in the second half as he was on the wing in the first.
But more important than the award recognition was the fact Uriarau, 29, got much-needed game time before flying to Rarotonga on Saturday to prepare for the Cook Islands team's two test matches against Hong Kong which are both qualifiers for next year's World Cup in Japan.
"I just had to bite the bullet with the hand injury and spend 12 weeks on the sidelines. Before the weekend I had 40 minutes off the bench for Taradale against the old club," Uriarau said, referring to Tanalised Napier Pirate Rugby and Sports.
The business development manager for NOW qualifies for the Cook Islands side through his father Tuk. The first test will be played in Rarotonga on June 30 and the second in Hong Kong on July 7.
"If the series is drawn the team with the best differential will qualify for the next stage in the qualification process. I played against Hong Kong when I was in the Chiefs Development team in 2015 ... I never thought I would be back," Uriarau said.
"The Cook Islands selectors saw me in action at the Sevens Heaven tournaments in Rarotonga last year and in 2016. Both Zac [Guildford] and I played in them ... he's a star over there."
Uriarau left the Bay at the start of the 2015 with the aim of cracking the Bay of Plenty Steamers ITM Cup squad. However after a couple of pre-season games for the Steamers he required double hip surgery.
"My body was pretty knocked around after a big 2014 year. But I've had no issues with the hip since then and I'm just enjoying playing my club footy again."
In 2014 he scored eight tries for Poverty Bay in their Heartland Championship campaign after scoring 16, including back-to-back hat-tricks for Napier Pirate Rugby and Sports. Uriarau is enjoying being back with the Taradale club who he played for from the age of four up to 12th grade level and gained Napier A, B, C and D rep team selection from.
"It's a shame I'm going to miss the next three games but I'll be back to help the boys out as much as possible when I return. Yes Tech were missing a few of their players at the weekend but that result was a step in the right direction for us."
A former Hawke's Bay age group rep who had two years in the Napier Boys' High School 1st XV, Uriarau, has no plans to chase any form of rep selection upon his return from Hong Kong.
"It's important I just put my head down and focus on the overseas stuff for now," he added.
Best & Fairest
Taradale v Napier Technical: 3, Brynn Uriarau (Taradale); 2, Nathan Tweedy (Taradale); 1, Ashton Tuck (Taradale).
Havelock North v Tamatea: 3, Mikey Vuicakau (Havelock); 2, Mason Kean (Tamatea); 1, Adam Blake (Havelock).
NOBM v Clive: 3, Sean Skeet (NOBM); 2, Johnny Lauano (NOBM); 1, Shae Tucker (NOBM).
Pirate v Central: 3, Sean Morrison (Pirate); 2, Warwick Slingsby (Central); 1, Pouri Rakete-Stones (Pirate).
Hastings v MAC: 3, Fale Matamata (Hastings); 2, Solomone Funaki (MAC); 1, Jason Long (Hastings).
Leaderboard: 14 points: Chris Johnston (NOBM). 9: Johnny Ika (MAC), Pouri Rakete-Stones (Pirate). 8: Aleki Vuki (Hastings), Mason Kean (Tamatea), Tom Parsons (Central). 7: Ben Hamelink, Danny Toala, Timo Vaiusu (all Hastings), Ricky Hayes, Hannon Brighouse (both NOBM), Lincoln McClutchie (Tamatea), Fa'alemiga Selesele (MAC). 6: Michael Buckley (NOBM), Solomone Funaki (MAC), Mark Braidwood (Tech).