Suggest to Napier Old Boys Marist rugby speedster Saia Paese his life couldn't be better and he nods his head.
Paese celebrated his 21st birthday on Saturday with a hat trick in his club team's 54-24 Maddison Trophy first round win against MAC at Park Island. Tomorrow he will start at fullback for the Magpies in their first pre-season outing for 2019 against the Tasman Mako in Wellington.
"I'm pretty stoked," Paese said before the Magpies trained on Monday night.
While most of his club rugby has been at centre this season, the kitchen installer for Greg Harman Joinery, who has scored 13 tries in club play this season, had plenty of game time in the No 15 jersey last year.
"I don't really mind where I play as long as I am playing. I'm just happy I am starting," Paese said.
"I've still got to earn a Magpies Mitre 10 Cup contract so I just hope everything goes well.
"We've only had four trainings but the boys are gelling well. It's mean being able to train with some of the best players in Hawke's Bay," Paese said.
The Hawke's Bay Sevens representative, who is in his second season in the Bay after transferring from Wellington, pointed out his biggest work on in the switch back to fullback has been communication.
"There's a lot more talking at the back."
Like his Magpies teammates, Paese, knows little about the Mako side they will face tomorrow.
"We know they will come out hissing. It's going to be a tough game and we're all looking forward to it."
Paese is one of two members of the 2015 Wellington Secondary Schools premier title-winning St Pat's Town College 1st XV in tomorrow's Magpies side. His clubmate, No 8 Hannon Brighouse, is the other.
Two other members of that side, NOBM halfback Zac Donaldson and hooker Jack Nelson-Murray, are also in the 51-strong Magpies wider training group and are likely to get a pre-season run next month.
Tomorrow's game will be played over the regulation two 40 minutes halves with the Magpies intending to use 26 players.
"Last year we took 30 guys and tried to use two teams but it was too hard. With 26 we can make changes at halftime and give everyone plenty of game time. The younger guys who are on the bench will get a start against Wairarapa Bush on Queen's Birthday Monday," Magpies head coach Mark Ozich said.
Eight of his starting XV players have yet to play first class rugby for the Magpies. They are Paese, Taradale winger Ollie Sapsford, the Hastings Rugby and Sports midfield combination of second five-eighth Neria Fomai and Timo Vaiusu, Taradale halfback Humphrey Sheild, Brighouse, Taradale flanker Iakopo Mapu and Napier Technical lock Elijah Martin.
With four contracted locks who have spent plenty of time in Super Rugby environments, the Hurricanes trio of Isaia Walker-Leawere, who has signed a three-year deal with the Magpies, Geoff Cridge and Tom Parsons and Michael Allardice of the Chiefs ranked ahead of him Martin may struggle to secure a Mitre 10 Cup contract this season but Ozich said he could prove useful in the future.
"Elijah has a great work ethic and is a good leader."
Six of the Magpies substitutes, Havelock North hooker Matt Morrison, Clive lock Donovan Mataira, Taradale loosie Eru Wano, Havelock North halfback Trent Hape, Central first five-eighth Kodie Drury-Hawkins and Taradale outside back Lester Maulolo have yet to play at first class level for the Bay.
The Hawke's Bay Magpies team is:
Saia Paese, Ollie Sapsford, Timo Vaiusu, Neria Fomai, Mason Emerson, Lincoln McClutchie, Humphrey Sheild, Hannon Brighouse, Iakopo Mapu, Josh Kaifa, Geoff Cridge, Elijah Martin, Josiah Tavita-Metcalfe, Jacob Devery, Jason Long (captain). Substitutes: Forwards, Matt Morrison, Pouri Rakete-Stones, Tim Farrell, Donovan Mataira, Eru Wano, Solomone Funaki. Backs, Trent Hape, Kodie Drury-Hawkins, Lester Maulolo, Penikolo Latu, Michael Buckley.