Promising young halfback and goal kicker Connor McLeod is the latest signing for the Hawke's Bay Magpies, with form to match that of his father – to boot.
The 23-year-old never got to see dad and first five-eighths Ross McLeod in the famed black-and-white hoops in which he scored 188 points in 41 matches from 1988 to 1995.
A high point of that career was a late drop-goal his then future-dad kicked at McLean Park in Napier in 1994 as the Bay stormed back from 25-3 down at halftime to beat France 30-25 on the Tuesday between the tourists' two Saturday test-match wins against the All Blacks.
Back in town after four years spent securing a commerce degree at Otago University, the younger McLeod already has his own affinity with McLean Park, including coming off the bench against Hawke's Bay in one of his six cup appearances for Otago last season.
But most recent are his 26 points from a try, 3 penalties and 6 conversions in the last fortnight of Premier club rugby with Maddison Trophy semifinal and final victories for new champions Hastings Rugby and Sport, ultimately the top scorer in the shortened 11-match competition, with 117 points.
Connor McLeod, whose uncle Ian also played for Hawke's Bay, returning to the park with his dad today, recalled that as he grew up his dad wasn't too far away as he developed his own penchant for getting the ball over the crossbar.
"We used to kick about with my older brother from a young age - the old man was there to fix it," he said.
Having represented Hastings West in the Ross Shield Hawke's Bay primary schools tournament, he went to St John's College, Hastings and played in the first XV in 2014 and 2015.
While in Dunedin he was selected for New Zealand Universities and playing alongside current Hawke's Bay wider training squad members Caleb Makene and George Stratton, which he says was "massive experience and enjoyable tours with a superb bunch of teammates".
"I loved the opportunity and the step up in intensity and pressure and it's a brilliant environment down there in Dunedin," he said, having followed a similar geographical pathway as two other Otago and then Hawke's Bay halfbacks, who were both also All Blacks, namely Stu Forster and Brad Weber.
Being one of the most-consistent performers in club rugby this season, he was soon into the Magpies squad, and after four weeks at it is expected to get a Magpies run in a cup warm-up outing against Auckland on Saturday at a closed venue in Rotorua.
But, it seemed barely about him today as he talked about the rugby this season which brought his club its first-ever win in a Maddison Trophy final.
"My forward pack has been outstanding all year, which provides great front-foot ball, and I have a hell of a backline outside me, which makes it easier," he said.
"I'm big on preparation during the week and then come game time, I'm really clear on what I have to do," he said as looks forward to training and tussling with now Magpies squadmate Weber and Highlanders Super Rugby halfback Falou Fakatava.
"Watching and learning from someone like Brad is a great opportunity for me and it will be great to see how he prepares and trains and goes about his week," he said.
Magpies coach Mark Ozich said: "Connor has earnt his inclusion with an excellent club season. I have been very impressed with his work ethic and coachability to go with his diverse skill set. I'm looking forward to see how Connor progresses through the Mitre 10 cup campaign and I'm positive he will put lots of pressure on the two halfbacks in front of him and a likely debut at some stage for the Bay."
Being the son of a Magpie, McLeod can't wait to secure his first cap saying: "I am motivated to emulate dad, I've always wanted to be a Magpie and I'm really excited about running out in front of the family and friends at McLean Park."
"I'm here to do whatever it takes to help us win the Championship, keep working hard and take my opportunities when they come and just enjoy the whole experience," he said.
McLeod's Hastings captain, former Hastings BHS first XV hooker Jacob Devery, who has played nine times for the Magpies, has also been contracted, while stepping up from wider-squad to contract status is Karamu High School teacher, Napier Technical captain and former Napier BHS boarder Elijah Martin.