Following his fiancee to Hawke's Bay has paid off big time for Lewis Marshall.
The former Manawatu Turbos' utility back was the bolter when the 33-strong Hawke's Bay Magpies' ITM Cup rugby squad was announced yesterday.
"I only came to the Bay because my Mrs [fiance Tammy] got a job as a teacher at Raureka School. I wasn't focused on rugby but now everything has fallen into place ... I've got a job as a teacher aide at Flaxmere College and a Magpies' contract," Marshall said.
What made his selection more of a feat was the fact he had only played five minutes of rugby during the Magpies' three Ranfurly Shield defences to date.
"We liked what we saw of Lewis during his five minutes against Horowhenua-Kapiti. He would have got more minutes against Mid Canterbury had he not been concussed the previous week," Magpies' head coach Craig Philpott said.
Marshall, 26, played 27 first class games for the Turbos over five seasons before a recurring hamstring injury prevented him from playing any ITM Cup matches last year.
"I'm going to be in catch-up mode now in terms of fitness and training. Luckily I've had some games for MAC ... I linked up with them because a couple of my best mates from school, Jackson and Ihaka Waerea, play for them," the Hato Paora College old boy explained.
Originally Marshall hadn't planned on being in the country this winter.
"Back in February I went to Perth for three months to do some scaffolding to make some money for my family. I came home for a break and my Mrs wouldn't allow me to go back because she was missing me," Marshall said.
The father of one nine-month-old son ranked playing in the 2011 ITM Cup Championships final against the Magpies, a game the Magpies won 35-30, as the highlight of his rugby career. Comfortable at first five-eighth, centre and fullback, Marshall is a handy goal-kicker and a sound communicator.
"Fullback is my favourite position but I will play anywhere as long as I get a game," he said.
Marshall, who hails from Wainuiomata, started playing rugby when he started his third form year. Before that he played league.
He is one of 10 players in the squad yet to play ITM Cup rugby for the Magpies. Napier Technical prop Mark Braidwood and Napier Old Boys Marist prop Jarvy Aoake have been rewarded for their contributions to a dominant Magpies scrum this month.
World champion New Zealand under-20s front rower Ricky Riccitelli has won the battle for the deputy hooker's berth. Promising Napier Old Boys Marist No 8 Joseph Penitito's powerful displays this month have also paid off.
Exciting speedsters Jonah Lowe and Mason Emerson are among the 14 backs named in the squad which boasts a total of 654 first class appearances for the Bay and an average age of 24.1.
All Blacks Israel Dagg and Ben Franks are among 13 2015 Super Rugby players in the squad.
Former Hurricanes' halfback Chris Eaton is the most experienced Magpie with 91 first class appearances.
Maddison Trophy holders Havelock North boast the biggest representation of players with seven.
Crusaders' star Robbie Fruean, who started in all 12 of the Magpies' matches last year, is unavailable this season in the wake of knee surgery.
Hurricanes' wider training group loosie Hugh Renton has been named in the squad but will miss the season after his double hip surgery in April.
New Zealand under-20s lock Geoff Cridge had surgery on his knee injury on Thursday and won't be available until October.
Magpies, forwards: Mark Abbbott, Michael Allardice, Jarvy Aoake, Trent Boswell-Wakefield, Mark Braidwood, Geoff Cridge, Ash Dixon, Brendon Edmonds, Gareth Evans, Tolu Fahamokioa, Ben Franks, Tony Lamborn, Jason Long, Brendon O'Connor, Joseph Penitito, Hugh Renton, Ricky Riccitelli, Tom Stanley, Sanaila Waqa.
Backs: Richard Buckman, Shannan Chase, Israel Dagg, Chris Eaton, Tyrone Elkington-MacDonald, Mason Emerson, Zac Guildford, Andrew Horrell, Jonah Lowe, Lewis Marshall, Billy Ropiha, Ryan Tongia, Ihaia West, Ellery Wilson.