Life as a professional rugby player can be crazy ... just ask Cardiff Vaega.
"It's been a crazy couple of weeks. I was playing club rugby in Counties-Manukau and when that finished I thought I had a Mitre 10 Cup contract with Auckland. But with Malakai [Fekitoa] and George [Moala] still in Auckland it didn't come through so when the opportunity came to play for the Magpies I grabbed it. I signed and then my brother TJ signed," centre Vaega said referring to his brother, promising-wing-fullback TJ Vaega who arrives in the Bay on Monday.
The Vaega brothers, who are sons of 1991 Magpie and former Samoa centre-winger To'o Vaega, are among four new Magpies imports for the 2017 season. New Waratahs lock Nick Palmer and Blues wider training squad member Pasqualle Dunn are the others.
Vaega, 25, proved a handful for the Magpies' defensive systems when he played for Counties-Manukau and Southland against the Bay in previous seasons. With another brother, Matt Vaega, again on the North Harbour roster this season, the trio could end up on the field together when Harbour hosts the Magpies at Albany on September 29.
"When Dad took me to the airport all the stories about his time with the Magpies and Taradale started coming out. The Magpies have been unlucky with their midfielders having concussion issues in recent seasons and that's how my opportunity came," Vaega, who played one game for the Hurricanes in 2014, added.
His 20-year-old brother is a former New Zealand Secondary Schools player who has represented the Blues and Auckland at under-20 level. Their father played four games for the Magpies in 1991 as part of his buildup to the World Cup that season.
Palmer, 25, signed with the Magpies back in February and said a Mitre 10 Cup season will give him the best experience possible so he can push for a starting berth with the Waratahs next season. He secured his Tahs contract on the back of a good 2016 season with the Norths club in Sydney.
"When we won the Sydney club grand final last year that was the highlight of my time in rugby. It was the first time the club had won the title in 41 years. Earlier this year we beat the top Brisbane club to be crowned Aussie club champions which was pretty good too," Palmer, who ranked former Wallabies captain John Eales as his rugby hero, said.
The civil engineer boasts the nickname "Sticksy".
"Back when I was 18 I was only 90kgs so I got that nickname. It has stuck since then although I'm 110kgs now."
A 20 handicapper at golf, Palmer hopes to score a round at Cape Kidnappers while in the Bay. Should he help the Magpies win the Championship and regain Premiership status he will have Magpies sponsors lining up to shout him a round.
A relation of former All Blacks Eddie and Ian Dunn, Dunn, 23, is recovering from a blood and kidney virus. He will miss the Magpies' pre-season game against Waikato in Taupo tomorrow but hopes to be available for the August 12 game against Manawatu in Palmerston North.
He made two appearances off the bench for Auckland during the 2016 Mitre 10 Cup. He played for the Blues in pre-season games and at the Brisbane Tens but was unable to crack a Super Rugby appearance this season.
"It was pretty tough with the likes of Rene Ranger, George Moala and Sonny Bill Williams ahead of me. I learnt so much off them and I was so grateful," Dunn said.
He has signed a two-year contract with the Magpies but has yet to be allocated a club. Dunn played for the College Rifles club in Auckland and pointed out he and Cardiff Vaega have combined well together in the midfield for different teams in the past.
"I'm happy playing 12 or 13 but I prefer 12," Dunn added.
"Pasqualle and Cardiff will add quality depth to our midfield, TJ is a highly promising wing-fullback and Nick is a tall, rangy lock who will put real heat on the likes of Geoff Cridge and Mike Allardice. We look forward to them making a strong contribution to our Mitre 10 Cup campaign in 2017," Magpies head coach Craig Philpott said yesterday.
"We will also soon be announcing a further group of contracted players who have earned selection through their standout form during the 2017 Tui Maddison Trophy round of the Hawke's Bay club competition. All of the above named and the soon-to-be-revealed group will really enhance our squad and create genuine competition for places in the match-day squad this year," Philpott added.
Palmer was confident he could back up Philpott's promise and pressure Hurricane Cridge and Chief Allardice for a starting berth.
"Competition creates a winning environment and competition with each other makes better players."