TJ Vaega is the first to admit it ... he gets homesick easily.

For that reason the Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby import - who prefers the right wing but can also play fullback - hadn't planned to venture far from his family's Auckland home this season.

But an offer to play for the Magpies in the Mitre 10 Cup squad changed those plans.

"I was aiming for a berth in the Auckland Colts team. But then an offer to come down here to the Bay came up," Vaega explained after the Magpies team launch in Napier yesterday.


"I thought it would be good to try and crack the squad and have a learning experience at the same time.

"It's good that Cardiff is down here too," he said referring to older brother and former Hurricanes, Southland Stags and Counties-Manukau midfield back Cardiff Vaega.

The brothers are sons of 1991 Magpie and former Samoa centre-winger To'o Vaega who played for the Bay and Taradale as part of his build-up to the World Cup that year.

Vaega has the same name as his famous father but for many years has been known as TJ which stands for To'o Junior.

"Dad told me he liked the Bay. I'm enjoying it too ... everyone is treating me well and the place is filled with good people."

His brother isn't the only familiar face in the Magpies squad.

New assistant coach Mark Ozich was at Kelston Boys High School for a term when Vaega was there before he headed to Southland Boys' High School.

Ozich was also a co-coach of the 2015 New Zealand Secondary Schools team which Vaega played for.

Magpies No 8 Marino Mikaele-Tu'u was also in that unbeaten national team.

While Vaega started in three of the NZSS team's four matches that year his first taste of international fame came as a 14-year-old winger in the 2012 Kelston Boys High School First XV. They won the 16-team Sanix World Rugby Youth Invitational tournament in Fukuoka, Japan with a 37-24 win against Truro College from England in the final.

Another of his brothers, Matt Vaega, captained that team. Matt is still on the North Harbour roster and the trio could end up on the field together when Harbour host the Magpies at Albany on September 29.

The last of the Magpies new imports to arrive in the Bay, Vaega has represented the Blues at under-18 and under-20 levels and Auckland at under-16 and under-19 levels.

He was a member of the Auckland under-19 team which lost to Waikato in the final of the Taupo-hosted national under-19 tournament last year.

"Making the All Blacks is the dream but if I can't I just want to go as far as I can in rugby. I'm eligible for Samoa but the All Blacks is still the ultimate goal."

One of six second-generation Magpies in the 2017 squad, Vaega ranked All Blacks and Chiefs utility back Damian McKenzie as his "rugby hero" and Wellington winger Malo Tuitama as the toughest player he has marked.

A Grammar TEC club player in Auckland, Vaega started for the Magpies in their 38-5 pre-season loss to the Manawatu Turbos in Palmerston North last Friday night.

"We were a bit slow to catch on to what was required in that one. But after our camp everything is clear now ... we see it all coming together," Vaega said referring to this week's pre-season camp at Dannevirke's Aotea Marae.

Former Hastings Boys' High School First XV head coach Ozich spoke about the success of the Dannevirke camp.

"The interaction between players, the collaboration, conversations and building of relationships was all very positive."

Ozich praised the work by the "team behind the Magpies team" - administration staff, medical staff, rugby development officers and sponsors.

"There is an unrelenting desire for the team to succeed ... people will do anything for the team above and beyond the call of duty. Hawke's Bay rugby is in a really good space."

Ozich pointed out there was a good mixture of youth and experience within the squad and the internal pressure is alive with good competition for starting positions.

The Magpies open their Mitre 10 Cup championship campaign with a match against the Southland Stags at Napier's McLean Park on Saturday.

Magpies head coach Craig Philpott will announce the team for the clash tomorrow.