Key Points:

All Black legend Michael Jones could have been a National MP, but turned down leader John Key's offer of a high list placing for family reasons.

But the Iceman still cometh for National yesterday, joining former teammate Va'aiga Tuigamala in endorsing Mr Key and calling on Pacific voters to back him.

Jones said Mr Key made the initial approach, asking him to stand for National and offering him a list placing high enough to get him into Parliament.

He said he turned it down to spend more time with his family after more than two decades of playing and coaching rugby. He did not rule out standing in the future.

"Maybe if I feel that [Parliament] is the appropriate way to make a contribution to the people I represent it is certainly something I will consider."

Jones and Tuigamala criticised Labour, saying it had undermined the moral values of Pacific people by decriminalising prostitution and allowing civil unions.

They based their endorsement on their spiritual values and the belief the National Party could take Pacific people forward.

"We don't want our people just working in factories," said Tuigamala, who also did not rule out standing in the future. "We want them starting to own those factories."

Jones and Tuigamala said they identified with Mr Key, as they too were raised by solo mothers.

Jones said Pacific people could be assured Mr Key could be trusted - a reference to Labour's jibes that he can't. They also backed deputy leader Bill English.

They had accepted Mr Key's explanation about the recent derogatory comments by senior National MP Lockwood Smith that some employers were having to teach some Pacific Islanders "things like how to use a toilet or shower".

Mr Key said the endorsement was an important step towards National gaining the traditionally Labour Pacific vote.

"It sends a strong message that they [Jones and Tuigamala] are standing up as young leaders in their community, giving support to a National government and endorsing our view."

But Prime Minister Helen Clark was unconcerned, saying: "If they want to line up with Lockwood Smith and his attitudes towards Pacific people, good luck to them, but I think I know where the hearts and minds of [most] Pacific people lie."

Mr Key said he believed Labour was losing ground in its South Auckland stronghold, with the Maori Party tipped to get a bigger party vote than last election and both Taito Phillip Field's Pacific Party and National doing better than expected.

Mr Key also used the visit to Mangere's Southern Cross Campus to announce National would establish five specialist "trade academies" in the next three years as part of a push to boost trades in schools.

He said the campus - which serves four decile-one schools - would be the first to benefit, with $6 million in capital funding. Mr Key said the trade academies would be "centres of excellence" that would help put trades and training "back into the heart" of the school system.