Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby lock Tom Parsons has secured a contract with Japanese Top League club Toshiba.
Parsons, 29, confirmed yesterday he will be leaving the Bay next week to begin a six-month stint with the Brave Lupus who will be coached by former All Blacks captain and lock, and former Crusaders mentor Todd Blackadder.
He will return to the Bay in May in time for his Central club's Maddison Trophy campaign and will be available for the Magpies Mitre 10 Cup Championship season next year.
"I've never been overseas and I thought this would be a good time to do it. If I liked it it would be quite good and if I don't ... well it's only for six months," Parsons said.
"I've probably only got a couple more years of first class rugby so this is the right time. Yes the money is good but this is more about the experience and it also works in well before things get too busy with work here," Parsons said, referring to his job as the manager of the logging truck division of his father and former Magpies loosie Rod Parsons' Middle Hills Contracts Limited business.
The Magpies 2018 Player of the Year and Forward of the Year, Parsons was considered unlucky not to have secured a Super contract earlier this season. However he played for the Hurricanes Development side and was again a consistent performer in the Magpies engine room this season.
"While you always aim to be better I was happy with my form this season. Todd [Blackadder] was obviously happy with what he saw too," Parsons said.
The Japan Top League begins in January and runs until May. Parsons hopes to return home for Christmas and will then take his partner Grace Ruddenklau and 7-week-old daughter Charlotte back to Tokyo.
Former All Blacks midfielder Richard Kahui captained the Brave Lupus last season. Japan captain and former Chiefs loosie Michael Leitch and former Chiefs outside back Johnny Fa'auli are also on their roster.
Parsons has played 37 first class games for the Magpies. The Lindisfarne College old boy first played for the Bay in 2012 and had another two seasons with the side before playing for Manawatu during the 2015, 16 and 17 seasons.
Meanwhile, Dave Lochore has taken on the Northfuels Central head coach role for next season.
It will be the second stint for Lochore in the job. The son of All Blacks legend Sir Brian Lochore, who died earlier this year, had a three-season stint which ended in 2003.
"My philosophy hasn't changed since then. I'm all about helping to provide a pathway for local players to play at the best level they can. My interest will aways be there," the Mangaorapa farmer said.
Lochore pointed out he agreed to take on the job before his son, Hurricanes under-18 lock Frank Lochore, decided to remain in the Bay and to play for Central. Frank played for the Napier Boys' High School first XV this year and last.
As was the case during his previous stint at the helm, he will go through a review process at the end of next year before deciding if he will be back for another season.
"My job is to do my best at making sure Central are competitive. I want this part of the area to be represented further up the food chain of Hawke's Bay club rugby," Lochore said.
He was quick to congratulate Parsons on his Japanese contract.
"Tom deserves an opportunity like this to make some money and we look forward to having him play for Central again in May."
Lochore will have former Otane play, Hawke's Bay and Manawatu sevens representative Richard Kupa as his assistant coach. Ian Large will again manage the team and experienced front rower Marcus Jackson, who will again play for the premiers and premier reserves when required, will be his assistant manager.
Long-serving utility back Braydon Hardwidge will be the team trainer. Former Hawke's Bay Magpies loosie Exham Wichman stepped down as coach this year after five seasons at the helm.
Large confirmed this season's New Zealand Secondary Schools team hooker Ben Strang from Whanganui Collegiate will play for Central next year while studying at EIT.