Family affair as pair lead team into new First XV season

Family plays a vital role in Kelston Boys' High School life.

That goes for the First XV too, where 17-year-olds TJ Vaega and Sebastian Visinia are following in the big footsteps of their big brothers Cardiff and Matt Vaega, and Lolagi Visinia.

The pair are senior leaders in a First XV looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2014 season and are hoping a change in position can get the backline humming.

Visinia will run the cutter from No10, after most of his time in the 2013-14 seasons was spent on the wing or at fullback. Likewise, TJ Vaega will shift into the midfield from the wing.

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Vaega is Kelston's head boy, following a tradition of Kelston First XV leaders who are also leaders in the school. In 2013, No8 Samson Fualalo was First XV captain and head boy, while 2014 captain Luke Cunis was a prefect and senior sports captain.

Vaega comes from impeccable pedigree -- his father is Manu Samoa legend To'o Vaega. It is no surprise, then, that TJ stands for To'o Junior. Cardiff and Matt are in the Chiefs and Blues extended squads, respectively.

"People try and compare us all to my dad. But it's good having them around. I haven't played midfield since Under 12s at Suburbs with Sebastian. We've got that chemistry from the [Auckland] Under 16s last year," Vaega says.

"Dad offers advice straight-up. I tend to go to Cardiff or Matt, too, because the game has changed a lot," he adds.

Individual goals for this season? NZ Schools, perhaps, following in Matt's 2012 footsteps?

"Everyone has NZ Schools as a big goal, but it's about just taking care of Kelston first, and the rest will take care of itself."

He will also be gunning to again make the Blues Under 18 and Auckland Under 18 West sides. So far he is coping well with the extra duties of head boy, plus senior year studies and First XV training.

"I just see myself as a normal student, not putting too much pressure on myself. I just balance schoolwork and rugby. We have meetings as head boy, but they are not a major."

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Vaega has some nifty footwork, has improved his defence, and shapes as a key cog in the always talented Kelston back division.

Visinia has the long legs and big boot of his older brother Lolagi, now with the Blues, who helped Kelston to the national top four title and Auckland 1A runner-up position in 2011 before kicking on to NZ Schools.

"It's good having him as my brother. I looked up to him that year," says the younger Visinia, who was in Year 9 in 2011. "It would be good if I can do what he has done in the last few years. Everyone expects heaps from me, especially if I'm playing in the same position as him."

The older Visinia is still very much part of the Kelston family, watching on the sidelines when he can and running the drinks and offering tips for the school's Condors 7s team.

Visinia junior is in his third year in the First XV, and hopes that the greater experience in front of the TV cameras -- Kelston has at least two games on Sky this season as well as in the new live streamed initiative by the Auckland Rugby Union -- will better help deal with the added pressure on these young men.

"We take it as a normal game. It's good having those televised games, but we just have to put the cameras aside and get on with the job. In the past, some boys have got carried away by the cameras."

Visinia says the pre-season signs have been promising for the First XV, despite losses to strong Hamilton BHS and Hastings BHS outfits.

"This year's looking much better. The system's looking good."

Vaega agrees: "I don't want to jinx it, but we're all on the same page. Even the young dudes are talking at training, which is a good sign."

Kelston kicks off their 1A campaign on Saturday at home to the powerful St Kentigern, followed by two more home fixtures against King's and De La Salle. How they emerge from that challenging opening will be a fair test as to how the season will shape. Whatever happens, though, those family bonds will stay tight.