A Warriors' team fishing trip turned into a dramatic rescue mission when the players rushed to the aid of a young man who went missing in the water off an Auckland beach.
Star player Shaun Johnson told the Herald about 26 players were out on a team-bonding fishing charter yesterday when a Coastguard call came over the boat's radio about 4pm that "a boy had got swept away in the water".
"Immediately everyone dropped their rods," said Johnson, who believed the boat was about a kilometre off Takapuna beach.
"[The boat's crew] said, 'We've been asked to go help the search'. And we said, 'Yeah go, of course'.
"So we just all dropped our rods and headed in [to shore]. On this fishing charter boat there's two levels and we were all around the edge, everyone was looking in every direction."
"We thought, 'Oh man we're never going to find him'," said Johnson.
A police helicopter and rescue boat also joined the search for the 20-year-old, who suffers from a medical condition and had gone "well out beyond the swimming lane into a choppy channel", a police spokeswoman said.
But outside back utility player Matt Allwood proved his strength on and off the field when he spotted a floating object in the water.
"I saw a little black thing bobbing up and down way in the distance and I thought it was a buoy," Allwood told the Herald.
"I went over and told the boat's captain and we went in that direction, when [the man] came visible to us.
"He looked a bit buggered, he was tired. We yelled out and told him we were there and to keep swimming."
Johnson said the young man was treading water and did not respond to their yelling.
"He was literally in the middle of nowhere, he was so far out from where he went overboard.
"One of the boys said he must've just been in shock. He probably thought no one was going to find him."
The 17m boat could not get too close to the man because of its size, so the captain radioed authorities whilst the players kept an eye on him.
As the young man was pulled on to the deck of the police boat, he collapsed and started yelling, Johnson said.
"We were all just standing there in silence. Then a radio call came through and said 'good job boys, this is him' and we just went off we just went crazy."
Allwood said his team mates were all cheering.
"We were happy to see he was all right. It was a good moment."
Chris Sherbourne, the skipper on board the boat owned by Ultimate Charters, said the Warriors were a great help.
"They were all about saving the person, they weren't even worried about the fishing. So I was really rapt about that.
"He's a very lucky guy."
The police spokeswoman said the young man was returned to his family by boat.
Coastguard confirmed it was called at 3.50pm by the missing man's sister.
It sent two rescue vessels, but he was found before they arrived.