Around 18,000 kilometres from Auckland, Sam Moa felt like the local hero at Kiwis training today.
Moa is feted in this parts - having spent four seasons at the Super League club - and was one of the main focal points as the Kiwis trained before a large crowd at Hull's training ground on the edge of the city.
More than 500 people braved a chilly, rainy day to see the New Zealand team, who arrived 45 minutes late due to a logistical mix up.
Stars like Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Issac Luke were as popular as ever, but the crowd reserved special chants for Moa, who rebuilt his career in Hull between 2009 and 2012.
"They put a name to the face and it's not a hard name to forget," laughed Moa. "They were yelling out for me, due to the time I spent here [but] they are very passionate about their league here and it showed today...they were standing out there for 40 minutes in the rain [waiting for us]."
It's easy to forget now - as Moa is such a force in the NRL and a powerful presence in the Kiwis - but he arrived in England in January 2009 with plenty of question marks over his future. He hadn't fulfilled his early potential, was carrying such extra weight and had a lot to prove in the professional game.
But he thrived in England - rebuilding his career and his prospects - and has been an unstoppable force in the NRL since he returned via the Roosters in 2013.
"There is no doubt Hull played a tremendous part in my career," said Moa. "They gave me the chance when I was struggling to find my feet in the NRL and gave me the chance to play regular Super League football and progress my game...and that is exactly what happened. It ended up being a pretty good relationship. I started to play some good footy and prove to them that they did sign a pretty good player...I'm thankful for the chances I got."
Moa's journey from reserve grade - to grand final success and test football with the No1 team in the world - is one of league's feel good stories, a rare achievement in an unforgiving sport.
"When you put it in perspective it has been a pretty big journey," said Moa. "I've had a lot of family support, met some good friends on the way and played in good teams at Hull; good professional teams and it has certainly helped my game."
Meanwhile, the Kiwis are not exactly shouting from the rooftops but there is a quiet confidence emanating from this team. They completed a slick session today, with new halves Tui Lolohea and Peta Hiku heading plenty of backline drills.
However, Co-captain Adam Blair didn't take part again today and looks an extremely unlikely starter, while Lewis Brown limped off midway through the session for treatment on his ankle. Otherwise the team is fit, and ready for the challenge of facing England before a sell out crowd at KC Stadium on Sunday (Monday NZT).
"We have had a very good preparation," said Moa. "We had three or four days in the south of France bonding and we had some really good training sessions there. Our warm up game against Leeds was a good blow out for us in terms of our combinations and we have come along nicely...we are confident in the way we have prepared."
- By Michael Burgess in Hull
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