Nicky Little is the most capped player to play international rugby for a Pacific nation and spent the best part of 15 years in the white Fijian jersey.
A Te Awamutu College old boy and former Te Awamutu Sports player, Nicky, 43, played a big part for Fijian rugby.
He played 71 games for Fiji between 1996 and 2011 amassing 670 test points, also the most by any Pacific Island player - with second place being Tonga's Kurt Morath on 340.
Nicky was first capped by Fiji at the age of 19. He went on to attend four Rugby World Cups (1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011).
Although mainly a first five-eighth, Little was also able to cover second five-eighth and fullback.
The Littles are a rugby family through and through. Nicky is the nephew of former All Black Walter Little and ex-Fiji midfielder Lawrence Little – who he played alongside at Rugby World Cup 1999.
Cousin Michael Little has represented North Harbour and captained the Japan based Sunwolves.
The four of them, along with cousin James, have all represented North Harbour. Walter played 145 times for the province.
Nicky was born in Tokoroa in 1976 and moved to Perth, Australia, at age 5. He later returned to New Zealand to attend secondary school at Te Awamutu College.
"I played union, league, cricket and Aussie rules but didn't quite crack surfing. I returned to New Zealand for secondary school and different weather!" said Nicky.
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Although it was more than two decades ago, Nicky recalls many memories from Te Awamutu College - from the school itself to the sports and activities that he enjoyed.
He attended the school from 1990-1994 and remembers 'the main drag', the gym's heated floor, the principal Mrs Scott, Ōtāwhao marae with sleepovers there, kapa haka, Zone Athletics, prom/ball night and of course the shop across the road.
There are plenty of fond memories of his college rugby days among many achievements.
Nicky was too heavy for the under 62kg team in third form so he had to play in the 4th XV "with bearded seniors".
He played house rugby and was also a part of an under 15s team that drew with the national champions
During his 1st XV years, they held the Tricolour Trophy for two years and were pretty much unbeaten for two seasons in the Waikato Schools competition.
In rugby sevens, his team won the Waikato sevens for two years in a row and Nicky was part of a team that made the Condor Sevens finals twice in a row too.
His form led to selection in the New Zealand Schools team to tour the United Kingdom in 1994.
After leaving college he played for Te Awamutu Sports from 1994-1996 but didn't play enough games to receive a blazer.
The likes of Bruce Reihana, Jono Gibbes, Deon Muir and All Black coach Ian Foster represented the club while he was there.
The next few years saw Nicky represent Canterbury and then North Harbour in the NPC. He only played five games for each province but enjoyed learning off the All Blacks in those teams about attitude and the touring life.
In late 1999 after leaving North Harbour he then made the move to play for Sale Sharks in England.
He played for many clubs over his career and doesn't have a specific favourite as they all taught him something.
"Every club was special for me. Sale – my first real introduction to the UK culture; Dax – the Basque culture; Pontypridd – the Welsh culture; Saracens – the big city London culture ; Calvisano – the Italian country culture; Padova – the Italian city culture; Bath – return to the UK; Bristol – West Country culture; Esher – winding down."
After finally retiring from professional rugby in 2012, Nicky, as player/coach, played three games for Canterbury RFC in Kent during the 2012-2013 season in the fourth tier competition.
Nicky runs this venture, the first of its kind within the UK. Its aim is to develop grass roots rugby in the locality.
"I'm the director of rugby in a school in the UK. Year by year we add a bit more so hopefully by the time they're 17-18, they can play pretty good footy," said Nicky.
"I also humour the boys a fair bit to sharpen them up. A sense of humour is important with dealing with future stressful situations. Good blokes are what we want to churn out. If they play good footy too, then that's a bonus."
In 2013, he was also invited to be the assistant coach for Fiji during the Pacific Nations in which they were the champions.
There's no hesitation when asked what the highlight of his career has been.
"Playing for Fiji and making so many friends in so many countries."
After all of his experience and globetrotting, Nicky's favourite ground to play on is close to his origins.
"Pirongia School playing fields, my younger sisters went there. They used to collect the balls while I practised kicking in all weathers.
"One sister has been a teacher there for a while. My nieces go there and my nephew will soon. We jumped the fences, played touch for hours, bombed in the pool and then mum would call us home for dinner."
Nicky has plenty of sporting wisdom to share with aspiring rugby players.
"Be careful who you listen to. Lots of people have opinions without any experience to base them on. Some people want to use you and others truly want to help you. Keep things simple."
1) Mental Health
- Laugh, don't take things too seriously. Enjoy your journey as it'll end one day.
2) Rugby Health - When you play well, you enjoy it but no one enjoys being unfit, so train yourself.
3) Conditioning - Run, lift weights and train for rugby not bodybuilding. Be a Ute. Be good at most things rather than awesome at just one thing, take that through life.
4) Health - Eat well so your body and mind can be trained to go harder for longer. Also, there's no better recovery than good old sleep.
5) Character - Be good. Be a good mate, son, daughter, husband, wife, brother, sister, worker, boss or whatever, choose correctly. Be proud of yourself and of your decisions, of your failures at trying, but try properly. What could go wrong?