Well-travelled former Te Awamutu Sports first five-eighths Todd Doolan was called into the 2021 Thames Valley Swampfoxes Bunnings Warehouse Heartland Championship squad last month as injury cover after a good club season with Morrinsville Sports.
"It was actually an unintended and unexpected thing to be involved in the squad. Unfortunately, I made it through an injury of a mate, and they asked me to join," says Doolan.
"Since joining it's been one of the best choices of my career. They are an exceptional bunch who have made the transition seamless. Now I'm very proud to be a Swampfox."
The 29-year-old has had a previous taste of Heartland and Provincial rugby.
From a proud Ngāti Porou family, Doolan represented Ngāti Porou East Coast in the 2016 Heartland Championship.
He started all bar one of the nine matches, scoring 48 points including three tries, that season.
"Todd Doolan at first five-eighth had a good boot on him, both out of hand and for goal," it says in the 2017 Rugby Almanack of New Zealand.
The following year he made his provincial debut for North Harbour off the bench against Taranaki, where he slotted two conversions.
"My highlight so far would be making my debut for North Harbour in 2017. That moment was bigger than me - it was for my family, my old man. The sacrifices I had to make, as well as my family. That would so far take the cake," says Doolan.
He says that the Heartland and National Provincial Championship competitions both brought different experiences to the fore.
"I think there are a few differences that would separate the two competitions. The main would be the professionalism; the East Coast had a very close and special attachment for me with my mother being raised there and my heritage.
"They all loved rugby and gave it their all every week but for unfortunate reason lacked in some areas.
"NPC is fully professional. You live and breathe rugby which gives you the best opportunity to develop and become better a lot faster."
Growing up, Te Awamutu was always home for Doolan as he lived around the Pukeatua and Pāterangi areas until the age of 8.
He was registered to Te Awamutu Sports from 2013-2015, although playing only two full seasons due to injury.
"We had a really awesome club culture. This is where my rugby took the next step and that was a credit to the club, the people, the team and especially the coaches," says Doolan.
"I actually played with the backs coach at a previous club, and he saw that I was looking for better opportunities and asked me to jump ship and at the time, I didn't hesitate."
Doolan has also represented the Hautapu club in Cambridge, Te Awamutu's Waipā neighbour.
"I've played in many invitational 10s and Sevens teams that have taken me all over the world, which I look back on now going through what we are and realise how truly lucky I was," says Doolan.
"At this stage, I have no further plans past Heartland. The body is a bit battered so a well needed break following that looks to be on the cards. Beyond that I would like to get into a bit of recruitment and/or coaching.
"My goal this year is to be the best I can be for the Swampfoxes and hopefully have a successful campaign there and lift some silverware."