New Thames Valley Swampfoxes recruit Kirtis McNaughten is another former Te Awamutu Sports representative in the Valley, playing alongside pivot Todd Doolan.
The 29-year-old halfback is recovering from a broken collarbone that happened playing for Whangamatā.
"I broke my collarbone at the end of our club season and missed our finals footy, which sucked and I thought the rep season was over too. Fortunately, I had time to rehab it well and get my shoulder right for more rugby," says McNaughten.
"My poppa was from around this area so I am pretty stoked to play for a team representing his neck of the woods. The Swampies are a great team full of team culture and great men, awesome coaches. They're a great group of lads."
Although he hasn't 100 per cent recovered yet, McNaughten is looking forward to being part of the team environment.
"I get to play rugby with one of my best mates Ben [Bonnar] who I usually play against, so I'm looking forward to a few cold fizzies with him after games.
"I was playing rugby this year just for the love of the game and to be out on the field with mates. I just love the game and playing footy."
McNaughten, who is a PE and Outdoor Education teacher at Whangamatā Area School, had played rugby since he was young but had a few seasons off before taking it up again upon moving to Whangamatā.
"I love playing for small-town clubs, you're always the underdogs and getting up over the big clubs is always good fun. Country clubs and small-town clubs have the most fun I reckon," he says.
In 2009, McNaughten was in the Hamilton Boys' High School 1st XV, along with the likes of Te Awamutu players Bruce Jones (Thames Valley), Fraser Armstrong (Waikato, Auckland, Manawatū, Wellington, Hurricanes and NZ Under-20) and Nathan George (Manawatū and NZ Under-20), which placed fifth at the Sanix World Rugby Youth Invitational Tournament in Fukuoka, Japan.
McNaughten and the HBHS side returned the following year to the invitational event with a stronger side, including Pirongia's Scottish international player Hugh Blake, where they were victors 40-8 over Truro College (Cornwall, England).
He has also played for Te Awamutu Sports and the Millwall Rugby Club, a club based on the Isle of Dogs in London's Docklands.
"I played for TA Sports growing up as a little kid and for the premier side my first two years out of school. I love that TAS is a country club, getting up against the big city teams.
"A highlight was being the first junior TA Goldfields team to win the Goldfields competition captained by the great Peter Bocock [Northern Districts cricketer] and competition MVP Logan Cudby."
His father has always been someone that inspired him to take the field.
"My old man, Mark McNaughten, was a good rugby player and was able to play at a professional level. He has a few MVP ribbons so a step in his footsteps is pretty cool," says McNaughten.
Mark is the Te Awamutu Rugby Sports & Recreation Club board president after being re-elected earlier in 2021.
"Coming back into rugby, Kirtis started playing for Whangamatā last year and really enjoyed it. Of course, Whangamatā won the competition last year for the first time ever, too," says Mark.
"To see him back really enjoying playing rugby and playing at club level and getting up into the Valley team is great. He worked for two years, well the first year there was no Heartland rugby, but he was having a good push for the team that year as well. So, after breaking his collarbone this year and still getting put into the team, it's fantastic. We're extremely proud."