Te Awamutu's Trent Sargent has been selected for the King Country Rams 40-man wider squad in preparation for the 2022 Bunnings Warehouse Heartland Championship.
The squad, selected by coach Craig Jeffries, has been named for localised trainings leading into the North King Country versus South King Country trial to be held at Kio Kio United on July 23.
"I've been working towards it for a while now. I missed out last year due to our lockdown, so I'm pretty rapt," says Sargent.
A builder by trade, the 22-year-old Kio Kio United loose forward says making the Rams squad has been a long-time goal and this selection brings him a step closer.
Sargent played his junior rugby for Kihikihi before transitioning to Kio Kio United Sports Club out of Te Awamutu College.
Sargent's grandfather, Bruce Bowen, is a life member at the rural Ōtorohanga district club and got him on the field for them, while brother Cory also plays for the club.
In the 2020 season Sargent had a stint with Te Awamutu Marist, with the blessing of Kio Kio United because Covid-19 affected their ability to field a team.
"We're very excited. It's been a few years since we've had a rep player of any description,' says Kio Kio United president Donald Street.
The last King Country rep from the club was Karney Dunster in 2019.
King Country legend Lee Peina, Fijian stalwart prop Joe Veitayaki, Māori All Blacks Grant Kelly, Dion Mathews and Richard Watts, Samoa's Laulula Langkilde, Michael Blank (Waikato, King Country), Richard Coventry (Waikato, King Country, Hurricanes, Chiefs), Tom Coventry (Otago, Waikato, King Country, New Zealand Universities) and many other reps, too, have donned the Kio Kio colours.
The club has also had five All Blacks triallists.
"Trent's been our captain for two years; he's done an outstanding job of that. We have a very young team and most of them are his mates, mostly out of Te Awamutu," says Street.
"If it wasn't for him, we wouldn't have a team. Trent has been captain, goalkicker and at times a bit of everything. He's on our club committee as well.
"He comes from a pretty grounded family and he's just a good guy. We've got high hopes for him to go further."