Former Te Awamutu Sports pivot Nathan George was part of arguably the most successful age-grade team ever, the 2011 New Zealand Under-20 rugby team.
George, a former Hamilton Boys' High School captain who grew up in Pirongia, was part of a soon-to-be-legendary side.
The squad contained future All Blacks Sam Cane, Brodie Retallick, Codie Taylor, Steven Luatua, Luke Whitelock, Dominic Bird, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Waisake Naholo, Lima Sopoaga, Francis Saili, Brad Weber and Charles Piutau; future Tongan player Ben Tameifuna; English loose forward Brad Shields and Welsh first five-eighth Gareth Anscombe.
The Baby Blacks took out the IRB Junior World Championship in Italy after beating the hosts 64-7, Wales 92-0, Argentina 48-15, Australia 37-7 and finally England 33-22 at Padova.
Ex-All Black and former Manawatū coach Jason O'Halloran, who was a part of the under-20 coaching staff, had said that George was the pick of the first fives at the final trial at Massey University after outplaying Anscombe, Barrett and Sopoaga.
George came off the bench in one match and also started against Argentina, scoring 11 points at the tournament.
Now 30, George looks back on the competition as the highlight of his career.
"The whole experience and the support that was shown was unreal," he says.
"It was a very professional environment with some extremely talented lads. We were very lucky to have our tournament in Italy.
"We were defending champs so there was a bit of pressure to perform and make our friends and family proud. We got to get to know each other very well over the best part of a month."
George says that when the squad had been named, they were in camp so there was a room packed with more than 50 players waiting for the announcement.
"When my name was read out, I sort of went numb and blinked a few times to make sure I wasn't dreaming - a lot of hard work had paid off.
"Fast forward to the Argentina naming, I was very excited to get a chance to run out in the 10 jersey. I knew my game time would be limited throughout the tournament, so I just wanted to do as much learning as I could off my team-mates and have fun!"
With Trent Renata and Sam Christie ahead of him at Waikato, George's next venture saw him sign for the Manawatū Turbos in the 2012 ITM Cup, thanks to his connection with coach O'Halloran, after an injury to No 10 Isaac Thompson.
"I was very happy to get the opportunity to play for the Turbos. We had a good mix of young and old in 2012. It was very much a chance to learn, improve and upskill," says George.
"We had a great team culture and I always liked that we were underdogs. It meant we could just go out and play for each other."
He played 12 games over two seasons with Manawatū, starting half of those, finishing with a tally of 41 points for the province.
From there, he played one season for Vigo University in Northwest Spain, who at the time were in the top division for Spanish rugby.
Former All Blacks Campbell Johnstone and Norm Maxwell had also represented the club.
"There were so many great experiences we had over there, it's hard to choose just one. I think the Spanish lifestyle was something I enjoyed most of all! The food was cheap, the weather was great and the locals were an awesome bunch.
"I've made some lifelong friendships, all flowing out of that experience.
"I'll never forget eating an empanada (Spanish pie) after a game, the boys told me it was pork. It tasted good and they were all laughing. Turns out as I looked closer at this pie the boys weren't lying - it was pork - mainly pig snouts and ears."
George and his wife Samantha returned from Spain in 2014.
Back to where it all started, he landed a job at Te Awamutu's Manuka Health and never looked back.
George returned to Te Awamutu Sports in 2015 and captained the side he had first represented in 2011.
"I hung the boots up at the end of 2015, playing my last season at TA. Rugby was no longer paying bills and I was trying to work a real job for once," says George.
"I coached Taupiri in 2019 with some good friends, which was good fun and kept me busy."
Nowadays, when he gets the chance, he loves to play golf, but he and Samantha have recently had their first child, Kees, who keeps them on their toes.