The announcement of the 2019 Super Rugby squads was a relief for Leicester Faingaanuku in more ways than one.
Having joined the union at just 15, Leicester was the youngest signing in Tasman Rugby history. Now, he continues his meteoric rise with the nine-time Super Rugby champion Crusaders.
The 18-year-old put pen to paper three weeks ago but had to keep the signing under wraps.
“Knowing I was going to be playing Super next season was tough to keep inside.”
When the squads were made public last week, the 102kg utility could finally break the news to his family and friends.
“It felt so good to tell everyone, it still feels unreal, though.”
He says he will be star struck to rub shoulder with his idols.
Having spent some time in Crusaders pre-season camp, Leicester says he was always leaning toward the franchise.
“They are a champion side and to develop as a player down there is an opportunity any kid would want and one I will take with two hands.”
The former Nelson College students says it is a dream come true for him and his family.
“To do what I love as a job and play rugby for the next few years as a living is unreal.”
He says he plans to be a sponge once in the Crusaders environment.
“I will just look to learn off them and pick their brains as much as I can.”
Leicester, who played for the New Zealand schools’ team as a year 12 and at the World Cup earlier this year, has strong rugby roots.
His father, Malakai, played for Tonga at the 1999 Rugby World Cup and his brother, Tima is a regular in the Mako starting XV this season.
Including Leicester, twenty of the 2018 Mako squad picked up Super Rugby contracts for next season as well a couple of former favourites returning to the country.
Marty Banks will re-join the Highlanders, where he became something of a cult figure, while James Marshall, who was part of the Hurricanes’ 2016 title-winning squad, returns from overseas to link up with the ‘Canes again.