Tima Faingaanuku had extra motivation at the New Zealand Under-20s rugby camp.
The 19-year-old utility back did not get the chance to attend his mentor John Goodman’s funeral last week, but has thrown himself into the Under-20s camp in Palmerston North in his honour.
“John was the one who got me into rugby when I first came to Nelson, so I owe him a lot and I’m just going to do my best here all week for him.”
The past 12 months have been a whirlwind for Tima, who walked onto the Tasman Makos team in 2016 after impressing at training and then making the most of his opportunities on the wing during the Mitre 10 Cup to now be on the cusp of the New Zealand Under-20s.
Tima puts it down to doing one thing – listening.
“I just tried to listen to my First XV coaches, then my Nelson Club coaches and the Makos boys, and now I’m here.”
He made special mention of departing Makos and Chiefs winger James Lowe,
“I always thought I was pretty strong physically but there were areas of my game that I wanted to improve on and J Lowe helped me with that.”
“Areas like my kicking and my high ball ability are both things I’ve worked on and [James] has been great for that.”
Tima did not start playing the game until he was 12 years old.
Before then he’d dabbled in football and basketball before finding his calling as a barnstorming winger.
His younger brother Leicester has also been a key part of the Nelson College First XV.
“We had some hard moments growing up, but we knew we always had the rugby ball and we’d walk to the park and play some one-on-one and just try to beat each other with footwork.”
The New Zealand Under-20s have a further camp in April, before taking part in the Oceania Tournament on the Gold Coast in April and May.
A squad of 28 will be selected to go to the Under-20 World Championship in Georgia from May 25 to June 18.