Kia ora, Bellingen Magpies
BELLINGEN’S three New Zealand musketeers didn’t say too much when the Advocate caught up with them on Thursday, but Magpies captain-coach Ryan O’Connor put the good word on them.
“They don’t talk much but they can certainly eat,” O’Connor said.
The teenaged trio of Kimihai Paki Paki-Hemopo, Callan Tapine and Tamati Smith made their debuts for the Magpies last week against Nambucca Heads after crossing over from Wellington where they played in a representative under-20 team together last year.
When asked what their first impressions of Bellingen were, it was obvious that none of them were yet to experience training on a cold Tuesday night in July.
“It’s a bit hot and humid,” Smith said.
“They’ll be right at home in winter,” the coach chimed in with a knowing grin.
While the weather may be something unusual for the three 18-year-olds to get used to, all agreed so far it’s created an extra on-field challenge for them.
“It’s harder because it’s hot and you’ve got to get used to the heat first,” Tapine said.
The fact that Paki Paki-Hemopo (five-eighth), Tapine (prop) and Smith (utility forward) aren’t the only new boys in town has made it easier for them to settle into life at Bellingen Park.
“It’s good because it means we all bond together,” Paki Paki-Hemopo said.
“Everyone’s made us feel really welcome.”
Now that the phone calls from worried mothers back in the Kiwi capital have slowed down, the boys are concentrating on their football, especially tomorrow’s clash at home against Sawtell.
Looking to bounce back from last week’s disappointing loss to Nambucca Heads, the three of them have been made fully aware that getting the two points against the Panthers won’t be an easy task.
“I hear they’re a pretty good team and that they’ve got ‘Vila the Gorilla’ (Richard Vilasanti) playing for them,” Smith said.
“It should be a tough game.”