“It’s been great”, says Api. The first few days were a bit tough with the jet lag but the lads have been extremely welcoming and I’ve really enjoyed having a look around the place and trying out the awesome food in Galway.
“And in my first week, we had a team challenge whereby four mini teams had to go to all five counties in one day. So that was an awesome way to see a lot of the province so early. It was a sunny day too and I really liked seeing sites like the old castles…things you wouldn’t see in New Zealand.”
Commenting on how the move came about, he said:
“I’d never worked with Pat before but my agent got in touch and the opportunity came about to come over here and play in Ireland so I jumped at it. I was excited by a new challenge…and one that was in Ireland.”
In terms of moving to the other side of the world at a young age, Api says he’s not finding it too difficult:
“I left New Zealand when I was 16 years old and spent five years playing league in Australia so I’m used to living away from my family…although this is a lot further. Through a mutual friend, I caught up with Nepia (Fox-Matamua) before we both moved here and I’m now living with him in Galway. We didn’t know each other before now but it’s great to have someone who’s in the same situation having just moved here and getting set up.”
Api has been to Ireland before when he represented his grandmother’s home country in the 2013 Rugby League World Cup.
“Yea my grandmother was born in Lucan in Dublin and moved to New Zealand when she was just 25 years old and met my pops. So I was eligible to play for the Wolfhounds and it was a great experience. We played against Australia, Fiji and England. The tournament was in the UK but we played Australia in Dublin and stayed there for a week.”
At 17 years of age, Api switched from rugby union to league but is now making the switch back to the game he started out with:
“I grew up playing union. They’re pretty similar games and at the end of the day it’s the same ball. I started playing rugby when I was five years old and changing to league was a bit different at the time but I picked it up quickly. So I know that when I get back into the skills sessions here, it won’t be long until I’m back into it. I’m just looking to take in as much as I can from the coaches – to learn as much as I can, as fast as I can.
“In terms of the training, it’s been great. For the first week, we were doing a lot of work in the gym with Paul (Bunce, Head of Fitness). But this week, I’ve been getting to know the coaches a lot more with added skills sessions on the pitch.“
“I was actually half way through my rugby league season before I arrive here and I really only stopped playing two weeks before. I took a small break so I’d be ready to hit pre-season in good condition. I’m feeling good, the body is good and I’m just excited to get involved.
Asked about his own personal goals for the season, Api, who has been earmarked to play in midfield, was quite clear:
“For me the goal is to play as many games as I can. The main focus of pre-season is working hard to adjust quickly to the switch. Getting to know all the lads and the supporters is important. I want to do my bit for Connacht Rugby.”
The 2015/16 Connacht Rugby season kicks off with a pre-season friendly against Grenoble on Friday August 7th at the Sportsground. Secure your ticket in the stands for the opener and all 14 home league and European games with a great-value Season Ticket.