It might be mid-February but New Zealand’s Super Rugby teams are all firmly focussed on the fast approaching 2018 season.

At the season launch the other day, there was the expected line-up of Super Rugby stars as well as a young, unknown player who has some famous Ngāti Porou-East Coast rugby heritage.

Isaia Walker-Leawere is that young, unknown player from Ruatoria who has been contracted to the Hurricanes for the next two years.

“It’s pretty surreal; it’s different from coming in and out of training and getting chosen for the squad. I’m nervous for the upcoming season but we will see what happens.”

He is a descendant of Mahaki and Porourangi: he grew up in the Waiapu Basin.

“Ruatoria is pretty isolated but rugby brings the community together.”

His last name is famous in the valleys of the East Coast His father, Kele Leawere was a stalwart for the Ngāti Porou in his day,

“My father played back in 1999 to 2001 for East Coast. I think it was division two back then. Growing up it was pretty big.”

The super rugby season starts this weekend.