As Melbourne Storm prepares for their trip to New Zealand this weekend we sat down to speak with the first ever Kiwi to pull on a purple jersey.
Tawera Nikau arrived in Melbourne in 1998, adding another chapter to an already well-travelled career up until that time.
Nikau had spent six years in English Super League with Castleford before playing 61 games with the Cronulla Sharks, including the 1997 Super League grand final.
It was in that following off-season when the Kiwi international was approached by newly appointed Storm coach Chris Anderson and CEO John Ribot about the prospect of joining the competition’s newest club.
“I came with an open mind, Chris and John sold a good story to me about Melbourne Storm and the vision and dream they had for a team in Melbourne, I definitely wanted to be a part of that,” Nikau said.
“It was a new beginning I suppose, I’d travelled and played over in the UK and now I could build a team and legacy in Melbourne.”
Another draw card about moving to Victoria was the opportunity to escape the NRL melting pot north of the border.
“Living in Sydney, playing for the Sharks, it was full on. They had just been through the Super League war and it was a pretty hostile environment,” Nikau said.
“It was really good to walk down the street and for people not to know who you were.”
The bright lights of Melbourne were a far cry from the small coal-mining town of Huntly, New Zealand where Nikau grew up.
As one of seven boys, life was naturally one, big competitive game. While the majourity of young Kiwis dream of pulling on an All Blacks jersey, the Huntly community leaned more towards rugby league as their chosen sport.
His talents as a junior attracted interest from the UK and then the Shire before his career would take an unexpected path towards foreign NRL country.