IRANZ Success Stories: The road to professional rugby

From the Otorohanga Sports Club Premiers in 2017, to the Mitre10 Cup Championship-winning Waikato side in 2018.

Hold onto your Santa hats people – because the story of “Big H” might just be the ‘Rugby Fairytale of the Year.’

Haereiti Hetet – or “Big H” as he became known at IRANZ – attended the High Performance Players Course in February this year as a promising front-rower, plying his trade for Otorohanga Sports Club in King Country.

IRANZ Graduate Haereiti Hetet
Haereiti “Big H” Hetet (right) was awarded Player of the Day in one of two matches played on his High Performance Players Course in February this year.

While Big H had already played at Development level, he was nothing short of an exemplary player on the programme.

He turned up on time and worked hard in all sessions, leading by example and always giving his best.

Following the Course, Big H returned to his Otorohanga Premier side and continued to work hard on his game.

Having played for the Waikato Development side in 2017, Big H had a ‘taste’ of rugby at provincial level.

However on the 9th of August this year, 7 months following his time at IRANZ, Haereiti was named in the Waikato side for the 2018 Mitre 10 Cup.

IRANZ Graduate and Waikato Player Haereiti Hetet
Haereiti Hetet had regular gametime throughout Waikato’s 2018 Mitre10 Cup season.

Not only did Big H receive regular gametime throughout the season, but his side went on to secure the Mitre10 Cup Championship, with a 36-13 victory over Otago in the Championship Final.

So we caught up with Big H recently to congratulate him on a great season.

Regarding his time at IRANZ, Haereiti said “… the coaches were really great. After leaving the Course, it opened my eyes on how far I can get in rugby.”

“I thought it was going to be, like, a military camp – but it turned out to be one of the highlights of my life.”

While the High Performance Players Course is designed to provide ambitious players all the knowledge and tools required to become a professional rugby player – it isn’t exactly typical for players to secure their first contract so quick – at least not months after completing the programme.

So we dug a little deeper.

Our Staff also caught up with Steve, “a passionate club man” at Otorohanga Sports Club, and one of the key orchestrators behind Big H’s attendance on the Course.

Speaking of his involvement in getting Big H onto the programme, Steve said “…he was always a promising talent, and had such a great work ethic.”

“A group of us sat down for a beer one evening and thought, there must be some means of helping him [Haereiti] on his way, that will benefit the club too.”

This thought led them to find the High Performance Players Course. After a few fundraisers, Haereiti’s application was through and he was on his way to IRANZ.

“If he pushes on to play professionally, then that’s great for the Club. If he doesn’t, we get a loyal, quality club player that will serve Otorohanga for years to come.”

“It’s tough for clubs out here [in rural areas]. Many players haven’t had the exposure to the resources and expertise that’s available in some of the bigger regions.”

“…we’ll do our part to get him to Mitre10 Cup, or Super Rugby – wherever he ends up… it’s not about being recognised for what we did to get him there.”

“But sitting around the tele, watching him play – we can say, Hey, we did a good thing.”

What’s yet to come for Big H is a question yet. Generally speaking, however, props often find their ‘peak’ in their late 20’s – 30’s.

At only 21 years-old, we have good reason to believe the best is yet to come for Big H.

Otorohanga Sports Club will be sending another two players to the upcoming High Performance Players Course to be held from 27 January – 15 February in 2019.

Want to receive more detail on IRANZ Player Courses?

Drop the IRANZ team your details below and someone will be in touch with more information.