At 17 years of age, Tawa Holyoake is a rising star in the world of polocrosse. This weekend his home community of Pouto in Northland are hosts to the national championships. No better time to check out the skills of this young man.
"Kia ora, ko Tawa Holyoake ahau. Ko Ngāti Whātua te iwi."
The young star says he was only small when he first took up the sport.
"We started when I was little, we used to do treks up the beach with mum and dad. And then polocrosse went into Pouto School. They took some rackets into there about nine years ago, and from there I started and haven’t stopped."
This weekend the community of Pouto are hosts to the national junior and intermediate polocrosse championships.
"My sister Tia she's played for New Zealand. Brodie, he played for New Zealand. Brodie Ruatara, he’s from Pouto as well."
He says his father has been a huge influence.
"It was more my dad, I always wanted to be better than my dad. I always wanted to be better than him so that's what drove me."
Representing NZ is also a strong motivator for him. "The U21 NZ team is being picked this weekend, I’m pretty sure. So I really want to make that as well."
Holyoake moved to Auckland to compete in his age-group and is currently playing for Counties seniors. However, today he is in the Auckland intermediate team.
"I train a lot, I train every day. You have to be mentally strong so when the pressure comes on you don’t crack. You have to keep going."
His kaiako, Beau Moore, says he has a gift for the sport.
"He is brilliant, he's just got that natural flare. He’s talented, it's something that you can’t train."
Holyoake credits the horses he rides for a great deal of his success.
"The horses are 75% of the game. If you don’t have a good horse, you’re not going to be a good player. So we put a lot of time into our horses, training fixing.
"But when you go overseas and play in other countries, you learn how to ride other horses to the best of their abilities, so it's good."
He has made the NZ U16 team for four years running, until last year when he made the NZ U21 team selection. Nowadays, the boy from Pouto has an international profile in the game.
"Eight maie players got selected from around the world to play South Africa, who are the best in the world. And we went over there and represented the Barbarian team.
"I want to make the world cup in three years time, held in South Africa. That's my overall goal and in between those three years I want to make as many NZ teams as I can."
Despite having the world in the palm of his hand, Holyoake already foresees a return home in due course.
"It's where you start, it's where you're going to finish. And it's good for the people at the Pouto School, the kids. It's good to let them know that you can make it no matter where you’re from."
Report by Dean Nathan for Te Ao.