Ever since I was a kid playing junior rugby up in North
Otago, I dreamed of playing for the Highlanders.
Tony Brown was obviously a bit of a hero - like me, he was a
first five, and he came from small town. Then they had Nick
Evans, and he was pretty sharp.
It's very special to be here now. I still can't quite believe
I'm a Highlander. It's an awesome feeling, and a big
It's all happened so quickly. Halfway through the ITM Cup
last year, I was wondering what I would do this year. I was
thinking about applying for jobs, or looking overseas, or
even going home to the farm, up near Kurow. I was really
Then you get that phone call and it's all on. It's very
exciting, and I feel very lucky to be able to play rugby
It was a bit of a shock to the system when I came into camp
in November. The workload was phenomenal. I've never done
anything like it before.
Just getting up to speed with the other guys in the team was
a big challenge. In the Highlanders, you have to do
everything slightly quicker. It takes some adjusting.
There are obviously some great players in our team. Brad
Thorn and Ma'a Nonu are two of the new guys, but they're a
little bit more experienced than me.
It can definitely be a bit intimidating when they walk
through the door. I just try to listen to what they've got to
say. They're in your ear, anyway, giving you advice. And when
you get on the field, it's quite comforting to have guys like
that helping you out.
Game day is getting close. I've definitely got a few nerves.
It almost doesn't seem real just yet. But I'm sure, once
we've got through our last trainings and run out on to
Forsyth Barr Stadium, it will sink in.
The Chiefs represent a good chance for us to set a benchmark
and see where we're at so early in the season. We'd like to
give them a good crack.
In terms of personal goals, it's hard setting anything too
specific at this stage. If I get an opportunity, I want to
take it with both hands.
My parents, Dave and Gert, will be coming down for the game
tomorrow night. They're quite excited. Dad is a very staunch
Highlanders fan and I think he'll be very proud.
Dad's not big on over-the-top stuff. I reckon he'd just tell
me to give it my best shot, and to do my job as well as I
That's not bad advice to follow.
- Hayden Parker is in his first year with the
Highlanders. The young first five will report regularly
throughout the season.