Dad's the word for Hollander in final

Jayden Hollander  at Logan Park, before leaving for Christchurch for the Otago Whalers’ national...
Jayden Hollander at Logan Park, before leaving for Christchurch for the Otago Whalers’ national final against the Wellington Orcas today. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
Inspiration has never been hard to find for Jayden Hollander.

His father, Tufele Taufa, has been a rugby league stalwart in Otago.

A player, coach and referee, Taufa is a life member of both Otago Rugby League and New Zealand Rugby League.

That meant he was "pretty much raised on the sidelines of league", Hollander said.

It was something he took to as well - his father providing a figure to look up to.

So when he takes the field for the Otago Whalers against the Wellington Orcas in today's national second-tier final in Christchurch, there is no doubt what will be going through his head.

"I'll be thinking of him when I run out," Hollander (20) said.

"Hopefully, he's sitting on a couch somewhere, parked in front of a TV, watching."

A second-year building apprentice, Hollander is in his second year with the Whalers.

Playing at hooker and in the halves, he brings aggression and adds plenty of spark to the side.

He began playing league in 2012 as an under-15, when Otago brought in age-grade representative teams.

In that team he was coached by current Whalers coach Dave Reedy, who loved Hollander's aggression.

He has since progressed through the age groups, before becoming the "baby" of last year's Whalers side.

It had been a great pathway to follow and people such as Reedy had been key, he said.

He admitted last year was "quite daunting".

However, he was no longer the youngest in the squad and he was feeling more comfortable.

Perhaps helping with that was that the biggest adjustment also came in his favourite area of the game.

"The physicality is a massive step up, but that's something I enjoy - it's one of the main reasons I play the game in the first place."

That should help against the North Island champion Wellington side.

The Whalers have been successful in recent years.

They have been competitive against the North Island sides and claimed wins over Wellington each of the past two years.

But they have fallen just short of a national title.

In previous years that has led to a promotion-relegation match with the bottom national premiership team.

That format has changed this year - promotion is not at stake - although there is still plenty of motivation.

The game will be televised and the Whalers side was excited to show what it was capable of.

"I suppose we'll be going into this game as underdogs," Hollander said.

"You don't see much league south of Christchurch.

"So we're looking forward to putting our talent on show and showing the country we can play league down south."

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