Familiar name drawn south to Highlanders

New Highlanders lock Jack Whetton throws the ball around at a training session at Logan Park yesterday. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
New Highlanders lock Jack Whetton throws the ball around at a training session at Logan Park yesterday. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
Jack Whetton knows it is coming.

He does not mind, really.

He expects it. And it is inevitable after all.

But we start with his recent arrival in Dunedin.

The strapping 118kg lock has signed on for the Highlanders and moved south from Auckland a couple of weeks ago.

The 26-year-old is staying in Maori Hill but is shifting to St Clair early next year. He will be flatting with team-mates Shannon Frizell and Folau Fakatava.

Whetton (1.96m) is not a surfer but has not ruled out getting out on the waves. But it is the hunting and fishing he is looking forward to, outside of the rugby, of course.

''I can't say I've had a lot of experience down south so I'm very excited,'' Whetton said.

''I've been here a few weeks and I think I've got my bearings.

''I'm loving it - it only
takes 10 minutes to get anywhere.

''I'm willing to learn [how to surf] but I think I'm going to get into hunting and fishing more. I'm a bit of a keen fisherman, so I want to do some of that.''

Then the inevitable question he was expecting - was it a help or a hindrance to his career growing up as the son of former All Black Gary Whetton and the nephew of Alan Whetton?

Gary played 58 games for the All Blacks from 1981 to 1991. Alan clocked 65 games from 1984-1991.

Jack has had to address that question countless times throughout the years.

''I was waiting for this question, mate.

''It is never a hindrance. People are interested in what my father and uncle have done.

''But I've seen the tape - he wasn't that good back then,'' Whetton joked.

''I'd like to think we are our own men. He [Gary] is always the first to tell me if I've had a good game or I haven't had the best game. It is always good to have him there.''

Gary perhaps tried to shield Jack from the inevitable comparisons by nudging him towards football when he was a child.

''He played soccer growing up and wasn't allowed to play footy until about 15. He tried to get me to play soccer but I had about two games.

''I was absolutely dreadful and hated it.''

Whetton, who is unsure which club he will play for while in Dunedin, has moved around a lot during his career. He got his Super Rugby start for the Brumbies in 2014 and played half a dozen games.

He moved to the United Kingdom at the end of that season for a stint with the Leicester Tigers. He played in France for the Union Sportive Olympique Nivernaise Nevers Rugby club before linking up with Yorkshire Carnegie.

He returned to New Zealand this year and played for Auckland in the National Provincial Championship.

Whetton was keen to stay in New Zealand if an opportunity arose, so he embraced the Highlanders' opportunity when the offer came.

''It is the highest level you can play at in New Zealand other than playing for the All Blacks and I cannot wait to get on the pitch.''

There will be plenty of competition for places in the second row with incumbents Tom Franklin and Jackson Hemopo jostling with Pari Pari Parkinson, Josh Dickson and Whetton for game time.

''A little bit of competition doesn't hurt anyone.

''My main goal this year is to play some high level footy week in, week out. You don't want to be in one week
and out for the next three or four.

''I want to play a lot more minutes than I did in my first year [of Super Rugby].''

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