Rugby: New Highlander on the rise

Dan Pryor holds a tackle bag at training at Logan Park yesterday. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
Dan Pryor holds a tackle bag at training at Logan Park yesterday. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
Dan Pryor says he is a late bloomer.

Some players his age - 26 - have long since flown the coop, opting for an overseas contract.

Pryor, though, is on the rise.

He has been kicking around first-class rugby since 2010 and has now picked up his first fulltime Super rugby contract, joining the Highlanders for the coming season.

The Northland loose forward believed time in the saddle has helped his game.

''I think it is confidence. The first couple of years I just did my job and did what the coaches told me. I didn't branch out, just doing what I had to,'' he said.

''But then I started to get that confidence and I'd do my own thing. It seems to be working all right.

''I'm a bit of a late bloomer, a laid-back person, I suppose. I've just reached my stride a bit different.

''I was in the Auckland academy and in the Auckland system but it just did not work out. Then Northland gave me a call and I went up there and never looked back.''

Pryor helped Northland make the ITM Cup playoffs, and his impressive play won him a contract with the Highlanders.

Pryor said Northland's good season had been a few years in the making.

''It has been building for a couple of years now. It is a laid-back place up there. But this year we knuckled down, worked really hard so when it came down to those crunch times we came through them.

Pryor, who went to Auckland Grammar, said he always had a connection with Northland as his mother came from there.

He played blindside and No 8 for the Taniwha last season and said blindside was his preferred position.

Competition was fierce for loose forward spots in the Highlanders and Pryor said he was working hard, putting on weight, and getting fit.

A torn bicep he picked up 20 minutes into the first training session of the pre-season in late November has stopped his progress.

He will miss tomorrow's game in Timaru against the Crusaders as he has not quite recovered but is expected to be right to play the two pre-season games in Australia.

Pryor played one game for the Blues in 2012 - when the northern franchise was having a horror season - and said, despite the poor performances, it was still an experience he enjoyed.

''When you were inside the camp, you would have never thought we were having a horror year. The boys were pretty tight and working hard.''

Pryor is the grandson of former Auckland loose forward Albie Pryor, who was a big part of the successful Auckland shield era in the early 1960s and helped drive Maori rugby.

He lends his name to a major award at the annual Maori Sports Awards.

But to Dan Pryor, his granddad was simply that.

''I did not really know of him as a footy player. I just caught up with it all at his funeral when everyone started telling all these footy stories. I just knew him as granddad. He was just granddad, giving me lollies, pies and Coke.''

Albie Pryor died in 2000.

Pryor has nearly finished a degree in business and advertising at AUT in Auckland but is not sure whether he will move into the advertising world.

There is plenty of water to flow under the bridge before then.

And, coming from Northland, he is enjoying the southern sun.

''Everyone said it was going to be freezing but it is hot as. They say it is going to get cold and that, but we'll wait and see.''

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