Giant prop Angus Ta’avao may be chuffed to have resurrected his Super Rugby career at the Chiefs this season but he’s thrilled too to be based so close to the town he once called home – Raglan.
The 124kg (near 20 stone} 28 year old lived in Raglan on and off from the age of about 10 through until 17-ish, and says he has “all good memories” of his time here.
So much so that Angus – who was thrown a lifeline by Chiefs coach Colin Cooper after failing to pick up a Super Rugby contract either side of the Tasman for 2018 – recently took a nostalgic trip down memory lane, or Long Street to be exact, with his partner Kristyn Bradfield.
She’d visited Raglan just the once previously, when playing in Hamilton with her water polo team as a 14 year old.
“I took her out there (to Raglan) a few weeks ago and drove around showing her a few different places I lived,” Angus told the Chronicle last weekend. He recalls living with his mother, Wendy McGee, in Long Street and thereabouts.
“Yes, I one hundred percent remember Raglan,” he says from the home in Whitiora, just a stone’s throw from Waikato Stadium, that he has for the Super Rugby season.
Angus did only one full year – as a Year 7 pupil – at Raglan Area School, but that was long enough for him to make quite an impression. Principal Malcolm Cox recalls he was “a very big lad, very gentle and a gifted player … he had a talent even then”.
Veteran local junior rugby coach Johnny Brown remembers Angus for a different reason: “He was such a big boy for his age I had to go to the senior rugby team to get a jersey for him.”
Says Angus of his early Raglan rugby days: “I’m pretty sure I wore black and green, it was such a long time ago.”
From 2002 to 2007 Angus went to Dilworth, a private boarding school in Epsom, Auckland. But he says that every holiday, long weekend or when school finished for the term or year he was catching a bus for Hamilton so he could join his mother in Raglan.
He remembers jumping off the Kopua footbridge into the estuary and also a holiday job at the then Four Square in Bow Street over a couple of years as a teen. “I was working as a stock boy, doing lifting out the back.”
Angus says he’s been meaning for a while to bring his baby son Leo, who has a genetic disease, out to Raglan and show him the beach.
The beach was a big part of his life here. Though he never surfed, he and his mum used to run the beach and swim. “It was a good training ground … especially the run up to the carpark (from Ngarunui).”
Angus wasn’t too fussed about Hamilton as a youth but now sees its centrality giving him “the best of both worlds”, with family in Auckland and the beach nearby in Raglan.
When he joined the Chiefs early this year it was only to cover the absence of All Blacks in the pre-season, but after a spate of injuries to teammates he’s now become a key component of the Chiefs pack and his contract has been extended to the end of the season.
Angus is no newcomer to Super Rugby. He played for the Blues between 2012 and 2015, then linked up with the Waratahs in NSW on a two-year deal.
He also played for Taranaki in last year’s Mitre 10 Cup competition, captaining them when they took the prized Log o’ Wood – the Ranfurly Shield – off rugby powerhouses Canterbury.