By PETER ZOLEVEKE JNR
HE might not yet be a household name to the Solomon Islands rugby community but in New Zealand, 17-year-old Andrew Hayward is making waves in the New Zealand high schools rugby competitions.
Sun Sports caught up with his uncle, Tekaai Nemaia a rugby player himself, to learn more about the boy who could likely one day wear the All Blacks jersey.
Andrew was raised as a boy at White River, an urban area locally on the outskirts of the western side of Honiara City.
His Father is part Solomon Islands from Wagina and of New Zealand Maori heritage, while his mother is also from Wagina, a Solomon Islands – Gilbertese located in Choiseul Province.
A second-born child in the family, Andrew moved with his family to New Zealand in 2009 when he was 7 years old, and later became a permanent resident there.
“The now 17-year-old got in the sport of rugby at an early age, a family legacy from his maternal side”, says his mother’s younger brother, Tekaai.
“We all play rugby in the family. As brothers, we played for the Marist rugby club in the domestic competition here and Andrew grew up among us, amused, he inherited the sport.
In 2017 when he was 16 years old, Andrew made it into the Super Rugby team Hurricanes youth team and again in 2018 when he was selected team captain for the Youth Council U18 tournament.
He featured for his home town school, Hastings boys rugby school team, also known as the young magpies in the 15s code early this year where he successfully led the school team to high schools rugby title.
The title earned Hastings boys school team the right to represent New Zealand, and a place to compete in the Sanix World Rugby Youth Invitational tournament in Japan next year in February.
He came home to the Solomon’s for holidays back in August and had the opportunity to feature for Henderson Hammerheads (HHH), during the Solomon Islands Rugby Union Federation Soltuna 7s competition.
“Since Marist rugby club is no longer competing in local rugby scene, we decide to introduce him to the Henderson Hammerheads (HHH), a few relatives are also part of the team,” Tekaai explains.
A proud uncle Tekaai, says his family at White River always support him with the passion he has for the gentlemen’s game.
“When he came for the holidays in August he wanted to keep his fitness, so on his request, we engage a local trainer for Andrew.
“He then was trained under, one of Team Solomon’s trainer, Fa’amoana Tupoe doing fitness training at the Town Ground rugby stadium.
“We are all proud of where he is at and will continue to support him. As a family, we want to encourage other parents to involve their kids in sports and not give up on them because there are always opportunities out there,” uncle Tekaai said.
That is not the end of the journey for 17-year-old Andrew Hayward.
Last Saturday he captained the New Zealand Maori U18 rugby team dubbed as Whatukura during the New Zealand World School 7s tournament, after being selected from the New Zealand nationals youth 7s tournament.
NZ Maori U18 made a clean run through the pool stages against; the Cook Islands, Australia and Canada in Auckland last weekend.
The Whatukura’s reached the semi-final playoffs of the World School 7s tournament but were eliminated by the New Zealand Barbarians in the semis.
“I love the contact of the sport, and that’s how I keep playing, I guess. It’s good to play against other countries, seeing what they got,” Andrew told World Rugby 7s magazine in an interview over the weekend.
With his current form and discipline, the future looks bright for Andrew Hayward. His future in the gentleman’s game is no doubt on the right course.
Hopefully, this could see him wear the All Blacks jersey one day and represent New Zealand, Solomon Islands and the Wagina Kiribati community in Choiseul Province.