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14 November, 2014 at 2:37 am in Auto
The Bay of Plenty township of Ngongotaha on the western shores of Lake Rotorua is a long way from the bright lights of the NRL and international league but it's where Kiwis centre Dean Whare calls home.
Pandora Alphat Charms Uk The 24-year-old Penrith Panther was born in the small sawmill community before circumstances saw him move to Sydney where he discovered the 13-man code.
On the eve of Saturday's Four Nations final against the Kangaroos, Whare speaks fondly about his hometown and the importance of his family and their role in his journey from young rugby enthusiast to NRL star.
"Back in the day, Rotorua was all about rugby and the All Blacks and all that kind of stuff," Whare explains. "I used to be a rugby boy back when I was younger. I played a lot in the younger ages until I was 9 years old when I left to come over to Aussie.
"My family just saw better opportunities over there. I was close with my mum's brother, I didn't move over there with my parents, I went with my uncle and aunty.
"I try to come over once a year, if it's not when I'm playing the Warriors then I'll come back for a holiday and bring my little one back and take her around Rotorua."
The young Whare settled within the St George district and once introduced to league spent his teenage years honing his skills on the suburban fields of Hurstville.
"I didn't know what league was until I moved over to Sydney. I moved over there and just blended into that area and I've been there ever since."
He quickly found himself thrust into the Dragons junior system but was snatched up by Manly before making a stunning three-try first grade debut in 2010.
His ability did not escape the notice of New Zealand league officials and that same year he was named in the Junior Kiwis, alongside current Kiwis teammates Shaun Johnson, Martin Taupau and Jason Taumalolo.
"There were four of us now to have graduated from there which is a bonus for us [Kiwis]. We spoke about it the other day when we came into camp. Our last [Junior Kiwis] camp was here [Wellington] also, so we spoke about where we stayed and how much we've changed since then.
"We've had a good bond since the start of the tournament. Me and Shaun have played about 10 tests together so we're pretty tight-knit with our combinations working there."
Pandora Dangle Charms sale The Junior Kangaroos side also contained some familiar names, with Kiwis teammate Gerard Beale turning out in the green and gold, alongside current Kangaroos Josh Jackson and Whare's good friend and Panthers teammate, Josh Mansour.
"We're close mates and it should be an awesome game. We spoke after the first game, how it was a bit weird tackling each other on the opposite side of the field, but that's something that we've got to get used to. He's playing for Australia and I'm playing for New Zealand so we've got to be enemies on the field but we can share our stories after that."
He admits the Kiwis will be looking to put the newer members of the Kangaroos under close inspection, including his clubmate, but is wary of the threat they pose.
"It will be hard to pinpoint one area to target the Australians. Some of them haven't played [much] test football but a lot of them have played Origin so they'll definitely be ready and up for the game. Players like Dylan Walker and Josh Mansour are coming in after career-best seasons."
The Kiwis know they need to be at their best if they are to claim the Four Nations title and their execution needs improvement after some blown try-scoring chances marred their tight win over England in Dunedin last Saturday.
"Picking the right passes and making sure they hit the right target. We made a lot of mistakes there on the weekend and if we can nullify that and try and not give Aussies the ball that they need we'll go a long way towards winning the game."
Pandora Sports Charms for sale Winning the tournament is Whare's first priority but he knows how much it would also mean to his family, who were pleased to have him closer to home over the past three weeks of the campaign.
"That's one of the main reasons I play this game and put that jersey on, to represent my family and my country. It's always humbling coming home and seeing my family and seeing how proud they are of what I've done with my career.
"I've caught up with a few of them in Dunedin and Whangarei. I think the majority of them are coming out to the game here in Wellington on Saturday night."
Pandora Animal Charms For Sale After being inconvenienced by a mild groin strain early on in the tournament, a foot problem saw Whare confined to a moon boot the day after their win over England, however he insists he is raring to go for the final match.
"I got over a few injuries last week and the week before and have come though those pretty good and am ready to go. I'm just trying to play more consistently and give my all in every game. I'm happy at the moment but it definitely has to be better this week."