Different codes, same determination
Two brothers, playing different codes at different schools, are both heading down the same promising path.
Star Toa, 16, and Lepa Toa, 18, play rugby league and rugby union respectively and are both making waves in their chosen sports.
Star, a student at St Paul’s College in Ponsonby, is a rising league prodigy, having signed with the NRL’s Newcastle Knights.
Last year, he was named Auckland Rugby League’s first 13 fullback of the year and made the New Zealand under-16 side.
Lepa, currently at Tamaki College in Glen Innes, plays rugby union and has helped steer the school’s first 15 back into Auckland’s premier 1A competition.
Tamaki hasn’t played in 1A since 2013 - their glory year being 2007 when current All Black George Moala led them to the semifinals.
Lepa made the NZ Schools rugby league team last year but when his rugby sevens coach saw him play, he was quickly snapped up by Tamaki’s first 15.
‘‘I don’t mind playing both,’’ Lepa said.
‘‘I feel comfortable playing both and I’d love to try and make a career out of it.’’
But the transition hasn’t been easy for the 18-year-old, despite some people thinking league and union are the same.
‘‘The biggest difference defence,’’ Lepa said.
‘‘Tackling low is a bit annoying because we are used to wrestling them up high and tackling them down. I still do it now, tackle is really high.
‘‘The rules too. It’s complicated, especially in the ruck.’’
St Paul’s director of sport Dave McDermott said both boys had the ability to go far. Their league skills would make them a deadly threat on the rugby sevens scene, of which both of them were interested in, he said.
‘‘Being skilful outside backs, both Lepa and Star are well suited to sevens,’’ McDermott said
‘‘As their understanding of rugby increases, so too will their pathways into professional sport for either code.’’
As for Star, he seemed to be inspired by his older brothers switch and anticipated an appearance in the 15-man game for St Paul’s College this year.
‘‘I’m just trying to keep my options open,’’ he said.
‘‘If league doesn’t come my way, I’ll try and make my way in rugby.’’