From the rugby field to firefighting
‘‘It’s a fantastic environment that Gerrard [Fasavalu] and Jacob [Ellison] have got going.’’
It’s sad for Northern United fans that they won’t see Chris Middleton rampaging around Porirua Park again.
The big lock had recovered from an ankle injury and was in excellent form in the last three matches as Norths made a push for a Jubilee Cup spot.
Middleton – who played four seasons for Waikato and had a year in Italy – said getting back to training with his Porirua clubmates was easy.
‘‘It’s a fantastic environment that Gerrard [Fasavalu] and Jacob [Ellison] have got going,’’ he said.
But Middleton had to forgo the opportunity to link with long-time locking partner Api Naikatini in coming weeks and add to his 82 games for Norths because he has been accepted into the fire service.
A three-month course in Rotorua awaits and he couldn’t risk a rugby injury.
‘‘I’ve been a professional rugby player for as long as I can remember, but I’m 29 and need to think about that next step in my life, and paying my bills.
‘‘The fire service is a massive opportunity for me.’’
Middleton, Titahi Bay born and bred, has made a name for himself not only with a ball under his arm, but on the water.
The Titahi Bay Surf Life Saving Club has produced many champions over the years and Middleton and the A surf boat crew have kept that tradition going the past two summers.
Although they dipped out at nationals this year, Middleton, Jono Boyd, Brett Hamer, Jordan Tyrrell and sweep Wil McDowell did enough to earn selection for New Zealand against Australia at Shellharbour, New South Wales, in February.
They lost the test series 2-1 but made the finals of the Australian club nationals at Shellharbour.
‘‘It’s a different environment to rugby but something that’s always been important to me. I grew up on that beach and this club is like a family. Rugby took me away but I always wanted to come back and row.’’
This year’s A crew was tightknit, worked their socks off and had unfinished business, Middleton said.
‘‘We had a bad nationals [this summer], so coming back strong is something we want to tick off.’’
Chris Middleton is looking forward to the next challenge in his life, but the surf club is likely to remain a big priority.