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Once the en­fant ter­ri­ble of New Zealand rugby, Rua Tipoki re­turned to New Zealand in 2004 after a stint in Ja­pan.

He was keen to re­store a bat­tered im­age and re­build a promis­ing ca­reer that had col­lapsed after he fab­ri­cated a story about how he broke both his wrists in a gym ac­ci­dent when in fact it had hap­pened when he punched some­one play­ing in an un­sanc­tioned tour­na­ment.

Waikato coach John Mitchell told the mid­fielder he'd be in the squad as long as he kept out of trou­ble. But Tipoki was sent o in a club game for talk­ing back to the ref­eree and that was it.

On the eve of the NPC, Tipoki was cut by Waikato. His plans were in chaos un­til Bay of Plenty took him on a loan deal. Tipoki got an early chance, played su­perbly and ended up be­ing their player of the sea­son.

The Bay won the Ran­furly Shield – even de­fended it against Waikato in a game where Tipoki was at his best – and went on to make the NPC semi­fi­nals.

Tipoki was even ac­knowl­edged at the end of the year by the All Blacks se­lec­tors, who said he came close to mak­ing their squad.

While he didn’t make the All Blacks he did win a con­tract with the Blues, which al­lowed him to move on to Munster and be­come a lo­cal hero there.

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