Is pri­or­ity for gi­ant dad

Sunday News - - NEWS -

If I had gone over­seas, it would have just been me. That’s not who I am. I want to be around my fam­ily.’ AN­GUS TA’AVAO

di­rec­tion: fam­ily first, and ev­ery­thing else is se­condary to that. ‘‘If I had gone over­seas, it would have just been me. That’s not who I am. I want to be around my fam­ily,’’ he says.

He even con­tem­plated giv­ing the game away – earn­ing a crust ei­ther via prop­erty de­vel­op­ment or mov­ing into the me­dia where he fan­cied his chances as a com­men­ta­tor.

It was only a chance call to Chiefs coach Colin Cooper, who he de­scribes as a ‘‘great mate’’, that earnt him a shot at Su­per Rugby again this sea­son, mean­ing he can be on hand to help lit­tle Leo through his bat­tle.

When the fam­ily first re­turned late last year, Brad­field and Leo con­tin­ued to live in Auck­land, while Ta’avao com­muted to Hamil­ton for the week’s train­ing. Mon­day to Fri­day he lived with Damian and Marty Mckenzie, head­ing back up State High­way 1 for the week­end.

But he’s moved the whole fam­ily to Hamil­ton now, and is lov­ing hav­ing his tiny, now 14-month-old son close at hand.

‘‘If I’m hav­ing a dif­fi­cult day, see­ing him makes it all bet­ter,’’ Ta’avao says.

‘‘The smile he gives us, gets me. It sounds so cliche, but when I see that, it melts my heart. He’s just a spe­cial part of our life.’’

The name Leo was in­spired by Brad­field grand­fa­ther, but it was the mean­ing be­hind the name that made it stick for the cou­ple, who had even held off from nam­ing their son for a few days in that Syd­ney hos­pi­tal while he fought for his life.

‘‘Leo the lion. We called him Leo be­cause he has a big heart and he is so brave.’’

The cou­ple say the de­ci­sion to bring the whole fam­ily back across the Tas­man has re­ally paid off as they’ve been able to en­joy the sup­port of close friends and fam­ily.

‘‘Hav­ing his lit­tle cousins about is mak­ing a huge dif­fer­ence. He likes to get out­side, and have fun,’’ Ta’avao says.

‘‘It’s amaz­ing the way he can af­fect peo­ple. He’s a bit of a flirt too.’’

And the for­mer Auck­land and Blues player has been blown away by the close-knit Chiefs com­mu­nity, too. ‘‘I had heard it was good down here, but it re­ally is. It’s got a great en­vi­ron­ment.’’

An­gus Ta’avao and Kristyn Brad­field came back to New Zealand for the good of baby Leo.

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