IN 2002 the New Zealand Warriors made the grand final – and as a result the New Zealand ‘Black Sticks’ lost one of their biggest up-and-coming stars.
The Black Sticks, for the uninitiated, are the New Zealand men’s hockey team, currently ranked ninth in the world and seven seasons ago they lost one of their best 13-year-old prospects – 115-kilogram, 194cm prop forward Mose Mosoe.
He wasn’t quite that big back then, of course, but he was playing rep hockey for Central Districts and he was way too big to be carrying a stick.
Luckily for his stick-ball opponents, 2002 was the year Mosoe’s mother decided to place her son into the “care” of rugby league.
“My mum, she was really worried about me because every time I used to get contact in hockey I used to get a bleeding nose!” Mosoe recalls.
“When I was little my mum said ‘you can’t play league or rugby’ so I picked up hockey and I played since I was six until I was 13… I’ve played hockey longer than I’ve played league!”
The Warriors’ roll into the 2002 grand final against the Roosters certainly played its part in Mosoe’s decision to stick with league, with Ali Lauiti’iti his main inspiration.
Back then he was cheering on the Warriors, but now, after coming to Australia as an 18-year-old, he’s gearing himself for his Sydney Roosters NRL debut. He’s come a long way in a short space of time.
“It was pretty weird at first… it took me a couple of games to get into it. I didn’t really know what league was. I remember one time I got tackled and I thought it was union and I just released the ball… I got penalised quite a lot of times,” he reflects.
“Now being in the Roosters’ NRL squad is a bit weird because a couple of years ago I was watching them on TV and now I’m going to training with them. It’s a big shock waking up in the morning and seeing Willie Mason, Anthony Minichiello and Craig Fitzgibbon at training!”
You played Toyota Cup and you’re in the squad again this year. Was it tough leaving home at such a young age and adjusting to the rigours of professional sport?
It was pretty different. I finished school one week and then the next week I was training fulltime. It’s pretty hard living away from home, especially because I have a little boy back at home with the Mrs.
You’re rated by the Roosters as one of the best front-row prospects coming through the Toyota Cup. What are your goals for 2009?
One of my big goals is to make my first grade debut this year. But at the moment it’s just retaining my spot in the -20s squad. There are a lot of young guys in our team this year so they’re giving the young guys more of a shot this year and hopefully I’ll be one of them. It’s good to know the opportunity is there if you’re good enough. I’ve been training with the fulltime squad, which is awesome, and all the senior players like Fitzy and Mase give you heaps of advice on how to improve your game. As a New Zealander what was it like watching the Kiwis win the World Cup last year?
It was pretty good – but I only watched the last 10 minutes of the game! Even us New Zealanders had doubts on them pulling through! But it was really good to see them win… good for the game as well.
Was it a proud moment when you pulled on the black jersey for the Junior Kiwis?
It was one of the highlights of my career being able to play for my country. I was 17 at the time and there were lots of guys older than me in the team, which was great.