Warriors utility Jazz Tevaga says the match against the Manly Sea Eagles in Christchurch on June 9 will be a special occasion for him and his family.
But Tevaga also knows he will have to bring a lot more gear than he would usually take to away matches.
“I am sure the cousins will be hitting me up for some Warriors gear,” laughs the 22-year-old who was born in Christchurch and spent his early years in Rolleston.
Tevaga’s first footy memories are from frosty early morning sports fields at Burnham military camp watching his dad in action and putting on the colours of the Burnham Chevaliers.
Even though the family moved to Palmerston North, the ties with Christchurch remain tight.
“My mum’s family is still down there, so every visit to Christchurch is special to see my grandma and to catch up with my cousins,” says the youngster who made his first-grade debut for the Warriors in 2016 and made a huge impact from the bench in Saturday’s heart-stopping win over the Canberra Raiders.
“That was a tough game and we really had our backs against the wall. But the moment Issac Luke scored that try late in the game, I just knew we were going to win that one.”
Tevaga’s form has been rewarded with another call-up to the playing roster for this weekend’s top-of-the-table match against the Roosters in Sydney.
Asked how the Warriors have changed their fortunes this season to become unbeaten rugby league machine, one word keeps coming back: trust.
“The club has some new faces in the playing roster and the backroom staff, but there has been a huge shift in the level of trust amongst the players,” says Tevaga.
“We got a few things off our chest that were getting in the way last season and we all just trust each other not to let the team down.”
One of the Warriors’ mottos is to take the current success one week at the time, but Tevaga already has one eye on the fixture in Christchurch against Manly.
“I played in Christchurch against Penrith two years ago and it was an amazing night, so hopefully the stadium will be packed again.”
That match in 2016 was the first time back after the earthquakes and he admitted that it was quite emotional to see the damage. “Especially seeing the Cathedral was really sad.”
Tevaga says he noticed the progress in the city when he visted last year for a junior clinic with the Halswell Hornets and is keen to see how the city continues to bounce back.
“And of course, it will be special to play in front of all my family down there, because they will all be there.”
If the Tevaga family has already secured their tickets they will be among the 5,000 punters who have taken up the early-bird ticket offers.
Match organiser Justin Wallace again expects a sold-out AMI Stadium, like the Penrith Panthers match against the Warriors, and encourages the fans not to leave their ticket purchase too late.
The organisers have introduced a staggered early-bird pricing model to reward the most decisive fans.
“So if you wait until the last minute, there is a good chance the cheaper seats will be gone gone, or you can miss out altogether.
“AMI Stadium has a limited capacity and we had a lot of disappointed fans in 2016 who wanted tickets in the last few weeks when the match was already sold out.”
Because of the kick-off time of 5pm, the organisers again expect big interest among families and offer attractive deals to make the match more affordable for family groups.
Tickets for the game can be purchased on www.ticketek.co.nz
Manly Sea Eagles v New Zealand Warriors, AMI Stadium, Christchurch, Saturday June 9, 5pm kick-off.