CASTLEFORD Tigers’ New Zealand recruit Weller Hauraki has outlined his determination to have a big season after swapping Super League champions Leeds Rhinos for Castleford Tigers.
Hauraki, 27, who has now joined up with his new Castleford team-mates after a hold-up receiving the visa that allows him to play in England, is getting stuck into pre-season training as he aims to play the regular first team rugby that was denied him at Headingley last year.
He makes no secret of the fact that it was the chance to play week in, week out that attracted him to Cas, but he is not short on ambition as he wants to make the New Zealand squad for next year’s World Cup.
Hauraki (pictured) told the Express: “I joined Castleford because I wanted to get more game time. I wasn’t getting much at Leeds and I want to play regularly.
“Ian Millward wants me to be a leader as well and I’m sure I’m going to enjoy the challenge.
“I enjoyed my time at the Rhinos and went to some big games with them, but I had to think about myself and what’s better for me in my career.
“My main aim for the season is to play some consistent footy and hopefully I can play well enough to pick up some games for the Exiles.
“I really want to play well because I’m really hoping to make the New Zealand squad for the World Cup. I’ll only get into the team if I’m playing regularly and I’m hoping to have a big year.
“Castleford can help me in my ambitions as well. We’ve got the side to do well and it’s up to us to play consistently as a team then we can make the top eight.
Hauraki admitted it was frustrating having to delay his travel back to England while he awaited visa clearance, but he has been keeping himself fit training with clubs in Australia.
He said: “It took a bit longer than I was expecting to get my visa. I think it takes a bit more time for family visas to come through, but it finally arrived and there’s no problems. I’m happy to be back.
“So far I’ve only done a few bits of training with the team, but the boys are making me feel welcome and it’s been good. I only knew a few of the players before coming here, but the others have introduced themselves and they are helping me settle in.
“I’ve known Rangi Chase for a while since we were both young in New Zealand, but I’ve never played in the same team as him at club level so we’re both really looking forward to it.
“I’ve been able to keep myself fit by doing some training with the Parramatta Eels and some feeder clubs for the Brisbane Broncos so I’ve done plenty of training to get myself ready for pre-season back in England.
“I’m getting stuck into training with Castleford now. It’s been tough so far, but I’m enjoying the different scenery and being around different people as well.
“It doesn’t differ much from the pre-season training with Leeds. Pre-season’s just training hard really and getting fit so everyone has the same sort of aims.
“I’m having to get used to the cold again. It was 39 degrees back in Australia so I got a bit of a fright when I got off the plane when it was more like minus 9. But you soon get used to it and it helps that I’ve played over here before.”
Hauraki, who has been handed the number 12 shirt by head coach Ian Millward after signing a two-year contract with Castleford, is tipping his new team to improve on last season’s disappointing showing and he believes they can be challenging for a play-off place again.
He added: “The boys are looking really fit and I’m really excited for our prospects for next season. I think we’re definitely looking at getting in that top eight.
“The club’s made some good signings and bringing in Keith Mason is going to be really good for us.
“I can’t wait to get into it and I think the young boys at Castleford can’t wait either. It’ll be good playing at The Jungle as they call it as well and I’m looking forward to sampling the atmosphere at the ground as a home player.”
Hauraki has played in Super League for the past three seasons after joining Crusaders in 2010 from NRL side Parramatta Eels. He played 28 games for the Welsh club, scoring 10 tries, before his switch to Leeds where he has played 39 games in the past two years, scoring six tries, and picked up a Grand final winners’ ring as well as appearing in the Challenge cup final.
He was was named in the New Zealand training squad for the 2008 Rugby League World Cup, but missed out on the final squad.