Naitoa Ah Kuoi will not feature for Marist St Pat’s in the opening round of the Swindale Shield this weekend. The lock and flanker tore an MCL in the Hurricanes Under-20’s 38-37 win over the Blues Under-20’s in Palmerston North on February 7.
It is yet another injury setback for the highly earmarked talent, who is adamant he will return with greater determination very shortly.
“I’m out for about six weeks which is annoying, but I’m not too worried. I’ve got a good support team around me who helped me through my hip surgery last year,” Ah Kuoi said.
Repairing a fragile hip was a major milestone for Ah Kuoi. Despite cracking the New Zealand Schools’ in 2017 and spending three years in the Wellington College First XV, the aliment was a major concern.
“It was tough playing with hips that weren’t 100 percent, but I somehow managed. I was taking a couple of Panadols before each game to help ease the pain. Sometimes I felt like vomiting in games, but that was rare,” Ah Kuoi revealed.
After missing the first six weeks of the Swindale Shield last year, Ah Kuoi finally made his long sought-after debut for MSP against Old Boys University on April 21.
“Playing for MSP was a dream come true. I’ve grown up watching a lot of the players and it was quite surreal running out with them,” Ah Kuoi enthused.
Ah Kuoi went on to amass a dozen appearances and accumulated six points in the Best and Fairest standings - including a Player of the Match display against the Upper Hutt Rams.
Disappointingly, MSP would miss the Jubilee Cup semi-finals and Ah Kuoi identified the Premier Reserve Ed Chaney Cup decider as his personal highlight in 2018.
“We beat Ories 32-25 in overtime. It was an incredible game, one of the best I’ve been involved in. The Premier Reserves are a really good bunch of boys,” Ah Kuoi acclaimed.
Ai Kuoi won further acclaim in August when he was appointed skipper of the Wellington Under-19’s.
“It was a huge honour being captain of the Under-19’s. We were a great side with a good bunch of lads,” he said.
“Although we fell short of our expectations, we felt we built a strong bond with each other and the coaches which will hopefully help us in the future.”
Personally Ah Kuoi was grateful for the “gems” of knowledge he picked up stressing “the little things” really count.
Ah Kuoi is nothing little in sport. In addition to his success in rugby, he has been a New Zealand age group rep in AFL and Water Polo.
Favourite Musician: Stephen Foster
Favoured Movie: Rush Hour 2
Favourite Players: Akira Ioane
Celebrity Crush: Angelina Jolie