Dreams will come true for original Eastbourne U85s player Dan Hewson when he trots on to SKY Stadium in Wellington on Saturday.
In the 18 years and the 260-odd games since debuting for the first Eastbourne U85s team in 2002, never has the 38-year-old had the opportunity to play on the hallowed Cake Tin turf.
But this Saturday, the home of Wellington rugby will play host to Dan and the Eastbourne U85s as they face-off against the Wellington Axemen in a sudden death Quarter Final in the inaugural New Zealand Barbarians U85 Club Cup.
Forget the Bledisloe Cup and put the Mitre 10 Cup on pause because for 80 minutes, all that will matter to this Wellington man is winning what will double as a curtain-raiser for the Wellington v North Harbour Mitre 10 Cup match.
“When I was growing up, I wanted to play at Athletic Park but obviously that didn’t come to fruition. Good premier rugby players will probably never have the chance to play there, so we feel pretty humbled. Hopefully on Saturday we’ll give it a good crack.
“This will just be another level, and obviously it’s a curtain-raiser to the (Wellington) Lions as well, so everyone’s buzzing around the club and the supporters are pretty chuffed as well,” Dan says.
The 78kg first five-turned tighthead prop has strong rugby pedigree, with his dad Kevin representing Wellington and his uncle Allan playing fullback for the All Blacks in 19 tests between 1979 and 1984.
I just love the sport. My family grew up playing rugby, playing in the backyard with my cousins growing up. Obviously uncle Allan and Dad didn’t push us into it, but we always had a rugby ball around the place.
“It’s in the blood and I’ll keep going until the body breaks down, but at the moment I’m still pretty fit and healthy so there’s no real reason to retire at the moment. I’m just loving each week,” Dan says.
The Eastbourne U85s (the club’s only senior team) progressed past Hamilton club Fraser Tech after scoring the first try in the 22-all first-round stalemate and will face an Axemen XV that has had the wood on them in recent years.
“We lost to them by one point in the second division final last year, and earlier this year we lost by a try to them, so it’s always been a tight battle between the clubs and I’m sure they’ll come out all guns blazing this week,” he says.
The second Quarter Final in the capital will see the Avalon Wolves up against the Poneke 80/80s, with both having last-minute wins against Waikato clubs Hamilton Marist and Morrinsville respectively in week one.
In the northern draw, Counties-Manukau club Karaka has been pitted against the Auckland University Squids, after the Squids cruised past Patumahoe 41-6 last week.
Meanwhile, in arguably the match of the round, the Auckland U85 champs Ponsonby face an Eden Lizards XV in red-hot form off the back of an 80-3 destruction of Waiuku.