Lolagi Visinia was a man many expected to get the call-up to the New Zealand national squad at some point in his career. While the 27-year-old never achieved that dream before he left NZ’s shores at the end of 2016, a return home to his country of birth could set tongues wagging again.
Visinia, who played in a number of All Blacks Sevens campaigns before focussing on the expanded game, has signed with Hawke’s Bay for the 2020 Mitre 10 Cup season. He is the third former Super Rugby player to announce his return to NZ in the last week, with Sona Taumalolo (Hawke’s Bay) and Baden Kerr (Counties Manuka) also returning for the provincial season.
The talented outside back was earmarked for higher honours after bursting onto the scene for Auckland as a teenager and played almost 40 matches for the provincial powerhouse before heading to FC Grenoble in France. Following his stint in France, Visinia spent some time playing for the NEC Green Rockets in Japan.
Curiously, Visinia once scored over 100 points in a junior grade rugby match, courtesy of 15 tries and a trove of points off the tee. While Visinia seemed to have a spot nailed in the Blues in the mid 2010’s, the quick-stepper fell out of favour and eventually made the decision to leave New Zealand.
“I probably didn’t quite live up to the hype, that would be fair to say I suppose,” Visinia told Stuff early last year. “But I’m not the first and I won’t be the last you could say that about in Auckland, unfortunately.
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“Growing up everyone wants to be an All Black, and some of us are even told that we’re going to be. But it can’t happen for everyone.
“[Playing and living in France] has honestly taught me a lot about myself and I think I’m a better player for it as well. I would encourage more players to branch out and give it a crack if they find themselves struggling, in Auckland in particular.”
“Eventually it would be a dream to come home and finish my career with Auckland. It’s a team and a city that is obviously very close to my heart.”
While Visinia has made a return to New Zealand, it’s with the Magpies, not Auckland, that he will try re-ignite his career.
“I’m looking forward to getting into club rugby with Clive and playing for the Magpies,” Visinia said.
“This a massive opportunity for me to be a part of the Magpies team as I have been following their success of over the last few years and I’m keen to be a part of the legacy.”
Hawke’s Bay coach Mark Ozich will be thankful to add another powerful outside back option to his team.
“It is fantastic to have secured Lolagi into our Magpies squad. He adds a different dimension to our team at 1.94m and 105kg and having the ability to play a number of positions in the backline.”
Hawke’s Bay finished second in last year’s Mitre 10 Cup Championship, narrowly losing out to Bay of Plenty in the final. This year’s competition kicks off in early September.
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