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The Highlanders new No 8 took the less travelled path despite his esteemed rugby lineage

By Adam Julian
(Photo by Masanori Udagawa/Getty Images)

Nikora Broughton (Ngati Ruanui and Nga Rauru) is the latest Broughton from a Patea production line to feature prominently in rugby.

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The new Highlanders loose forward is the son of Maori All Black and long-serving Wellington second-five Norm Broughton. Olympic Sevens gold medallist Gayle and Black Ferns sisters Flo and Jude are cousins of Nikora, and they all trace their lineage back to a town with a population of little over 1000 and most famous for being the site of the classic New Zealand music video Poi E.

“I was born in Wellington, but my whanau are from up Patea ways in the Taranaki. Family and culture are very important to me. It’s stuck with me wherever I go. That grounding of knowing where you’re from, working hard, and respecting others is really important,” Broughton said.

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It’s become increasingly difficult to get recognised in age group rugby in New Zealand unless you attend a private or established boys ‘rugby’ school.

Broughton bucked that trend by being named in the New Zealand M?ori Under 18 team for a two-match series against New Zealand Barbarians Schools (21-20) and Fiji Schools (15-10) in 2018. He spent four years in the Hato Paora College First XV, a Catholic boys boarding school in Feilding that has only 100 students.

“There wasn’t a lot to do after school apart from train,” Broughton laughed.

“We always got four teams out on the field, and I loved every minute of it. From Hato Paora I was able to get into the Manawatu reps and then the Chiefs U20’s.

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“I don’t remember much about specific games I just loved the connection we made. Because we were so small, we had a tight brotherhood.”

Empathy for teammates and sheer grit are two qualities Broughton has in abundance. He caught the eye of the Bay of Plenty selectors in 2021 playing five matches in the NPC and enhanced his growing reputation in May with his stirring performances for the New Zealand Barbarians in Super Rugby Under 20 in Taupo.

With the leftovers from the five other teams, the Barbarians stunned the Highlanders (43-24), Crusaders (17-15), and Hurricanes (54-40) to finish the tourney as the only unbeaten team.

“It’s fair to say some of the boys played with a real chip on their shoulder. The coaching staff deserves full credit for bringing us together so quickly and allowing us to express ourselves. It was awesome.”

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In the first match against the Highlanders Broughton set up an outrageous try with a kick behind his head from a penalty tap.

“We tried it once in training but never thought it would come up in the game, and then the moment arrived where it felt good and sure enough it worked. That was the coaches. They really created a fun environment that built confidence.”

Broughton soared in the 2022 NPC, he played 10 matches and scored two tries for the Steamers. Though comfortable in all three loose forward positions he’s most effective at No 8.

“I started off as a flanker and only moved because of injury. I like eight because you get your hands on the ball a lot more and I back my running game. I’ve had to learn a few things, but I feel like I’m getting better all the time.

“I was happy with how the boys went in the NPC. We fell a little short at the end, but we worked hard and had some great wins.”

Bay of Plenty was beaten by Canterbury in the semi-finals.

Broughton was signed by the Highlanders three-quarters of the way into the NPC season. The southern men will be hoping for a better 2023. Last year they only won four out of 15 matches.

“It was a big surprise to be signed to Super Rugby. I’m stoked with the opportunity and am loving it so far. It’s a bit different moving away from home but we’ve got a good bunch of boys and have been working hard on fitness and skill-based things.”

The Highlanders play the Crusaders in their first pre-season fixture on Friday 10 February 2023 in Weston, North Otago for the Farmlands Cup.

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