HAMILTON fly-half Raniera Petersen would be weaving his magic on the other side of the world in Edmonton had it not been for COVID-19.
The 21-year-old from Greytown in New Zealand's Heartland was set to follow long-term mentor Marty Berry to Canada.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic and associated travel restrictions forced a change in plans and they ended up in Newcastle.
The move has worked out perfectly for both.
Berry, a former All Black, has taken the reins at Hamilton and with Peterson pulling the strings, the Hawks have opened the season with three straight wins.
"I have known Marty most of my life," Petersen said. "I jumped on board with him when he was going to Canada. That fell through so I jumped on board with him here. I have always wanted to travel through rugby."
Petersen is best mates with Berry's son Rocco, who is playing for the New Zealand Warriors in the NRL. The fact the Warriors are based in Gosford has been a bonus.
"It is pretty cool that my best mate is down the road," Petersen said.
"We grew up together and spent most afternoons down at the rugby fields."
Petersen joined Marty and his wife, Anrdea, in Melbourne to watch Rocco's first-grade debut against the Storm and has been in the stands for the two games since.
"I talk to him every second day or so and he tries to get up here on days off and hang out with us," Petersen.
Asked if he was tempted to cross codes, Petersen said: "Where we are from, there is no rugby league at all. Rocco and I went to different boarding schools. I went to Te Aute College in Hawkes Bay and he went to Wellington. That's where he got picked up by the Warriors. I have never played a game of rugby league in my life."
In terms of rugby pedigree, Petersen's is top shelf.
At age 16, he played for Hawkes Bay in the Jock Hobbs Cup national under-19s championships.
In 2018,he represented New Zealand Maori under-18s, beating New Zealand Barbarians and Fijian Schools, and played in the under-19s championship for Wellington.
He returned home in 2019 and again played in the national 19s for Heartland.
Last season, he led Greytown to a first-grade grand final, was the competition's leading point-scorer and represented Wairarapa in the Heartland Championships.
"I went back home last year and had a season with my old man," Petersen said. "He is 38 and had me when he was young. He played 10 and I played 12."
Ryan Hargood also played for Greytown and came out with Petersen to Hamilton.
"Ryan and I lost our grand final on full-time with a penalty kick last year, so we are playing with a bit of chip on our shoulder," Petersen said. "It is faster than I expected but not as physical as I am used to back home."
"We are building nicely. We have got a few players back in the past couple of weeks. It's a matter of keeping everyone healthy and I think we can give it a shake."
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