8 Jun 2017

Laumape always dreamt about being an All Black

5:52 pm on 8 June 2017

For three painful seasons at the Warriors Ngani Laumape harboured a simple dream.

To be an All Black.

The former schoolboy rugby union star realised he was in the wrong sport as his injury-prone NRL stint unfolded in Auckland.

The Hurricanes midfielder the former Warriors centre Ngani Laumape.

The Hurricanes midfielder the former Warriors centre Ngani Laumape. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Then he spied a gap.

All Blacks greats Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith were moving on from the Hurricanes.

It was now or never.

A code switch in 2016 paid the ultimate dividend for 24-year-old Laumape, who was a shock inclusion in the New Zealand squad for the three-Test series against the British and Irish Lions.

It was so unexpected that Laumape said he didn't even listen to the squad announcement. Instead he was told by All Blacks hooker Dane Coles in the changing room before Hurricanes training.

"I thought someone was going to slap me to wake up or something," he said.

When reality dawned, the wrecking ball second five-eighth had time to reflect on his decision to return to the sport he loved last year.

"When I was playing for the Warriors, I always wanted to be an All Black and to play for the Hurricanes," he said.

"That was the drive that led me back here.

"I did have second thoughts about it, it was scary making that change.

"Ma'a was leaving at the time, and Conrad. I just felt like it was my time to go back."

In and out of the champion 2016 team's starting lineup, Laumape has made the No.12 jersey his own in a brilliant Hurricanes backline this season.

He and midfield partner Vince Aso top the competition try-scoring list with 14 each, the latter's speed complementing the brute force of Palmerston North-born and raised Laumape.

It is only this year that he has got his head around the requirements of the 15-man code at the top level.

For other code-hoppers like Sonny Bill Williams and Israel Folau, the switch was less taxing.

"When I look at players like Sonny and Izzy, they make it look easy. That's how good they are," Laumape said.

"For me it's not easy, it was about knowing the game a lot better. Then, obviously if you play well for your Super franchise, things will happen."