Apart from the main airport, there were not many landmarks in the suburbs of Auckland south of Mangere, but in a dilapidated neighborhood, the house of a former heavyweight boxer, Tua Tua Tua Tua stood out.
A large two-story building with pillared entrances seemed inappropriate between various churches and off-licenses. A young Charles Piutau, who grew up on the road, walked past the house almost every day and remembered thinking: "It's an old house. If he can do it, then I can too. Someday. One day …" Steven Luatua, who also stay close, keep the same memories.
Bound together through the Luatua family married Piutau's sister – the couple had followed almost the exact same path in the rugby union, graduating from the age-side of New Zealand to break through the same season for the Auckland Blues. Finally, they made their joint debut for the All Blacks against France in New Plymouth on June 22, 2013.
"For every child who throws a ball, it is a dream," Piutau said. "It makes you feel very blessed. Not many players can use that jersey. Doing it with your best partner makes it more special."
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But then the childhood dream ended. Both players missed the 2015 New Zealand World Cup squad, with Piutau moving to Europe that year and Luatua after two years, making them not eligible for international selection.
This summer they reunited at Bristol Bears. Piutau Fullback joined Ulster as the highest paid player in the league and made his debut this month in the Premiership Rugby Cup against Gloucester. Flanker Luatua has spent a year grazing at the RFU Championship.
In New Zealand, their departure had left a sour taste, especially because they were at the peak of their careers. The mercenaries and hot-selling shoe sellers were among the masons who flew towards the couple.
Money is clearly a driving factor for leaving their country of birth, but accusing men of personal greed is misunderstanding their motivation or background.
As a result of being under the flight path, Mangere owns some of the cheapest properties in Auckland and hence a large immigrant community.
When Piutau's father arrived from Tonga, he held all kinds of work, often at the same time: bartenders, factory workers, bouncers, taxi drivers.
"He will leave early in the morning and come back at night," Piutau said. "Growing up in their work ethic and the choices they make, it has helped shape me. They came to New Zealand to provide us with a better opportunity, so I want to reciprocate and make sure they are noticed."
Luatua's parents were from Samoa, and took jobs as couriers. On school holidays, Luatua will jump in their van at 6 am.
"The good thing that is looking back now is that I know the way in Auckland," Luatua said.
Not only did their parents provide for them, but also their brothers and sisters.
"When I was young I didn't really appreciate it, but my sisters and brothers always took steps ahead because they had to work on their vacations," Luatua said. "It's not just my parents' sacrifice."
It seems that it was no accident Piutau, as the youngest of 10 siblings, and Luatua, the youngest of five siblings, was able to make it so far in professional rugby.
"After school I can pursue dreams," Piutau said. "My older brothers don't have that opportunity. They paved the way for us."
That's why they let go of using silver ferns and all the personal ambitions that accompanied it. But no one goes where the money is highest. They chose Bristol for a reason – head coach Pat Lam.
DOUG FIELD / STUFF
Former All Blacks captain Richie McCaw talks about life after rugby in a function at Timaru.
It was Lam who gave each of their Super Rugby debut players in the Blues franchise who were struggling and Lamlah who sold his vision of "inspiring victory through rugby success" at Bristol.
"It doesn't matter that we come from different places, Pat has made us understand that we represent the city and this jersey," Luatua said. "We have to get to know the city, get to know people and have pride in ourselves and the club."
It involved learning from the Bristolian core at the club, including Joe Joyce and Andy Schrum in half. Joyce, in particular, has taught the couple about their local environment, including a tour of her birthplace, Southmead, an environment that is not too different from Mangere.
"He grew at the end of the road and it was an eye opener," Piutau said.
"Hearing about his upbringing around the cricket club and the local pub, was very absorbed in seeing that side and understanding what it meant to him." Luatua added: "This is definitely not the best place, but he is proud of it and has it. He is the one who pushed the idea of being proud Bristol."
Not looking back, even when the All Blacks toured during the fall. The road was over, but they were both a few steps closer to making the old house fantasy come true.
"No one will, should, should have," Luatua said. "There is no guarantee in life. I am truly happy in Bristol and it triggers me to be able to provide a more comfortable lifestyle for my family."