Born: 10 January, 1980 – Taihape
Test record: 4 Tests (2000-01) – 3 tries, 18 goals (48 points)
Tours: 2000 World Cup
New Zealand Secondary Schools rugby union representative Tasesa Lavea made a quick and eventful but fleeting transition to rugby league, earning rookie awards and Test honours before returning to his former code.
After representing New Zealand at schoolboy level in 1998 from Auckland, Lavea was recruited by Melbourne, playing one match off the bench during the Storm’s second season while turning out for their feeder club Brisbane Norths.
The classy utility-back came to prominence in 2000, cementing the five-eighth role to play 24 of the defending premiers’ 27 matches and collecting the Dally M Rookie of the Year award. Lavea also accumulated 190 points (seventh in the NRL), including 24- and 20-point hauls against St George Illawarra and Wests Tigers, respectively.
Lavea made his Test debut for the Kiwis after only 12 first-grade games, coming off the bench in the Anzac Test demolition at the hands of Australia. Selected in New Zealand’s World Cup squad at the end of 2000, the 20-year-old played in two pool matches – scoring a Kiwis Test record 32 points (two tries, 12 goals) from five-eighth against Cook Islands, before adding two goals versus Wales after coming off the bench. He was overlooked for the knockout fixtures.
Lavea won the Kiwis’ No.6 jumper for the home Test against France in 2001, scoring a try and four goals in the 36-0 win at Mt Smart Stadium. He found the five-eighth spot harder to hold down at his club, however, used at centre and lock and extensively off the bench by the Storm.
A subsequent move to Northern Eagles failed to turn his fortunes around. After just five NRL matches for the joint venture in 2002, Lavea took up an offer to return to Auckland and rugby union. He made 30 Super Rugby appearances for the Blues and Chiefs, played for Auckland and Counties Manukau at provincial level, had stints with Clermont (France) and Sale (England) and represented Samoa in seven Tests.