By Adam Pearse – Northern Advocate

With the last name ‘Woodman-Tuhoro’ it’s hard to stay out of the spotlight in Northland rugby and league circles.

But Tea-Rani Woodman-Tuhoro is making a name for himself as one to watch for the future, being selected in the New Zealand Rugby League under-16 wider squad for 2019.

After the initial selection, the 15-year-old Whangārei Boys’ High School student made it through the first squad reduction from 40 to 26 players.

The squad would be reduced further to 18 players, but the young winger was hopeful he would make it through the final selection.

“There’s some pretty good wingers there, so hopefully I can be the best winger and get in.”

As well as his national selection, Woodman-Tuhoro signed a four-year contract with the New Zealand Warriors in October last year.

The Auckland-based club were drawn to the young Northlander after his performances at a regional league tournament in Rotorua.

“It was before one of our biggest games against Bay of Plenty and some of the boys started saying I was being scouted,” he said.

The club’s interest was a surprise to Woodman-Tuhoro, who hadn’t known he was being watched by Warriors representatives.

“It kind of put me off, it took my mind out of the game because I didn’t want to make a mistake, but I must have played all right because they called my mum and my coach afterwards, which was pretty cool.”

The contract allowed Woodman-Tuhoro to stay in Whangārei for the remainder of the year, at least.

After turning 16 in December this year, Woodman-Tuhoro’s future in Northland would be unclear as he had the possibility of being selected and could join the Warriors development set-up in Auckland.

For Woodman-Tuhoro, living in Northland and travelling to Auckland for Warriors training camps was the best of both worlds.

“I probably wouldn’t want to live in Auckland, I’d miss my family in Whangārei and all my mates that are here.”

Both sides of Woodman-Tuhoro’s family had been heavily involved in rugby and league. His grandfather on his father’s side, George Tuhoro, formerly managed the under-16 and junior national league teams.

On his mother’s side, Woodman-Tuhoro’s grandfather, Fred Woodman, was an All Blacks winger and is the father of Black Ferns sevens legend Portia Woodman.

While it was big reputation to live up to, Woodman-Tuhoro said he was proud of his family’s history in the two sports.

Woodman-Tuhoro’s grandparents became a big influence in his life when his parents separated when he was a child. He said having an All Black for a grandfather was great for motivation.

“He’s definitely one of my idols, and he’s always at my games.”

Ironically, Woodman-Tuhoro didn’t find his way to league until he was 8 years old.

Once he started playing, he was immediately in multiple age-grade representative teams.

After taking a break from league to play rugby for two years, Woodman-Tuhoro, at age 13, returned to league and was picked in the national age-group squad two years later.

With dreams of playing for either the Warriors or the Brisbane Broncos, Woodman-Tuhoro said he was happy to take things one step at a time and enjoy time with his friends.

“I just want to do my best in rugby league and go hard,” he said.

“My friends always give me a bit of stick and say things like, ‘I’m sitting next to a Warrior’, or they shake my hand and say, ‘I’ve just shaken the hand of a Warrior’.”

Former coach Hori Tuhoro, who is also Woodman-Tuhoro’s uncle, said he knew his nephew had enormous potential from a young age.

“I’ve always known he’s had that talent, and he was quite easy to coach as well.

“He’s been to a lot of camps now with rugby and league so he’s a bit ahead of the rest of the boys in terms of development.”

Tuhoro, who coached his nephew in the Takahiwai rugby league club under-15 team last year, said Woodman-Tuhoro was the whole package on the field, but also had the skills to manage the pressure of the national spotlight.

“He hasn’t had all that pressure yet, so give him time, but he will be able to cope with it because he’s in that frame of mind to want to go all the way.

“It’s always been his dream to make the NRL as a little kid so I’m pretty proud.”

Woodman-Tuhoro will attend more training camps in Auckland with the wider squad in April and July before the final selection of 18 players is confirmed.