NHRU offers Pacific stepping stone

EASTS star recruit Alvin Tavana is adamant his move to Newcastle will enhance his chances of playing more international rugby for Samoa.

Tavana, 25, arrived in Newcastle on Thursday on a whistle-stop tour to meet Easts officials and arrange accommodation for his family when he returns full-time in January.

The 98-kilogram outside centre played under Easts director of coaching Greg Doolan at the Suburbs club in Auckland and has remained close friends.

"Greg called me at the beginning of last season when he was coaching the Waratahs," Tavana said.

"I told him it was better to wait for my [New Zealand] citizenship, which is now finalised.

"It is a big move for me to come over here. I have a full-time job back in New Zealand and am settled.

"But Greg has been a mentor and helped me throughout my career.

"I have a lot of faith in him.

"It is not just me playing rugby; I have two kids and it is all about family."

A former Cronulla Shark, Tavana played professional rugby in France and Romania and was in the Manu Samoa team that won the Pacific Nations Cup in Japan this year.

"To win the Pacific Nations Cup was pretty exciting.

"I hope to get more opportunities, not just with Manu Samoa, but also overseas. I have come to Newcastle, but I don't want to stop there.

"Making the Manu Samoa team has made me more motivated."

Doolan, who has returned to New Zealand for an operation on his finger, said the Newcastle competition was becoming an attractive alternative to Sydney and Canberra.

Apart from Tavana, Doolan has signed Samoan under-20 Tausani Ulu-Kini, Tongan Sevens regulars David Halifonua and Atelea Okati and is in talks with four Kiwis with good credentials and another two Samoan Sevens representatives.

Ulu-Kini came through the International Rugby Academy of New Zealand and plays in the centres.

Halifonua and Okati, who has also represented Tonga at rugby league, are utility backs.

Easts have signed more than 60 senior players and 15 colts for next season and are well on the way to meeting the requirements for readmission to the Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union premier competition.

They have also boosted their coaching ranks.

Apart from Doolan, Aloisi Sefo, Luke Russell and Darren Drury have joined the coaching panel.

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