Junee recruit’s home away from home

NEW SHERIFF IN TOWN: New Zealander Afatasi Collins has made Junee his home away from home since joining the Diesels late last month. Picture: Nicolas Jungfer
NEW SHERIFF IN TOWN: New Zealander Afatasi Collins has made Junee his home away from home since joining the Diesels late last month. Picture: Nicolas Jungfer

It would be easy to forgive new Diesels recruit Afatasi Collins for feeling homesick.

The Auckland native made a sudden move from a city of more than 1.5 million people to a town of about 4500 just days before the start of the Group Nine season.

But Collins’ teammates have quickly welcomed him into their tight-knit group, helping him stave off the sinking feeling that often comes with being a long way from home.

“The boys have just been awesome,” Collins said.

“They’ve made me feel very welcome, which has made it so easy for me to adjust.

“Of course I miss my family, but I haven't been homesick because the whole community has really helped me feel at home.”

Collins, a mix between hooker and lock, last played for Auckland powerhouse Mount Albert.

After taking last season off, he was itching for a return to the field, as well as a fresh start “in footy and in life”.

When a friend offered to use his player agency to put Collins in touch with Australian sides - and ultimately, Diesels captain-coach Matt Hands - he jumped at the opportunity.

Just days later, he found himself in Junee.

“It was a big shock, I’d never been in a country town before,” Collins said.

“But I’m up for the challenge.”

The imposing Kiwi was a last-minute addition for a depleted Junee side which had lost a host of valuable players, including Peter Little, Will Merritt and Patrick Sagigi.

Junee signed the talented New Zealander with the expectation he would make a big impact and he was quick to show his worth during Junee’s opening round thrashing of Cootamundra.

Collins was also the only Diesel to score a try during the side’s heavy round two loss to Young. 

The young recruit has said he is still going through an adjustment period after being faced with smaller but faster opponents, along with a more structured style of play. 

But Collins remains confident his trip across the Tasman was the right move. 

“I love being here,” he said. 

“Now I just want to give back to the boys for having faith in me to come over.”