Tuesday 31 January 2012 | Published in Regional
Jamie Makara has served his country of birth in Afghanistan and now hes going to play for the nation of his ancestors on the rugby field.
The Henderson resident will suit up for the Cook Islands team at the Wellington Sevens on Waitangi weekend.
He last played for the side in 2009 during the Cook Islands best performance at the Wellington Sevens when they defeated Australia 28-10 and won the bowl final against Tonga 24-10.
The 27-year-old has since finished service in the New Zealand Defence Force that included a seven-month stint as a lance corporal peacekeeping in the Bamyan province in Afghanistan.
I grew up like most boys playing with toy soldiers so serving my country was always something I wanted to do and probably the biggest thing I have done so far, he says.
But there is nothing in the world that can prepare you for a place like Afghanistan. Their ways are so different and set in stone.
The February 2011 earthquake in Christchurch had a strong affect on Makaras battalion which is based in Canterbury.
It was tough because some in my battalion lost friends in the quake and my partner, who was also in the army, was down there helping out so I just wanted to be back home.
When I finally got on that plane I decided Id never leave New Zealand again.
Makaras selection makes four west Aucklanders in the Cook Islands team, five if you include head coach Ramsey Tomokino.
The Cook Islands is in the same pool as South Africa, England and the United States and will face a tough battle to make the top eight.
We are seen as probably the weakest team in the tournament but the opposition can do that at their own peril,Tomokino says.
Tomokino sees Makara as an important asset to a squad that has eight rookies and only three players from the successful 2009 campaign.
He is a solid unit and no doubt you will see a bit of him during the tournament. I wasnt expecting him to return to Auckland so I will drop a few hints for him to join my club Suburbs.
Makara says he will try and be a defensive rock for the team and hopefully pass on some knowledge to the younger players.
Playing in Wellington is a massive experience and it can be a little unreal. I will tell the guys not to let it all get inside their head. Just adapt to the situation and youll overcome it.