Bunty Afoa knew it would happen – and it certainly did.
Once the Vodafone Warriors’ Mount Smart Stadium homecoming was locked in, he was utterly swamped with requests for tickets for the July 3 encounter with the Wests Tigers.
Which was perfectly understandable. After all he has the small matter of his mother, father, nine brothers and six sisters to consider. They can’t wait for their son and brother to come home after spending three seasons as a Covid-enforced resident in Australia – and he can’t either.
The 25-year-old 88-game homeboy had some simple advice for them.
“I told everyone to start working to pay for their own tickets,” he said.
“There’s going to a lot of them there (on July 3). My family’s pretty excited for us to come back home. I think I’ve got about 40 or 50 tickets lined up. It’ll be an awesome event. To see the family too. It’s been two years I haven’t seen them.”
And it has been two years plus away from his sanctuary, his room in the family home. So who has been using it instead?
“My little brother. He stays in touch with me every day and I just tell him to keep my room clean. I’m a bit of a clean person. I tell him to enjoy the room because all the games are in there. He’s enjoying it.”
While Afoa loves his football he absolutely treasures family and living at home, as well as supporting them.
“It’s tough being away from home for so long,” he said.
“I’m a big Mummy and Daddy boy but, at the end of the day, I have to play and work to provide for them.
“They’re doing it tough me not being there and being a role model to my younger siblings. To go back home and see them is going to be awesome. I might shed a few tears.”
It’s a testament to Afoa’s qualities that he believes his personal hardship during the Covid era pales in comparison to what his club has endured.
“I take my hat off to the club,” he said.
“I’m trying my best to give it back to them. They’ve been through some rough times. It’s been a rollercoaster to be honest.
“The club has sacrificed a lot and you can say the players have too but it has been a massive loss for the club (with us) not being at home and giving back to our fans.
“Hopefully in round 16 we get to pay back a little bit of that, you know, respect that the club (and fans) have given us.”
All going well, the homecoming match against the Tigers will have an extra-special touch for Afoa.
Making his debut as Vodafone Warrior #213 in 2016, he’s now the third longest-serving Warrior in this year’s squad behind Shaun Johnson (#168, 164 appearances) and Jazz Tevaga (#209, 95 appearances).
As fate would have it, Afoa is on target to join the Vodafone Warriors’ 100-game on July 3. Having a homegrown product, a Warriors man through and through, reaching the milestone on such a significant occasion could scarcely be more appropriate. The man himself is feeling it, too.
“It’s a massive achievement to get to 100 games,” he said.
“I had a big setback when I did my ACL (in 2020). That was a tough time for me. It was my first serious injury.
“To think I could reach 100 games soon has shown all the sacrifice that my family has made is going to pay off soon, especially to do it for the club. You know I love this club. They’ve provided me with everything and to give it back to them would be awesome.”
It would be even more awesome to see him to do it on July 3 in front of his family, friends, members and fans. Perfect, in fact, for a club man who epitomises what it means to be one.
- Vodafone Warriors v Wests Tigers, Mount Smart Stadium, 4.00pm, Sunday, July 3
- Tickets on sale to the public through www.ticketmaster.co.nz from 12.00pm on Wednesday, April 13, 2022.
- Package image
- Package promotion
- Package name:
- Fan Pass - NZ
- Package price:
- 25 for
- Package includes
- 10% Discount on home game casual tickets
- 10% Discount on Merchandise from the online store
- Discount on selected away game tickets