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Hero's welcome: Local product in old stomping ground ground

Jacob Laban might not be a household name just yet but he may as well have been Shaun Johnson on Saturday when he returned to his old school Hutt Intermediate as part of the Warriors Community Foundation team.

Laban showed glimpses of what made him such a sought-after young prospect in the club's NRL Preseason Challenge hit-out against the Wests Tigers last month.

He, along with Kiwi legend Ruben Wiki, spent last weekend delivering the club’s wellbeing programme Prepare to Perform-Whakarite Ki Te Mahi across the Wellington region

The programme is designed to help developing minds and bodies perform at their best, creating skills and wellbeing techniques that last a lifetime.

For Laban, it was an “organic coincidence” that he was injured and the foundation was heading to his former school - and one the 18-year-old jumped at.

“As soon as the team (foundation) mentioned they were going to Hutt, I put my hand up to go,” he said.

“It’s been a pretty crazy few days (in Wellington) and to come back to my old school, see my old photos on the wall – it’s not that long ago I was here to be honest – it’s been a pretty cool experience.

"I'm humbled...I'm extremely proud to be here.

“We had school visits from athletes when I was coming through and I just remember how inspiring it was. Hopefully at least one kid takes something away from today and away from the work the foundation does because it’s pretty special.”

Foundation CEO Lincoln Jefferson was thrilled to have Laban involved in the Wellington activation and said the reaction the hometown hero received was akin to having one of the team’s NRL superstars come through.

The programme has been running for 10 years and has engaged with thousands of children and hundreds of schools across Aotearoa.

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