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27 December 2016

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Former league player coaching rugby in US

Former league player coaching rugby in US

When one door closes, another door opens. Old Collegian and rugby league superstar Lance Hohaia (Hamilton 1997-2001) can testify to the idiom coined by Alexander Graham Bell.

The door to his league career closed prematurely, and not ideally, when he was forced to retire due to complications from concussion.

However, Lance is opening multiple doors as he ventures out of playing rugby league and into coaching rugby union in the USA.

When he and his family moved to Michigan eighteen months ago, he knew he wanted to be involved with rugby in some way but didn’t know much about the USA rugby-landscape.

He did some research and approached the coach for the Grand Valley State University rugby team and asked if he could “pop in” to a training session.

These ‘pop-ins’ became more frequent and he has now taken up the role of assistant coach.

The team are excited to have him on-board, knowing that his expertise will give them some fresh exposure and assist in its growth.

Lance hasn’t played rugby union since he played for St Paul’s 1st XV, but with his years of experience in running a league back-line he will have a huge impact on one of the USA’s fasting growing sports.

In 2016, USA had its inaugural professional rugby season with five teams in the competition.

Lance believes the sport is becoming popular due to the exposure of USA team, the Eagles, at the 2015 World Cup and the coverage of the sevens team at the Olympics.

After retiring from his dream job at 33, Lance says it was initially difficult to watch and not be on the field as part of the team. He had to reinvent himself.

He says coaching “fills a gap” and that he loves having the opportunity to be a mentor for the players. This attitude and positive head-space hasn’t come easily.

Over the past few years “there have been challenging days and weeks” but with great family support and good decision making “life is pretty good, life is on the up”.

“I made the decision that was best for me and my family. I'm trying to look forward to the next chapter of my life and I consider myself one of the lucky ones."

He has great family support and enjoys life in the USA with his wife, Marissa, and sons, Tyler (4) and Riley (2). And, it’s no surprise that both boys already know how to tackle well.

He is also enjoying some of America’s great traditions like Sunday and Monday night NFL and has made it to watch a few NBA games.

In addition to the coaching role, other doors are opening for Lance with a career in real-estate.

Lance’s playing career included 300 top-level games including 185 games wearing the Warrior’s jersey and 28 tests for the Kiwis. His career as a professional league player began in 2002.