Tyrone Thompson relishing time back home with Hawke's Bay

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He featured in the Māori All Blacks outstanding 32-17 victory over Ireland last month, a career highlight for the 22 year-old.  

The robust hooker has big boots to fill for Hawke’s Bay in the Bunnings NPC. Thompson and Kianu Kereru-Symes, a Hurricane and former New Zealand Under 20 player, are covering the spot left by the legendary Ash Dixon.

The former skipper now plays for Green Rockets Tokatsu in Japan and was a colossus for Hawke’s Bay. In 2020, Dixon became the first non-All Black since Errol Brain in 1996 to win the Tom French Memorial Māori Player of the Year award. He played 274 first class games and scored 50 tries.   

“I didn’t have a whole lot to do with Ash, but I was aware of the leadership he brought to both Hawke’s Bay and the Highlanders. He was respected by everyone,” Thompson said.

“I can’t approach my role as replacing Ash. I’ve got to add my own value. I’m alright on the ball carry and we’ve got a mean rolling maul that I hope I can be on the back off.”

Thompson has been earmarked for a bright future. He was a standout at Napier Boys’ High School and in 2018 scored a try in a National Top Four final. They narrowly lost against St Peter’s College, Auckland, but he was picked for the New Zealand Secondary Schools.

He shifted to Wellington in 2019 to gain greater life experience. Aligned with the Marist St Pats club he played 18 games for Wellington and scored six tries, the most memorable being a 50-metre solo effort against Bay of Plenty in 2020 that went viral. 

“I enjoyed my time in Wellington. Being around All Blacks Dane Coles and Asafo Aumua taught me a lot. I can’t nail down a specific thing they taught me that was most important as it’s the little things they do so well.”

Hawke’s Bay has 44 fully contracted players, 27 played in Super Rugby Pacific this year. The likes of Chase Tiatia, Tom Parsons, Brad Weber and new addition, Scottish international Nick Grigg are quality players. 

They began their campaign in Hamilton with a 32-all draw against defending champions Waikato who they beat 41-14 a year earlier, the Mooloos winning every match after that setback to claim the Premiership title. Thompson came off the bench.

“It was a tough game. I know a few of those boys and they were very physical and direct.

“Damian McKenzie is back and he had a real crack.”

On Friday, Hawke's Bay retained the Ranfurly Shield for the 12th time in their present tenure, denying Counties Manukau 33-32. Thompson scored the Magpies last try from a clinical lineout to make the score 33-18. He also scored again in their 18-13 loss to Otago in Dunedin on Wednesday night.

Thompson played five games for the Chiefs who were semifinalists in Super Rugby Pacific. Twin brother Leo Thompson plays for the Newcastle Knights in the NRL. 

Since the inception of the NPC in 1976, Hawke’s Bay have won the championship or Division II title 11 times, but never an outright Premiership.