The texts and phone calls have slowed to a crawl, signalling the intensity around twin brothers Niwhai and Hohepa Puru facing each other in round three of The Knock-On Effect NSW Cup on Sunday (19 March).
Being on opposing sides hasn’t happened since their U16s representative days, when Hohepa was named in the NSW side to play against Niwhai in a Pasifika U16s team.
But this is where the 21-year-old former Penrith Panthers juniors find themselves.
“It is a bit weird I will say,” Niwhai told nswrl.com.au
At GIO Stadium on Sunday, the Canberra Raiders with Hohepa at lock will host the Newtown Jets with Niwhai at halfback.
“I thought that when he did sign with Canberra that this day would come – we would have to oppose each other.
“So I’ll take it as just another game and he’s just a player in the opposing line. If I let him get into my head he’s already won,” Niwhai said.
“We’ve basically been hand-in-hand together in the Panthers Jersey Flegg and NSW Cup teams so it is a bit weird this year.
“I’ll spot him out. I know all middles try to find me as a half so he’ll be coming for me.
“He’s a solid defender too so I won’t be surprised when he gets me.”
The Puru twins have always been close, so when they signed with different clubs for 2023 it was a moment in time.
“I miss him heaps. It’s huge to not have him around but it’s the nature of the game,” Niwhai said.
So phone calls and text messages were a daily occurrence – until this week.
“I speak to him every day and usually we don’t talk too much about footy. But this week I asked him if he was keen and he said he was up for the challenge – and there hasn’t been much since,” Niwhai.
“I really like his game because he’s such a good ball runner. Having him in the middle is a real treat for the Raiders because he’s an instinctive player,” he said, when asked what were Hohepa’s best qualities.
Niwhai is equally enjoying his time at the Jets under new coach George Ndaira. They are 2-0 to start The Knock-On Effect NSW Cup season.
“George lets us play footy and having him as a former Sharks (lower grade) coach means there’s quite a few players in our team from that system.
“So we’ve all gelled together well.”
And that’s the mantra for a large number of Purus travelling to GIO Stadium for the game.
“The whole family will be there, pretty much half dressed in blue and half in green,” Niwhai.
“At least some are going to go home happy.”