Photo credit / Spark Sport
TJ Perenara is living a childhood dream he shared with a best mate when they were kids. The Māori All Blacks were their idols growing up.
"One of my best mates, Tere, his grandfather played for the Māori All Blacks. We always really wanted to be Māori All Blacks," Perenara told Te Ao Toa.
"We obviously wanted to be All Blacks as well, always talked about being All Blacks, but my fondest memory isn't of the team so much or isn't of games, it's running around with my mate talking about how his koro played for the Māori All Blacks and wanting to be a part of it."
"So to be able to here, not just for my whānau but for him, is something that gives me goosebumps now."
Te Ao Toa asked Perenara whether he would like to captain the Māori team if it was on offer.
"Yeah, that would be a massive honour for me, especially only just coming into the environment, to be respected enough."
Perenara says to lead the Māori you have to be respected not just in a footie sense, "you have to respect the person as well."
"So to be able to be a part of that conversation or to be given that opportunity would be something I would be very grateful for."
A first-time Māori All Black, Perenara says the Māori team environment is a dream come true.
"We do embrace te ao Māori and te reo Māori within the All Black environment but here we live te ao Māori," he says.
"It's a part of who we are every day, and that's an awesome thing for me to be a part of because I've never lived te ao Māori.
"I've never been in an environment where I can consistently train my reo with someone who speaks te reo Māori every day."