St Helens have a good track record when it comes to bringing in stars from down under. Just look at the likes of Jamie Lyon, Matt Gidley or even modern players like Lachlan Coote.
Unsurprisingly, many expected that trend to continue with the arrival of Lance Hohaia. However, things didn’t go quite as planned for the New Zealander.
Hohaia’s rugby league journey started when he was as young as six. Over the next decade, the youngster would evolve into one of the best young talents New Zealand had to offer. In 2002 he made his NRL debut for the New Zealand Warriors against North Queensland Cowboys.
It would soon become a big year for him. He’d go on to play in the Grand Final and represent his country for the first time. He continued to be a fixture in the Warriors and national side thanks to his versatility, however it also meant that he never truly settled into a position forcing Hohaia to contemplate his future.
In 2007 it was rumoured that Catalans Dragons were pursing him as a replacement for the retiring Stacey Jones. However, Hohaia opted to remain with the Warriors. It was a decision that would work in his favour. Injuries saw him take over at fullback for the Warriors where he’d excel eventually taking over the number one jersey at international level in time for the World Cup. Hohaia would even start the final at fullback as New Zealand went on to claim the world title.
That said, he failed to kick on from there like you might have expected. He remained as first choice fullback at both club and international level but failed to deliver the kind of success the Warriors had been craving.
Thus, in 2012 he left to join St Helens as he looked to revitalise his career. After two lowkey seasons for the Saints and Hohaia in 2012 and 2013, the arrival of Luke Walsh to partner him in the halves looked set to push the Saints towards glory again. They finished top in 2014 but injuries kept Walsh out of the play-off push leaving plenty of pressure on Hohaia. He helped St Helens back to Old Trafford but they found themselves as massive underdogs against reigning Champions Wigan.
But then controversy struck. Just minutes into the game, Hohaia collided with Wigan prop Ben Flower who then punched the stand-off knocking him to the ground. He then hit him again as he lay there. Unsurprisingly, Flower was sent off but Hohaia couldn’t continue either. In the end, his team showed tremendous guts and found a way to win without a natural halfback.
It was Hohaia’s first Grand Final win but not the kind he’d dreamed of.
Unsurprisingly, he was not the same after that and was forced to retire in April 2015 due to recurring concussion symptoms.
But where is he now? Well, in April of this year – six years since his retirement – it was announced that he’d be taking on the role of Head Coach at Austin Armadillos in the first ever North American Rugby League season.