Gearing up for two national competitions

Talented guitar and rugby league player Peni Junior Iva of Haeata Community Campus.

Halswell’s Peni Junior Iva is gearing up for two national competitions in Auckland next month – one on the sports field and another on stage.

As if beginning each weekday with an hour-long bus trip to Haeata Community Campus in Aranui was not busy enough, the year 13 student splits his free time between his passions- club and school rugby league games, youth group, band rehearsals and training.

“It’s a bit of a struggle every morning [to travel to Haeata] . . . but just with how the school goes, it fits in well with how I am,” he said.

PJ said he started playing rugby union when he was 13, but switched to league as it was “just much more chill and fun.”

He said it also keeps fitness levels high.

In early September, he will play for Haeata at the secondary schools national rugby league development tournament in Auckland. Last year Haeata went all the way to the televised final but was beaten by Auckland’s Marcellin College.

“It’s such a fun tournament, playing alongside amazing players and learning off them.

“We’re hoping to get ourselves [in the final] again this year and take it out. We’ve got a lot of juniors stepping up, so it’s cool for them,” he said.

PJ is used to the responsibility of setting a positive example for younger peers both on and off the field.

On Fridays, he volunteers as a youth leader at Fusion Youth and leads the group’s band alongside his sister, Nesa.

He started learning the guitar when he was nine and PJ is now able to play a range of instruments including the bass guitar, drums and piano

“I try to learn as much as possible. For the youth bands, for example, people come in and want to learn and I’m able to teach them any instrument,” he said.

PJ’s drumming ability helped get Haeata band Proud Brown to the Rockquest Tangata Beats final in Auckland last year and win the best vocals award. This year, his duo PJ and Evile came second in the Canterbury Rockquest finals and first in the region’s Tangata Beats final.

The win entered the duo into the Tangata Beats national finals – part of the Rockquest finals held in Auckland on September 22.

“I’m definitely looking forward to that … just the whole atmosphere.”

For his future, PJ said he would study at Ara Institute of Music Arts with an aim to eventually qualify as a music teacher.

“My dream is to travel the world playing music, but if that doesn’t work out, coming back as a music teacher. You’re still working with kids and I’d still get to do what I love either way.”