Mountain Man entrances kids
By KIRSTY JOHNSTON
05:00, Oct 03 2009
PAGETURNER: Former league and rugby player Gavin Hill reads to children at Whitcoulls New Plymouth yesterday. Intent on listening to The Pungapeople of Ninety Mile Beach are Hannah Boniface, 9, Jessica Boniface, 10, Thomas Boniface, 5, and Jason McGrah, 6.
CHRIS HILLOCK/TARANAKI DAILY NEWS
Anyone who heard former league and rugby player Gavin Hill reading aloud at Whitcoulls would have thought he had a tribe of kids of his own at home.
Ensconced in a plush red chair in a quiet corner of the shop, 42-year-old Hill kept the children entranced for the best part of an hour yesterday while he read book after book thrust eagerly into his hands.
But reading to the children was a first for the single and childless Hill – even though he has been helping with book-donation programme Duffy Books in Homes for nigh on eight years.
"I've never done this before, it's quite exciting," he said, before taking a pair of reading glasses out of his pocket and launching in to an animated rendition of The Pungapeople of Ninety Mile Beach.
Hill's work with Duffy was organised through a friend who needed more role models to go in to the low decile schools where the books are distributed.
"I love kids so this is great. And they love the books – you never ever see those books in the book sales, they hang on to them, they're a keepsake," Hill said.
Most Taranaki folk will remember Hill better for his rugby-playing days, where he played first union for Taranaki, Canterbury and Wellington, then league for New Zealand.
He is considered unusual in rugby-playing circles for consistently kicking goals while playing the position of prop.
When asked about his ability to kick, Hill said it came both from playing winger in rugby and playing soccer in the early days.
"If you want to know how to get longevity, do what Reuben Wiki did," he said, referring to Wiki's ability to change as he lost his pace and move from the back into the front row.
Hill was also one of the few front rowers to make a successful change from union to league. The 191cm giant, whose nickname is Mountain Man, was originally from Taranaki but has been living and working in Auckland until last year.
He decided to return home for a break from employment coaching and is currently working at MCK metals in New Plymouth. "It's good for the body and good for the mind, that sort of work," he said.
Hill has no plans to return to Auckland at the moment.
This week was Whitcoulls Duffy Books in Homes week.
According to his latest job post on Facebook from 2022 he is working for Dines. Dines are a big construction business based in Mt Wellington, Auckland that do a lot of civil engineering work cutting subdivisions and laying infrastructure.
For an idea on what Dines do have a look at the following link...
When State Highway 1 bypassed Pokeno just south of the Bombay Hills, many believed that would be the end of the town. Instead, a joint venture between Dines Group and Fulton Hogan is developing 200 hectares in a mixed use residential and employment complex, anchored by the $220 million Yashili...
While the honour of being Warrior No 1 belongs to foundation captain Dean Bell – the first man to take the team on the field in 1995 – Hill, the goal-kicking front rower, was actually the first player signed by the club.
Born in Okato on December 11, 1965, he had a background in rugby union playing for Taranaki, Wellington and Canterbury as well as representing New Zealand Maori.
He was among the wave of rugby union players who switched to rugby league in the early 1990s, signing with Canterbury-Bankstown in1992.
He was almost immediately selected in the Kiwis and later had a stint with Featherstone Rovers in 1993 and the Waikato Cougars in the Lion Red Cup in 1994 before linking up with the Auckland Warriors.
He later played rugby union again and has more recently gone home to Taranaki where he is an ambassador for Duffy Books in Homes and is also involved coaching rugby league at club level.