Hurricanes beat Siberia any day for Banks
It used to be that being sent to Siberia was a fate worse than death, but it has breathed life into ITM Cup sensation Marty Banks' rugby career.
Banks admitted he was still pinching himself in the latter stages of a hangover.
"It's a bit surreal for a little Reefton boy," he said. "But I'm enjoying it as much as I can."
However, another Reefton sports star, basketballer Phill Jones (aka Reefton Kid Mk I) has acknowledged Banks' arrival on the scene by calling him Reefton Kid Mk II. He was prepared to pay Jones deference to his age by not trying to usurp his claim to No.1.
Banks said it hadn't been his goal in 2013 to achieve a Super Rugby contract. In fact, at the time his contract offer arrived, initially as a Wider Training Group member but within hours in a full contract, he was working on his CV for an out of rugby job in sales. But he got bored with writing it up and put it aside.
"I don't know what I would be doing now if I hadn't got the phone call [from the Hurricanes]," he said.
He had put the CV away on a Wednesday and the contract came through for the Hurricanes on the Saturday.
"I was over the moon, a little Reefton boy living the dream now. I just want to make the most of my opportunity and get up there and enjoy the time and learn off some pretty good players and coaches, so I am pretty excited about it all," he said.
Banks felt his Tasman coaches Kieran Keane and Leon MacDonald had played a part in his elevation to the full Hurricanes squad and was thankful for all who had helped him during what became an amazing season.
Certainly he had no idea when playing club rugby in Siberia for five months in 2011 that he would be involved at Super Rugby level in 2014.
In fact, the best part of the experience was getting home in time to be part of New Zealand's Rugby World Cup success in 2011, something he cherished being able to see in New Zealand.
"I cured my travel bug and am pleased I did. I was looking at signing for two more years there but I wouldn't be standing here if I did," he said.
However, he did feel in playing second string to another first five-eighths in Russia, he had developed his running game. Before that he had been more of a kicking five-eighths.
"Over there, if you get the ball in your hand you just want to run so I guess that is one thing I took away from it all...and how to drink vodka. I'm just trying to grow that running game now and it is just starting to pay off a little bit," he said.
Banks was keen to develop his game even more with the Hurricanes.
"Playing for Tasman I learnt so much in a short amount of time so being in a professional environment hopefully my game just grows and grows.
"I've got a lot to learn, I've got no doubt about that.
"I've got a lot of flaws in my game that need ironing out and being in that professional environment and around guys like Beauden [Barrett] and Cory Jane and the like...hopefully I pick up a lot off them. I just want to put my best foot forward and take it as far as I can and hopefully stick around for a few years."
Banks was aware that there were established players in his positions of first five-eighths and fullback but he was keen to put pressure on them and to hopefully get some game time.
Fullback was his preferred position, as he played much of his rugby there, but he could see a future at first five-eighths.