4 days ago
Weller Hauraki's voice softens when he recalls his brush with a bullet in Sydney's Kings Cross.
As he stands shirtless at Parramatta rugby league training, his surname tattooed in capital letters across his chest, it's difficult to imagine too much intimidating the 1.85m, 102kg lump of a lad from Dannevirke.
But this was sheer terror.
"You can't explain it. Being shot at is probably the worst thing anyone could experience. There's no words for it," he told NZPA.
Just after 4am on March 3, Hauraki and Eels team-mates Jarryd Hayne and Junior Paulo were strolling along after a big night out when a shadowy figure emerged from a car and fired a single shot.
The trio ran for their lives and hid. The gunman is yet to be identified. It later emerged Hayne was involved in an earlier altercation and the shot was a possible attempt at retribution.
Eels chief executive Denis Fitzgerald had little sympathy, demanding to know why his players were out so late, even if they had the following day off training.
At the recommendation of a committee including captain Nathan Cayless, the trio were fined $2000 and suspended for one match. It wasn't a great one to miss as their team-mates produced a stirring comeback to beat the Bulldogs 28-20 last Saturday.
Hauraki has vowed he won't go out "for a while" after all the drama.
And he admits the incident focused him even more on the season ahead, starting with the New Zealand Warriors in Auckland on Sunday.
"If you go on about it, it's just going to hurt you even more. (Coach Michael Hagan) told me to get over it and train hard for next week.
"I was pretty shaken up about it. A couple of people from the club had a talk to me and got me a bit more relaxed. Just training throughout the whole thing got my mind off most of it.
"I've put it behind me now and hopefully it shows up in this weekend's game. I'm fired up big time."
Hagan put the hard word on Hauraki at the end of last season, in which he played five NRL matches and scored the winning try in the dying minutes of the Eels' premier league grand final win over North Sydney at a packed Olympic Stadium.
"He said after the grand final `it's going to be a big year for you, get ready for a big off-season'. That's what I've done and it's been tough," Hauraki said.
"He said `it's what you make of it', so I'm going to make the most of it."
Hauraki has been named on an extended six-man bench for Sunday's match, with Hayne and Paulo also earning reprieves.