This time last year Rene Ranger got a phone call from the Northland rugby sevens coaches telling him he would not be required for the national tournament duty. What a difference a season makes.
This time around Ranger is not only required, the Northland sevens coaches took desperate measures to make sure the brutal winger would be part of their team at the tournament at Queenstown this weekend.
"I was part of the first Northland sevens squad last year but then never got the nod for the national tournament. I was pretty gutted at the time actually, but then I was pretty new to everything really," Ranger said.
"I was pretty keen to be in the squad this time though, because I want to get back in the New Zealand sevens squad again and I need to play at the nationals to do that," he said.
But just making sure Ranger got down to Queenstown this weekend took some delicate negotiations behind the scenes this week.
After an outstanding debut season with the Northland Air NZ Cup squad last year, Ranger was named in the Blues Super 14 training squad. A position that sees him based in Auckland and training regularly with the Blues, but only on a stand-by type contract.
His obligations to the Blues take precedence over provincial sevens though, which is where the problem started.
Thanks to the urging of New Zealand sevens coach Gorden Tietjens, the Blues relented and released Ranger for the weekend tournament, adding a handy game breaker to the Northland squad for the tournament.
Northland co-coach Adrian Ferris said Ranger would play a major role as they try to make an impression at the national tournament.
"It was good news for us alright. Rene (Ranger) is obviously crucial for us and Tietjens really wanted to see him in action at the nationals so he can consider him for the next national selection," Ferris said.
Ranger is a bit cagey about his chances of a recall from Tietjens. Despite being part of the New Zealand team that won the Dubai World Sevens tournament, Ranger says he will need to be in top form to get back in.
"All this is new to me; getting in the Northland (Air NZ Cup) squad, then the Blues thing and then going to the first national sevens training camp. The whole thing is kind of hard out for me," Ranger said.
"I was freaking out at the first sevens camp, every training you are just going so hard out all the time that you feel like you are about to spew up. The Blues trainings are hardcore as well, you just work out as hard as you can," he said.
Ranger is joined in the Northland sevens team by fellow 15s squad members Joel McKenty, John Cocker and Rhyan Caine. But the team is bolstered with promising newcomers Leo Taliu, Whetu Vainakolo, Troy Woodman and Kyron Pita.
The national tournament is on Saturday and Sunday.
The Northland squad is: John Cocker (c), Karl Murray, Joel McKenty, Rhyan Caine, Aiden Dewes, Rene Ranger, Whetu Vainakolo, Leo Taliu, Isaiah Nawaqa, Troy Woodman, Leon Baigent, Kyron Pita.