From gangs to Gloucester Rugby for Lua Lokotui all thanks to Paris
The birth of Lua Lokotui's first child was the turning point.
Gloucester's imposing lock explains how he made an unwitting prediction when naming his daughter.
PARIS saved Lua Lokotui from a life of crime.
Not the City of Light – his first child.
Scholars nicknamed the French capital because it was an age-old seat of learning.
Giant Tongan Lokotui's entire education came in a flash: the moment his daughter was born.
Without one Paris, the New Zealand-born lock would never have made it to the other.
The 33-year-old bursts with pride as he reflects on taking his little girl to live in her namesake city. And so he should.
Banished from the Auckland academy barely out of his teens, Lokotui was exiled south to Hawke's Bay.
When childhood friends strayed into New Zealand's feckless ganglands, Lokotui was quickly caught in the maelstrom.
The nonplussed second row misjudged the seriousness – until Paris arrived.
Hawke's Bay captaincy proved maturity's ultimate reward.
Signing for Stade Francais six years later added a significant symmetry.
"Rugby got serious when I got into the Auckland academy," explained the new Kingsholm recruit.
"But I started getting into trouble. I was friends with people who were affiliated to gangs and things like that.
"Friends I'd grown up with strayed down the wrong path.
"And because they were people I had known most of my life I got dragged into a few things I shouldn't have and should have known better about.
"I got caught up in things and I needed to change.
"There wasn't any one specific incident, it was just a series of problems.
"I kept getting in trouble and Auckland didn't want their name associated with any of that.
"So they told me it was best if I went to Hawke's Bay.
"They gave me warning after warning, but in the end they sent me on.
"It took me out of my comfort zone, I was forced to settle somewhere else and I saw things from a different point of view, from the outside.
"Our first child was born and then things sunk in.
"I quickly realised then there were things that needed to be done for me to move on and make a success of my life, and provide for my family. I was 20 when my daughter – Paris – was born.
"It grounded me heaps when she was born.
"That's probably something everyone says, but it is true.
"It made me think before I would act. And that was an amazing time.
"I found myself with this great family life, and then I started to do well in rugby.
"Until Paris was born I probably never realised what I had to do to make a success of myself."
Born in New Zealand Lokotui was raised in Tonga until the age of eight, when his family returned to Auckland.
He attended Kelston Boys' High School, where a certain Graham Henry was headmaster.
The future World Cup-winning All Blacks coach already had a hand in the Auckland set-up.
Lokotui traded league for union in his sixth form and quickly caught Auckland coaches' eyes.
But when he should have been trying to emulate the likes of Ian Jones he was threatening to turn into a mini Jake the Muss.
The cult Kiwi book and film Once Were Warriors might over-hype gang life in the Land of the Long White Cloud.
But the New Zealand underworld is every bit as gritty as the white-sand beaches and carefree tourist-board lifestyles played out to a Crowded House soundtrack.
The move to Napier to start again with Hawke's Bay paid off handsomely.
When he left with 75 appearances spanning six years in 2007 he headed to super-club Stade as an injury dispensation 'medical joker' signing.
Six months in France led to four years in Japan, with Osaka's Kintetsu Liners.
Lokotui returned to New Zealand for World Cup 2011, purposely keeping his options open.
Several bullish showings for Maorist St Pats earned him a crack at the National Provincial Championship with Wellington Lions.
Lokotui helped his side to the semi-finals, and even had the chance to step up to Super 15s with the Wellington Hurricanes.
But when Gloucester came calling, he jumped.
He continued: "I had always played league, and it wasn't until sixth form in high school that I started playing rugby.
"The school I went to was rugby, rugby, rugby.
"Graham Henry was teaching there, and rugby was a big deal.
"He was already coaching Auckland then, so if he wasn't busy he would come down and help out when he could. So he would come back and add a few things here and there, but most of his work was done behind the scenes.
"All my friends started going into rugby, so I just followed from league because of that.
"I was lucky that my family helped me sort myself out, and that it happened when it did.
"Hawke's Bay was amazing. And when the move to France and to Stade came about, that was incredible too.
"It just came out of nowhere really. I'd been playing well but you never really think you will get an opportunity like that.
"It was crazy, calling our daughter Paris then ending up playing in the city.
"It was such a great life experience to go there with the family, see parts of Europe and expand our lives like that.
"My family have supported me again on this next move, and they love it in Gloucester.
"I feel like I'm finding my place, settling in – and now I've got to get the detail down.
"I'm determined to make my mark this season, as soon as possible, and hopefully move it forward next year too."