Bay of Plenty Rugby have announced that Italy fly-half Kelly Haimona has signed with the union for the next two Mitre 10 Cup seasons.
Haimona, who was born in New Zealand, has recently returned from Italy, to play for his local club Whakarewarewa. The 29-year-old left in 2011 to play club rugby in Italy and earned selection in the Azzurri side in 2014.
Signing for the Bay of Plenty, who he played for between 2007 and 2009, and returning home for Haimona was an easy decision to make.
"Home is always home and the last six years I have been missing it a lot, the opportunity came up to come home and I took it with both hands,” he told Bay of Plenty's official website.
"It was a different experience playing in Italy. Rugby is very different over there it is very forward orientated and I had to adapt to the style and more or less the culture they played.
"I learned a lot from my experience over there and hopefully I can bring that into the mix here."
Reflecting on the year ahead Haimona said: "Definitely the squad has changed a lot since I was last here in 2008, there is a good feeling amongst the team and we are looking to achieve big things.
"We have some young players and together it will be a great season ahead of us."
Haimona will not only take the field for the Bay of Plenty Steamers, but will be involved in the delivery of a number of community rugby projects including junior rugby and Maori rugby. Haimona will focus mainly on Rotorua and the wider Central Bay of Plenty but will also support Maori rugby and youth participation throughout the Bay region.
“I am definitely looking forward to it. It is a role that I have wanted to do my whole life and definitely after rugby. This opportunity with the Union will be great and I am looking forward to working with the Union and supporting Junior Rugby,” said Haimona.
Mike Rogers, Bay of Plenty Rugby Union CEO said: "It is great to be able to welcome back Kelly. Kelly is a fantastic ambassador for Bay Rugby and also Maori Rugby.
"He has been able to have some fantastic experiences through rugby and using his skills and experience to help our young players and especially young maori players is a great way he can contribute to our game and our community."