Lay & Craig proud of Northland roots

Moana Pasifika travel to Te Tai Tokerau where they will host the Queensland Reds on Friday for the first time at Whangārei’s Semenoff Stadium. 

It will be a special home game for rookie Allan Craig and Captain James Lay who are both proud Northlanders. 

Being raised up North meant Craig and Lay experienced their own slice of paradise, a place that not only influenced their careers but also their life off the field, shaping them into who they are today. 


Allan Craig grew up in Ahipara where he was immersed in a typical free-spirited Northland childhood from growing up on his grandparents farm, many fishing trips and spending time on the beach. 

Being on the farm taught him hard work and helped him build character.

At six years old he began playing junior rugby at the Te Rarawa Club. From a young age, he knew he wanted to play on the big stage. 

“It was a goal from way back. To be here now doing it, you’ve got to pinch yourself sometimes. It’s been a journey getting here and I’m just really enjoying it,” Craig said.

The former Whangārei Boys High School 1st XV Captain was part of the Blues wider squad in 2023, before making his Super Rugby Pacific debut this year for Moana Pasifika.

He has eased into his role playing in the team’s first six matches of the season and owning the lock position.

Craig recently extended his contract with the Northland Taniwha and also captained the Mid-Northern Premier side to back-to-back titles last year. 

“We’ve got a good bunch of boys there and it was cool to lead them. I can’t wait till I get a chance to go back and play for them and hopefully get a 3-peat this year.”

The 21-year-old is excited to bring Super Rugby Pacific to the Northland faithful. 

“It’s really cool getting to play a home game at Super level at Semenoff Stadium. It’s a very special place to me and means a lot,” Craig said. 

“I think Mum’s already bought 30 tickets for everybody. It will be cool, a lot of extended family and lots of mates that I went to school with will all be there.”

“There’s a real passionate fanbase up there. They follow the Taniwha so hopefully they’ll get a lot of them out there on the weekend when we play the Reds. It will be cool to see a lot of familiar faces in the grandstand.”

Among those familiar faces will be his two younger brothers – Dylan who plays for Mid-Northern and brother Sam who is a pig hunter. 

It’s been a while since Craig last went pig hunting with his brother, but he says he’s happy to stick to rugby.

When he returns home he can often be found at the beach or at Whangaroa Bay with his partner’s family. He also makes sure to visit his grandparents in the small town of Broadwood.

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Born in Moto’otua Samoa and raised in the Far North, James Lay enjoyed his upbringing. 

“The weather is warm and it’s not busy. It’s a slow, easy and real laid back lifestyle,” Lay said.

When Lay was a kid, his parents Serafina and Murray owned a dairy that serviced their area, 10km south of Kaitāia in a place called Pamapuria. 

“Both my brother and I worked at the shop. I was the guy that was behind the till and my brother was out back flipping the burger patties and hot chips.”

“Naturally working in a dairy, the temptation is there. When you’re a young buck the hand just reaches out without thinking twice. It probably helped us to become props because we got pretty big.”

After spending his early years on the North Shore of Auckland, the Lay family made the move to Kaitāia. They made it their own turning their property around, adding a park and garden with what used to be overgrown bush. 

They worked hard to provide the best for the Lay boys while also taking care of their nana who was ill at the time. 

Lay was schooled at Pamapuria School and Kaitāia Intermediate, playing his junior rugby for Kaitāia and Takahue. 

Many of his fond childhood memories were made up North, playing rugby barefoot, hanging out with his brother Jordan and making friends who he still keeps in contact with today.

“Growing up in the Far North you have a lot more land. My parents had about 4 acres and as a youngster you’re out there most days after school. There’s a lot more freedom.”

“The Far North is pretty untapped. There are heaps of hidden gems and nice beaches up there.”

“When we used to go to our mates’ place they’d always have the mean gear to go out fishing. We were pretty lucky to have some solid friendships up there that allowed us to explore different activities. Those adventure sports are hard to come by when you’re in Auckland.”

With a strong Māori presence up North, Lay said there are many similarities with his Samoan culture such as the importance of family and gathering to enjoy a meal together.

On Friday Lay will be watching Moana Pasifika face the Reds as he recovers from an injury and progresses back to full match fitness. 

He’s looking forward to seeing the Northland community come out to support and hopes more games can be held there in the future.

“We’re grateful for the Northern region for having us. It’s cool that we’ve got Allan and myself that are both from up there. I think it’s cool to be able to take Super Rugby to those smaller towns and display a game of rugby for the people up there.” 

“Like anywhere in New Zealand there’s a Pasifika community up there. It’s cool to be able to play in front of them.”

Tickets to Moana Pasifika vs Queensland Reds in Whangārei available here:

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