Beginners luck seemed to work for Dwayne Sweeney and his crew when they caught a record marlin in April 2018. But it isn’t Sweeney’s beginners’ luck that we’re talking about here; rather, it’s of the two men who accompanied him on his boat on that beautiful day in Whitianga.
Keisuke Shinn and Kotaru Yoshimura were in New Zealand from Japan on a three-month training programme with Waikato Rugby, and Sweeney decided to take them for a day out game fishing. Forty-minutes out on the water and Shinn – the lucky angler of the day – landed a 190.4kg striped marlin – the second biggest caught in Whitianga and the biggest in 53 years and coincidentally in the same area Sweeney caught a 152.4kg striped marlin the season before.
“I love sharing the experience and excitement New Zealand outdoors can provide,” says Sweeney. “I really enjoy providing people with the chance to experience the New Zealand outdoors through hunting and fishing.”
Whitianga holds a special place for Sweeney (“my brothers and I learnt to fish off the wharf there”), as his family has spent and continues to spend a lot of time holidaying at the family bach.
It’s not just big marlins that prove a drawcard; Sweeney caught another beast (184kg gutted) while he was chasing roaring red stags in Gisborne.
“My favourite hunting spot has to be the East Coast,” he says. “I’ve been lucky enough to get access to some amazing country through good friends of mine. We’ve had some spectacular roar trips and been lucky enough to encounter some beautiful animals in awesome backcountry.”
A passion for the outdoors
Sweeney’s interest in hunting and fishing was sparked through his father’s love for the outdoors.
“It was a great way for Dad, my three younger brothers, and me to spend quality time together through our childhood and teenage years. It’s still a high priority for us now, as we all share the same passion for the outdoors.”
Sweeney’s words ring true with most anglers and hunters. Hunting and fishing is as much about building bonds and spending time together as it about the final catch.
“I find having shared passions with family or close friends is a great way to stay connected and spend uninterrupted quality time together. For me, that is what hunting and fishing prove, a chance to connect with likeminded people and enjoy something I love to do.”
And it’s no surprise that anglers and hunters often pick up some of life’s most valuable skills when they’re outdoors. It teaches you to pay attention to your surroundings, being disciplined and tenacious – skills required both on and off-field.
“It has taught me to be patient, to focus, and the key to preparation,” says Sweeney. “I find that all successful hunters and anglers have the same key skills that serve you well in all aspects of life. They are definitely life skills that I’ve used to help me in my professional rugby career.
“I love the adventure of the unknown and the possibility of that life-changing moment. Any chance I get to explore the New Zealand outdoors is something I truly cherish, especially if I’m with my family and/or friends.”
Reel Tails with Sweens
Sweeney has been a professional rugby player for more than 20 years, after making his debut for Waikato Rugby at the age of 17. Since then, he has gone on to become a Waikato Centurion, represent New Zealand Provincial Barbarians, New Zealand Sevens, New Zealand Maori, and also played professionally in Japan for six years.
In all these years, Sweeney has maintained a perfect off-field balance by staying connected to his passion for the outdoors, the local community, and, of course, people.
Which brings us to his next project – Reel Tails with Sweens – a podcast that’s all about connecting with people that he has crossed paths with.
A man who loves a play on words, Sweeney says he wants his podcast to be ‘reel’ (real), raw, and honest while exploring people’s journeys and passions. He wants to connect with people and share their ‘tails’ (tales). And as he has always been known as ‘Sweens’ to those close to him, he says he aims to show his true self and share his experiences along the way through the podcast.
“I enjoy conversation and connecting with good people, which is a key focus point for me and a strong reason behind starting the podcast,” says Sweeney.
“I want to focus on my main areas of interest, which are rugby, hunting, fishing, and to help promote local businesses and brands that I feel aligned with and have strong core values.
“I want to connect my guests with the listeners by helping them share the ‘reel’ side of their journey. The successes and the failures/learnings that they have had along the way.
“I want to lean on my relationships with some of the world’s best rugby players to get them on and show their ‘reel’ side and show how relatable they are. Also using their profile to create listenership and a platform to be able to connect with people from all walks of life.”
With 11 podcasts already up on his website, Sweeney says there’s a lot more to come.
“I don’t want to mention the guests by name until I have recorded the episodes, but I do have some beauties lined up, especially from the hunting and fishing industries.”
Catch Sweeney’s episodes on reeltailswithsweens.com.