Rugby league star Kevin Locke is madly in love – and has managed to nab the girl he once admired from a distance.
At high school, the Warriors player was the shortest in his form – his classmate Hannah Mackinven was even taller than him, leaving Kevin (24) too shy to make any moves.
But years later he had transformed into a strapping sports star, and finally had the confidence to approach his teenage crush, when he saw her at an Auckland nightclub.
Hannah (24) is now Kevin’s fiancée and mother to their 9-month-old son, Louie. With a huge smile on his face, it’s clear that Kevin is ecstatic about reuniting with the girl that nearly got away.
“I thought I’d never come across her again, so when I saw her, I just jumped at the opportunity,” he passionately explains about that special moment two years ago.
“We had that history, all those childhood memories, which gave as an instant connection.”
Hannah remembered Kevin from Northcote College on Auckland’s North Shore, but they hung out in different circles. She was unaware that Kevin had carried a torch for her, and was surprised about the little details he remembered.
“He knew what shoes I wore, the colour and type of school bag I had, and when my dress had raised a bit – because I was getting taller,” she explains.
And Kevin states that he isn’t at all embarrassed about his recollections.
“When I was telling her that stuff, she looked at me like I was a stalker. But I prefer to look at it as having a very good memory,” he laughs.
When the two met again as adults, the Kiwis representative was one of the country’s most well-known league players – and Kevin loved that Hannah wasn’t aware how successful he was, and also didn’t know anything about sports.
“He told me that he was in the Warriors, but I didn’t know what that meant. I asked him, “Are they like the All Blacks?” she says with a smile.
Kevin describes their romance as if it was something from the movies. A true ugly duckling tale of how the shy, short boy grows up and sweeps the girl off her feet.
“We should have hooked up at high school, that would have been cool. When we met again, we started to hang out. I eventually asked Hannah if she wanted to take it further and our relationship grew from there.“
Although the Auckland lovebirds have been in serious relationships in the past, they say their union is different, and stronger than ever.
“You learn a lot of things along the way,” Kevin says. “Other relationships have not been the same. With Hannah, we just had that connection. She made me happy and made me feel special.”
Kevin knew that he wanted Hannah to be his wife, and the idea strengthened when the couple became proud parents to Louie.
Months before he popped the question, Kevin gave gentle hints regarding the proposal – asking Hannah what jewellery she liked and the size of her ring finger.
When he eventually asked for her hand in marriage in July, he had the perfect diamond ring that he knew she would adore. But the proposal wasn’t the romantic moment that Kevin had meticulously planned.
“I wanted to do something special. I asked Stan Walker if he could sing, serenading us while I proposed to Hannah on the beach. He was keen as,” Kevin explains.
“All I needed was to get Hannah to the beach. I got home and asked her to come for lunch, but she didn’t want to, saying that we didn’t have time because we were moving into a new house. She wasn’t taking the bait, so I just ended up proposing then and there… I was holding baby as I got down on one knee,” he says.
Hannah had no doubts what her reply would be. “It was a pleasant surprise. I said yes straight away,” she recalls.
The couple are planning to walk down the aisle in January – and are looking forward to their big day.
As a sports star in the public eye, Kevin has endured his fair share of drama, on and off the field. There have been various stories in the media, including driving convictions. But he says becoming a father and being in a loving relationship has forced him to mature.
“I’ve certainly gone through tough times, and I have learned how to work through them. I’ve come a long way. I want to be a good dad, a role model – not only to my son, but also to other kids.“
There has been speculation that Kevin may move to Australia to further his league career, and his future with the Warriors is uncertain, but Kevin says those reports are mere rumours. He’s signed with the Auckland club until 2014, and wants to stay loyal to them.
But one thing is for certain – being in love and a doting dad has made him extremely happy.
“Hannah has taught me to be light-hearted. Sometimes I take things too seriously. She has kept me grounded.”
Hannah says that she is lucky to have crossed paths with Kevin again, as he has bought joy into her and Louie’s lives.
“We are constantly laughing, and I think that laughter and happiness is important to keep a relationship strong – and Kevin gives me all that.”
Photos: Emma Watson • styling, hair & Make-up: Luisa Petch • Kevin wears fifth avenue shirt & jeans. Hannah wears Moochie dress. Kevin wears witchery blue t-shirt & Fifth ave jeans. Hannah wears Charmaine reveley blue dress, Elle Macpherson intimates slip. Kevin wears Witchery man t-shirt. Louie wears pumpkin patch throughout.