Written by: ngatiporou.com
1 Jun 2011

The following article was originally published in the June 2011 Nga Kohinga.

During Easter weekend the Waiapu Rugby Sub-Union held their first ever reunion. Past and present players, along with their whanau gathered at George Nepia Memorial Park in Rangitukia, to celebrate the club’s long history. One of the main aims of holding the reunion was to collate information for a book about the club, which will be launched at Labour Weekend later this year.

The following korero are some extracts from the contribution John Manuel, of Rangitukia, is making towards the book. John is a Lifetime member of the club, and also a past president of the East Coast Rugby Union ( 2007-2009). John also played for the Coast from 1960-1968 and was a member of the Executive from 1968-1974 & from 2003-2006.

The Waiapu Rugby Sub-Union are currently looking for more stories to go towards the book. If anyone would like to share their korero, memorabilia or photographs please contact: Warwick Olsen 06 8643 756 or Hildarren Haenga 06 8643 736.

John Manuel’s Korero: The Early Days 

My memory goes back to the end of World War Two 1944-45 when my Uncle and name sake John Manuel and John Te Kauru Green died on the battle field in Crete. A huge gathering was held at Hinepare for their tangihanga, as well as others from C Company who fell in the same battle (Hanga aroha). This is an occasion I will never forget – parents, wives and children mourning for their loved ones.

Transport in those days was a horse and a cart buggy to and from the games. My Dad was a rugby player, wing or centre, selected for Rangers Waiapu and for E.C. North. A rugby fanatic at the end of his career. He was also a sprinter and all round sportsmen - rugby, athletics, horse sports, dog trials as well as a judge on the course.

Mum and the rest of the family were forever following the Rangers or Waiapu whenever there was a home game. Hitch up our horse and cart and away we go. R.F.C had woman’s hockey and basketball teams, which we used to watch prior to rugby. I was lucky enough to see George Nepia play rugby, for Rangers and Waiapu, although he was aged, his boots weren’t 30 years from the Invincibles. What I remember the most is the distance and height he kicks the ball. “Ka mau te wehi”. To hear those remarks from those who played with George. When the ball goes behind you, you advance that ball and it will spiral past. The saying was “Kei reira te koroua kaua e maharahara”.

To hear people talk about George Nepia when he arrived in Rangitukia, rugby was the topic. The playing standards “Ka mau te wehi”. Not only rugby but also farming, bush felling - everything was on a high. His influence on the rugby field playing for Rangers, encouraged a number of players to make the Maori All Blacks.

  •     George Nepia 1928-30-32-35 Rangers, Waiapu, EC, MA
  •     Wetini Tuhoro 1932-34 Rangers, Waiapu, EC, MA
  •     Dan Tuhoro 1932-39 Rangers, Waiapu, EC, MA
  •     Ben Horua 1932- Rangers, Waiapu, EC, MA
  •     Naera Reihana 1932 Rangers, Waiapu, EC, MA
  •     Teua Raroa 1928-29 Rangers, Waiapu, EC, MA

Maori All Blacks from City Club

  •     George Ferris 1931 City, Waiapu, EC, MA
  •     George Pepere 1936 Bubu, Waiapu, EC, MA
  •     Pine Taiapa 1920s Waiapu, EC, MA

Rugby Grounds of Waiapu

I asked Jacob Karaka, ex Rangers of the 20s, about the names of the four rugby grounds.
1: Rahui Papatakaro-Sports played there include rugby, athletics, horse sports, axe man etc, etc. This was the main rugby ground until they extended the cemetery and the marae paepae in the late 40’s early 50’s. Matakupenga and Rangitukia were the main fields after Rahui, then Matakupenga got flooded out in the late 60’s, Rangitukia became the Waiapu sub union ground, all rugby was played here.

2: Tawata Rugby field-next to where the Putaanga Marae stands now.

3: Matakupenga Rugby field-below Pae o te riri School and the Police Station in Tikitiki.

4: Papatakaro Rangitukia-No nga Kohere me etahi atu tenei whenua, ko Windy park, inaianei ko George Nepia Memorial Park.

Playing rugby on Matakupenga when dry is beautiful, but when it’s wet it’s a bog hole. If the ground is too wet the games are re scheduled to Rangitukia. I was fortunate to see games being played at Rahui in the late 40s, early 50s. It was closed to rugby, because of serious injuries to players after the ball landed in the cemetery, and not cleansed on recovery. “Kaore i pa ki te wai” 

Brief Snippets

A game between City Tikitiki vs Rangers at Rangitukia, Dan Tuhoro, a huge man broke through the City defense, the only person to stop him was Percy Yates the fullback. When Percy saw Dan coming straight for him, he ran off the field into the supporters. Dan then threw the ball back onto the field and chased Percy into the crowd. “Ko Percy, a ko te mate tenei e haramai nei”.

Valley vs City

Supporters from each team barracking, a player was rucking one on the ground and the supporter was calling out ae “takahia te kaki o tena “b*****d” tahae ke te wahine a mea. Some were calling out, “ko wai na, ko wai na, te ingoa, te ingoa.”

Each club had their own party places and homes to go to. For the Rangers it was the Tuhoro homestead or Urukohai. Whakarua and the Duff cup were the main challenge cups and there were others. After match functions were held at Hinepare Marae and sometimes went all night. Six o clock swill, roll out the barrels on the spring cart the day before the cup challenge, prepare hangi. But any other games you lose, those party holes are closed more so the Tuhoro homestead, “Kaore he kai ma koutou”.

Tricks of the game

My Dad during his years of selector, for he and his assistants met on a Friday evening prior to each club game, at Urukohai discussing game plans. If the ground is very heavy they pump the ball hard. If it’s dry they let some air out so it slows it down. This is done when they play certain teams in the club competition, and Waiapu sub union games. 

Yearly duties

Our whanau used to look after all the gear during the season and off season. These are the jerseys, socks, shorts and the rugby balls, pumped and polished. The balls are polished and shined for every game. The worst job was marking the field and tilling the lines every year, “Mahi hoha enei i aua wa.”

On Sundays people are going to church, and here I am going to players homes on horse back collecting jerseys that were not handed in after a match. Sure enough they still had them on while milking the cows, or gone pig hunting and fishing. I always recovered the number and the name of player recorded. The main culprits were, to name a few: Nuia Waikari (Leo), Wattie Terauna and Mosey Mauheni.

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yes uncle i remember those days my dad Noel Lake was one of the first pakeha's to play on the coast for Rangers my uncles told me everytime he played he would finish the game black and blue.I remember going to Matakupenga field in tikitiki to see him play i was about 4 or 5 on horse back When the game finished he put me on the horse tied my hands to the sadle and sent me home on the horse from Tikitiki to Rangitukia we didn't see him till monday .They were great games Rangers to see my dad and uncles play hard tough rugby no quarter was given