General 2015 Warriors Where Are They Now?

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31 Mark Carter - ??? retired from Auckland NPC Rugby Union in 2000
Still have absolutely nothing on Sharky. Absolutely nothing. Wikipedia page has nothing and his name is too common to get much success with Google. If anyone is a member of an All Black or Blues page can you ask? Guy seems to have disappeared off the face of the Earth...
 
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32 Nigel Vagana - NRL Education and Welfare Officer and Samoa RLWC2013 Technical Adviser
Nigel Vagana is still working as the NRL Education and Welfare Manager.
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https://www.linkedin.com/pub/nigel-vagana/49/131/5a6

nigel vagana, player welfare and education manager, national rugby league and mentor
1 August 2014


It’s just the right thing to do. Shed some light on a dark and hidden subject like violence against women. Talk about it. Make a taboo subject easier to discuss and easier to end.

Nigel Vagana manages the Welfare and Education Program for the National Rugby League (NRL). He works with all the players, from the 16-year-old Rookies to this season’s stars, on all aspects of their lives off the field. As a recognised leader in the NRL, Samoan and Pacific communities, Nigel uses his status, with grace and humility, to mentor young players into becoming respectful and upstanding members of their communities.

Nigel was born in New Zealand of Samoan parents. His mother was from Fasito’o Uta, Satupa’itea and Utulei (American Samoa) and his father from Samatau and Vaovai, Falealili. He is recognised as one of the most admirable and successful league players of Samoan heritage. Having played and captained both New Zealand and Samoa as an international representative centre, Nigel retired as the New Zealand’s all-time top try-scorer with 19 to his name. He was also named captain of the Toa Samoa side for the 2008 Rugby League World Cup, and he has played club football in New Zealand for the Warriors, in England for Warrington, and in Australia for the Bulldogs, Cronulla-Sutherland and finally South Sydney. In 2009 Nigel retired from field play and began looking after the welfare of current and retiring NRL players.

The NRL has recognised that their players, with an average playing career of 43 games (about three and half years), rise quickly to fame and fall just as fast. As an organisation, they have duty of care to ensure that NRL players are given the necessary training to handle situations that develop because they play rugby league at the elite level. Their Welfare and Education Program, and specifically their Respectful Relationships Program, is acknowledged as one of the most progressive in the sporting arena in Australia.

Respectful Relationships was initiated after allegations that a group of NRL players had sexually assaulted a woman in 2004. The program is based around making decisions using an ethical framework model, developed by a team of researchers including Karen Willis from Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia and Professor Moira Carmody from the Sex and Ethics Education program at the University of Western Sydney.

Nigel uses the ethical framework model when coaching young players on the facts around issues like consent and sexual assault, including the legal parameters. In an engaging manner, he helps educate players through role play, workshops and frank discussions on how their behaviour impacts their careers, their relationships and their communities. He sometimes brings in professional actors to create hypothetical situations that these young men, 18 and 19 years old, suddenly face now that they are recognised on and off the field. Together they work out appropriate responses to scenarios in pubs, in the community, and in the home. When the situation escalates, the actors respond accordingly and the consequences soon become apparent.

While, ‘power and control’ are key to a winning performance in sport, they are also the foundation of violent behaviour against women. Nigel works on getting players to understand that the factors that lead to success on the field are the same as those that contribute to violence against women. They discuss the components of healthy relationships and promote a culture of non-violence and respect for women both within the NRL and the broader community. As Nigel says, it’s just the right thing to do.

https://positivelyremarkable.wordpress.com/2014/08/01/nigel-vagana-player-welfare-and-education-manager-national-rugby-league-and-mentor/
 
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37 Brady Malam - ??? 2000 ESL Wigan Warriors
A mate who is involved with the Glenora Bears reckons Brady Malam still frequents the club, gets hammered and starts fights. Still in Auckland but unsure of what line of work he is doing at the moment? Latest pic I could find was this one from Monty Bethams Instagram account. Thats Brady on the right and Warrior #89 Jason Temu on the left.

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Ive one line of inquiry for Brady so I may update this post later...

UPDATE

Brady Malam is running with a packaging company. Still involved with his local Glenora Bears Rugby League Club...

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https://www.business.govt.nz/companies/app/ui/pages/companies/4032699?backurl=/companies/app/ui/pages/individual/search?q=MALAM+Brady&start=&entitySearch=&addressKeyword=&postalCode=&country=&addressType=&advancedPanel=&roleType=ALL&sf=&sd=

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https://www.budpac.co.nz/
 
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38 Bryan Henare - ??? 2003 was playing for Leigh Centurions, Greater Manchester, England
There really isnt anything on the net about Bryan Henare except whats on his Wikipedia page but that cuts out at 2003 as the post above states. I have managed to track down his wife on Facebook and according to that they are both still living in Auckland. Have sent her a random friend request so I can message her and really ramp up my Warriors stalker status.

Heres a pic from Christmas 2014...
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39 Aaron Lester - ??? Last played for Whitehaven RL, Cumbria, England in 2007
He is still living in Whitehaven where his wife is a teacher. Played his last game there in 2009.

FORMER WHITEHAVEN RL ACE AARON LESTER TO PLAY IN HILL TESTIMONIAL
By Martin Morgan
Last updated at 12:17, Thursday, 10 December 2009

Whitehaven legend Aaron Lester is to lace up his boots one last time in honour of veteran former team-mate Howard Hill.


Aaron Lester

The ex-skipper, widely regarded as Haven’s best ever hooker and the only latter day player named in the club’s Immortals team, has agreed to play in Hill’s testimonial game against Oldham at the Recre next month.

The Kiwi, now 36, last featured for Haven in June, 2007, after a decade of sterling service. He is settled in west Cumbria and will return from a break in his native New Zealand ahead of the January 10 clash.

“Aaron was a highly-dangerous player for Whitehaven, and also a good club-man, along with the other Kiwis signed for Whitehaven by Stan Martin,” said Haven assistant Les Ashe, on the receiving end of Lester’s skill when coaching at Workington Town alongside current boss Ged Stokes.

“We rated him top draw when we were at Workington, and Stokesy tried to coax him out of retirement for a season in our first year at Whitehaven, so he really respects him. He’s an all-round genuine guy.

“Aaron was a real go-to player and, like Andrew Johns, would take the ball right to the line, draw two or three defenders, and if someone had made a decent run they would go through.

“If we get some more guest players to turn out against Oldham, it may mean more people turn out to watch.”

Meanwhile, Haven have signed ex-Wigan youngster Andrew Thornley on a 12-month contract. The back-rower joined Haven on loan near the end of last season, playing his first four games off the bench before coach Ged Stokes promoted him to a starting role at loose-forward for the play-off defeat at Widnes.

“I think he’s now chosen to join Whitehaven to get more experience in the Championship,” said head of performance Gary Hewer.

“Andrew’s a big, strong, athletic lad who brings an exciting dimension to the club. He’s still relatively young and has to earn a place in the team. All our young players will be treated equally.

“He’s already done two sessions with us at Drigg, and has fitted in during the week as well. He has his goals and believes Whitehaven can help him achieve them.”

https://www.newsandstar.co.uk/sport/haven/former-whitehaven-rl-ace-aaron-lester-to-play-in-hill-testimonial-1.648693

As the article stated he was inducted into the Whitehaven Immortals team and from everything Ive read on other links he is held in very high esteem at the club. Handed out the awards at the clubs Presentation Night for the 2014 season...

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https://www.facebook.com/WhitehavenRLVicePresidents?fref=nf
 
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40 Matthew Ridge - Owner of Car-Fe and failed property developer
Nothing recent on Ridgey except for this excerpt from an article on former Celebrity Treasure Island contestants.

Life has been good for Ridge, 46, since. He has a son, London, almost 4, with former TrueBliss singer Carly Binding. Ridge is often seen biking shirtless along the streets of Auckland.

https://www.nzherald.co.nz/entertainment/news/article.cfm?c_id=1501119&objectid=11337703

Matthew is still the owner and CEO of Car-fé in Greenlane and theres a franchise owned Car-fé in Takapuna. The business offers customers a car wash and a cafe onsite. Car washes go from $15-$220. This is a screenshot from the Car-fé website...
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https://www.car-fe.co.nz/

Theres even a pic of Ridge washing a car...

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41 Grant Young - Living in Brisbane, Australia
Still living in Brisbane. Was special guest at this years post game members night at Suncorp.

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Involved with the Aspley League Club. Listed on the iSport website as an U13 coach but I think this maybe an old listing.

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His son plays for the club. Here he is with a team from 2012 (top pic) and 2014 (bottom in the huddle).
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Believe he is a builder for work. Always posting photos of garages, sheds and barns he's made...

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Update on his building work. He is a contractor for Titan Sheds. Below is a review a customer did on him...
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https://www.titangarages.com.au/reviews-testimonials.htm
 
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Nothing recent on Ridgey except for this excerpt from an article on former Celebrity Treasure Island contestants.
Lives in Freeman's Bay - often seen riding his old school BMX around Ponsonby/Freeman's Bay etc with his shirt off. Still looked to be in decent shape (I saw him about 6 mths ago). Not sure what he's doing for work etc.
 
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Lives in Freeman's Bay - often seen riding his old school BMX around Ponsonby/Freeman's Bay etc with his shirt off. Still looked to be in decent shape (I saw him about 6 mths ago). Not sure what he's doing for work etc.
I did a job at the end of Picton St a year ago and saw him, his partner and child walking past up Hepburn St in Freemans Bay. Told a fairly hot chick at the bar after work that Id seen him, to break the ice, and she said she had already fucked him and he was hung like a horse lol. True story...
 
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Doc Murray and Brady Malam. There's two names that bring back horrible memories.
 
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I did a job at the end of Picton St a year ago and saw him, his partner and child walking past up Hepburn St in Freemans Bay. Told a fairly hot chick at the bar after work that Id seen him, to break the ice, and she said she had already fucked him and he was hung like a horse lol. True story...
Did it work for you though? Lol
 
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43 Steve Buckingham - Coach of the Mt Albert Lions, Auckland, NZ
Bucky is still coaching the Mt Albert Lions Premier side but for the 2014 season he also coached Akarana top side in the Pirtek National Cup. All this while holding down a fulltime job. Not sure what industry he's in though?

Here he is, top right, during a Mt Albert game.
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Heres the preliminary team list and coaching staff for the 2014 Akarana team...

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44 Shane Endacott - Stepped down as Halswell Hornets coach in 2012 (Link). Still living in Chch NZ.
Someone posted on this forum earlier that Shane was in Auckland and working as a builder or something like that. Ive found a registered company called ENDO Build Ltd that has him named as the sole Director.
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https://www.business.govt.nz/companies/app/ui/pages/companies/3378337/detail?backurl=/companies/app/ui/pages/companies/3378337

Did some further digging and Shane is a Director on a few companies including some that have been wound down and some he is in partnership with his father, former Warriors coach, Frank Endacott.
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https://www.business.govt.nz/company-search/directorsearch?query=Shane Robert ENDACOTT

ASOTV is an acronym for as seen on TV. The rest of the companies can be explained by this excerpt from an article in 2011.

Endacott's first business venture was through the "As Seen on TV business".

"A mate ran the company which bought Suzanne Paul out, so Jane and I opened three retail stores up there. After that, we formed a company with Hamish Miller."

The Endacotts – father and son – are still linked with Miller, who runs the Roar Sports Marketing Group in Auckland. Frank – now a player agent – has high-profile players under his wing in his company called Roar Talent. Shane runs Roar Materials, which supplies sports equipment to companies through sponsorship packages leveraged by Miller. He works with some national sporting bodies and supplies McDonald's franchise stores with rugby balls, netballs, soccer balls, cones and drink bottles.

The Endacotts had "six solid years" devoted to business and bringing up daughters Danielle and Brooke in Auckland before home called in 2006. "We sold up our three stores and moved back down here, because we wanted the kids to be close to both sets of grandparents."

https://www.stuff.co.nz/sport/league/5161181/Shane-Endacott-keeps-league-family-tradition

This is the most recent photo I could find of him from June 2012...

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CRL Legend Series No.1 - Shane Endacott


Throughout the season, we'll be featuring Canterbury Rugby League's past playing and coaching greats in a series of in-depth interviews.

First in the series is Shane Endacott, a Junior Kiwis representative and Canterbury provincial rep from 1992-94. After his first professional stint with English club Hull FC, Endacott – the son of legendary Canterbury, New Zealand, Auckland Warriors and Wigan coach Frank – joined the Warriors in 1996.

One of the most versatile players of the late-1990s, Endacott featured in the Warriors' reserve grade Grand Final team in '96 and shared his 42 first grade appearances (1997-99) between five-eighth, centre, hooker, lock and the interchange bench.

Endacott retired aged just 28 and remained in Auckland for several years to pursue business interests before returning to Canterbury in 2006. He has been heavily involved with coaching in the region, including stints with Celebration, Halswell (where he won a premiership in 2011) and this year at Papanui.

CAREER OVERVIEW

Club career

Papanui

Sydnenham

Canterbury Cardinals (1994): 12 games - 3 tries (12 points)

Hull (1994-95)

Christchurch City Shiners (1995): 8 games - 2 tries (8 points)

Auckland Warriors (1997-99: 42 games - 3 tries (12 points)


Representative career

Junior Kiwis (1990)

Canterbury (1992-94): 7 games - 7 tries (28 points)

New Zealand XIII (1996): 1 game - 2 tries (8 points)


What are you foremost memories of playing junior club footy in Canterbury?

It was Papanui and Sydenham a premier level, but most of my early football was at Hornby. It was quite funny how we started actually, I wasn't really aware there was a game called Rugby League to be honest. Even though Dad (Frank) played he was very reluctant to get any of us four boys involved. Maybe that was the physical aspect of the game, I'm not sure. I went down to play soccer actually, and I couldn't have been any good, because they said 'no, we've got enough players, no thanks'. So Mum said, 'why don't you have a go at League'.

Dad actually refused to take me to my first three of four trainings. He said I was too much of a Mummy's boy, and too soft, so Mum actually took me to my first few trainings at Hornby. I went pretty good and Dad suddenly got interested, and he ended up coaching us – I think he coached us from 10s to 17s. Previous to that, he'd coached Addington and Hornby to Grand Finals.

We had a real good group of young men and we became a fairly good side. One year, in the 17s, we got about seven players in the Kiwi from one club. It just shows you how important that good coaching is at that level. Because we were an average team; we used to get hammered by teams like Kaiapoi and Aranui that were bigger and stronger, but we stuck with the skills and we caught up in size, and suddenly we were the better side.



What position did you play as a junior?

I was a loose forward; I was New Zealand captain one year, and we had guys like Steve Kearney and Syd Eru who didn't even make that Kiwi side, so I was at the top of my game at that stage. Unfortunately, at that stage I got quite a bad injury. With all the football I was playing, I was also playing senior rep touch; I was still a schoolboy, and I was going through that growing stage and playing a lot of sport, and I got two stress fractures in my lower back.

I was told that I wouldn't play League again at any great level. I lost the power game, I couldn't do any weights. I wasn't allowed to load my spine up so I couldn't do squats or power clings. So I sat down with my sports doctor and said, 'what do I do? Do I give up the game?', and his recommendation was don't chuck it in but work on what you can work on, which was fitness and skills. So I decided at that stage to start playing at 6 (five-eighth), because I knew that without that power component I wouldn't make it in the forwards anymore.

I struggled a little bit, because I was a skilful 13 (lock) but five-eighth's a totally different position. I never really had a great kicking game, my passing game could've been a lot better. But I think my understanding of the game, sheer determination, work ethic and fitness got me through in the end and, yeah, proved a lot of people wrong.

But having a brother (Gary) with cerebral palsy sort of inspires you, and when you do feel sorry for yourself – you think 'what if', if I didn't get that injury I could've probably been three times the player that I was – but hey, you play the cards you're given. My brother Gary, he's done many things people said he couldn't achieve either.

Once I got to top level, because I was an average player, I was a bit of a gap-filler. One week I'd train and play at hooker, the next week I'd be in the centres, the next week I'd be at 6, the next two weeks I'd be on the bench covering four different positions.



What were your highlights representing Canterbury?

Getting coached by Dad was a highlight because he was probably considered the best coach in New Zealand at that stage. The highlight really was probably my first game for Canterbury (in 1992), it was against Bay of Plenty, and I managed to score three tries. And that actually led to a contract a couple of years later. (Former Kiwis coach) Tony Gordon was the Bay of Plenty coach and then he got a job at Hull, and I think it was because of that one performance he brought me and a couple of other Canterbury players, Tevita Vaikona and Maea David, over and we got that English contract.

Beating the Auckland side (in 1994) was another highlight. Stacey Jones was their halfback and probably their best player; I think he was only 17. The player I marked that day at five-eighth was 'Bluey' McClennan, the future Kiwis and Warriors coach. It's quite funny how you play with or against guys that become coaches – 'Bluey', I played against him; Stephen Kearney was a teammate in age-group rep teams; the current England coach, Steve McNamara, was my captain at Hull. It's quite a buzz when you see those boys coaching now.



Playing in Hull in that 1994-95 season must have been an eye-opener?

It was. We were a bit set up to be honest, the three of us, because we were all just kids. Tevita Vaikona, who ended up being a bit of a legend over there, at that stage he'd only been playing League for less than a year. He got plucked out of third division at Lincoln. Maea David was a strong boy. But we'd only just started playing rep football here; we didn't really know what we were heading in for. They told us they'd blood us in at 'B' level for a few weeks and give us a wee feel of it gradually during the season.

We arrived on the Thursday and we were front-page news on the Friday – we were the next Kemble, Leuluai, O'Hara! And I think at that stage Hull had lost their first nine games and we were meant to be the saviours. Well, we were just kids, we were inexperienced and we got chucked in the deep end. They did us no favours to be honest [laughs], we tried our best. The three us were chucked in this small Coronation Street-type house, we got this 25-year-old Rover, a shitty old car, between us that we had to share. I think for the first four months we slept on mattresses on the floor. It was certainly not what we thought we were getting ourselves in for, and hence Maea and I ripped up our second-year contracts and Tevita stayed on but went to Bradford eventually.

I can remember, I think it was my second training there, and the coach was doing kick-off sets and I reckon they dropped about seven kick-offs in a row and I'm thinking, 'what the hell am I doing here?'. But they were good people and they made us welcome. And if anything, it didn't help my attacking game because it was still played in the winter back then. It probably toughened me up as a person. I was straight out of university, had no money, still lived at home, so it was a real learning curve. And defensively – I was probably more of an attacking player and a weak defender, but when I came back from the UK, I think I was more of a defensive player.



Where did you fall into the Super League signing frenzy during the mid-1990s?

Because I was an average player I was on average money, and I didn't really give a toss what other guys were earning. I was happy with what I was getting and I was happy for the opportunity. I'll give you an example: I was playing first grade on $10,000 a year, and one of my teammates was on $660,000 a year. So you could say I was playing for $500 a game and some of them were playing for up to $30,000 a game. It's not like rugby (union), they're not all on similar money, there is a real tier system in the NRL. Joe Bloggs watching the TV would expect all 17 players being of equal talent, but when you spend a lot of money on a handful, you've got to have the lesser players there as well. And I was a lesser player, and I was actually brought to the Warriors because of my work ethic.

First year (1995), the Warriors' reserve grade had a star-studded side, they had many Kiwis. The problem was some of those Kiwis thought they probably should have been playing first grade, so they probably switched off attitude-wise. They weren't teaching those young guys the work ethic – I think they probably taught them drinking games! (Warriors coach) John Monie got Aaron Whittaker, who was at Wakefield at that stage, and myself from Hull, and he brought us back to the club and said, 'look, we don't expect you to play first grade, but you're here to teach the younger guys about work ethic' – the Nigel Vaganas, the Logan Swanns, teach them that if you work hard you can make it.

And that year (1996) I think we won 16 on the trot to reach the (reserve grade) Grand Final, which we lost 14-12 to Cronulla. I remember putting up a bomb and Tony Tuimavave catching it to score but the touch judge called him offside, which I thought was a rough call. That was one of my most enjoyable years; as a League player you like to hold your position, it helps you become a better player. In first grade, I was always here and there, and I was never really good enough to cement a position. So my football never really advanced. But in reserve grade, Aaron and I played the whole 25 games as halfback and five-eighth. And you always knew there was Nigel Vagana outside you, or Anthony Swann hitting the holes; it made a huge difference and I think that's why the year was so successful.



Did you feel being coach by Frank, for Canterbury and the Warriors, put any extra pressure on you?

Oh, it surely did. I was in a no-win situation and he probably was as well. It wasn't a lot of extra pressure really, you've just got to have thick skin. I was there (at the Warriors) for the right reasons, I was there to teach these younger guys about work ethic, and my 40-odd first grade games was really a bonus for me. I never envisaged playing first grade, but it was probably more pressure for him than me.



You made your first grade debut in 1997 only a few weeks before John Monie was sacked. It was a tumultuous time for the club, and the game in general – do you look back at those times with fond memories?

Yeah, I felt for John. I just don't think he probably handled the Islander boys as well as he could have. He was a good coach. He was quite hard, you know; I looked at Dad and he had real people skills, and I couldn't understand why John was so hard-nosed. But looking back now, his career was near the end then and he would have been burnt by a number of clubs and a number of players. It's a business, and you can only be shit on so many times before you become hard-nosed and he would have been let down by so many players over the years, and that's why he was so defensive at times. I managed to get quite a few games under John before he got the sack, and he was certainly a good coach.



The 1997 season wasn't a great one for the Warriors in the Super League competition, but you did well in the World Club Challenge – that must have been a buzz?

It was, I think I played in six of the seven games. The only one I missed was against Warrington at Warrington. It was an interesting time; you got to know your teammates when you toured. A good story to come out then was Marc Ellis, he got a pretty bad broken nose just before halftime in our first game on that tour against St Helens. I still remember Marc saying he didn't want to go back on because of his TV career! Big Frankie told him to toughen up and get back out there. The following two games, which were against Bradford and Warrington, he missed with a strained hamstring and I saw it come out in his book that he actually made the hamstring injury up, it was more to do with his nose.

But to beat those English sides – teams that we'd struggled to even compete with when I was at Hull – to actually beat them, and demolish them in some circumstances, it was a bit of a buzz.

Also in that competition I can remember getting a getting a good hiding from Steve Renouf. It was the semi-final, it was worth a couple of million to win the whole thing, and Brisbane were the hot favourites. I managed to score a try early that night and Renouf had scored five tries in the previous game, in the quarter-final (against St Helens), and Dad said if you get a chance, upset him, put him off his game.

I was at centre that night, of all places, and Tony Tuimavave and I tackled him at one stage, and Tony must have put some shit in because (Renouf) came up swinging basically. I was at second marker and he grabbed my shirt and gave me a mouthful, and I thought, 'here's my opportunity', so I smacked him right in the nose! Next minute, about five Broncos came in, and I didn't feel the punch but I had blood all over my face; I remember I had to come off a couple of times that night because I couldn't stop the bleeding. We lost (22-16) and they won the final (against Hunter Mariners) quite convincingly the following week, but we were right in the mix and it showed our potential.



Who were the biggest characters during your time with the Warriors?

I think the biggest joker was Joe Vagana, the big prop, I actually caught up with him at the Auckland Nines and he's still that big teddy bear. Stacey Jones in his own way was quite a character, especially off the field. Marc Ellis was always good for a court session. We had a court session in the UK, I think there was 26 people in the room and there wasn't one piece of clothing – that included staff, managers, doctors and allsorts, and he was the judge that day. I won't forget that in a hurry. They would probably be the main ones.

Hitro (Okesene) was a very loyal guy. He had a very lovely wife (Donna) and I believe they've moved back to Carlisle. I saw the scary side of Hitro one night; we'd had a pretty good result, beating St George's reserve grade side 14- or 16-nil. They were a good side, they had Kevin Campion in the team. Our flight got in about midnight and we thought we'd go to Hitro's house for a bit of a party; it was about 4am and Hitro had been unconscious on the couch for about three hours. He woke up, didn't say anything, but he grabbed a spear off the wall that he'd got from the Kiwis' tour of PNG a couple of years before, and chased the four of us that were left – I think it was Aaron Whittaker, myself, Logan Swann and Bryan Henare – and I can still remember hiding under the car in the driveway trying to keep away from him. This was bordering on South Auckland and we were getting chased by Hitro with a spear! He couldn't remember it the next day. But yeah, he was a cult hero with his hair and his hard running, head down. And he was one of those leaders in that reserve grade side, like Aaron and myself, that was there to guide those younger boys through.



How did you find playing alongside Stacey Jones in the halves?

He was probably our best ever. Basically he did everything on attack and I just fed the ball to Nigel (Vagana) and supported on the inside and tackled my arse off. I'd quite often get in the top two or three in the tackle count, and that was my job. I wish could have offered him more and taken the pressure off him, but I didn't have quite the skill-set or ability he had. I just tried to take care of the defensive side and leave him fresh basically.



How difficult was it to stay with the Warriors in 1999 after Frank was shown the door?

It was difficult, but I had a one-year contract. I think it did taint it for me a little bit. There were probably some at the club that would've liked to get rid of me at that stage, and thought, 'he might try to undermine us now that his Dad's left'. But I wasn't about that; I was still going to give a hundred, and to Mark Graham's credit, he gave me a fair opportunity. I probably lost a little bit spirit-wise, so it was probably one of my worst years. Because it's such a tough competition, you've got to be giving a hundred week in, week out. I probably did drop the ball a little bit there, but hey, I hung in there and got a handful of games (17).



You retired aged just 28 when many felt you weren't far off a Kiwis call-up – how close did you feel you were to getting a Test jumper?

Probably the closest I got to getting a call-up was in '98. Syd Eru was the hooker for the Kiwis and the Warriors, and we went out against North Sydney and he got injured quite badly in the first couple of minutes, so he was obviously out of the Test. So when Syd went down I was basically in. I played the next 60 minutes at hooker (against Norths) and I think with about 10 minutes to go I got caught in the cricket pitch (of North Sydney Oval) with my sprigs and Josh Stuart, the big North Sydney prop, we had a big collision and I popped a medial ligament and dislocated a kneecap. I knew at that stage that was my Kiwi chance gone. But they ended up managing to get Henry Paul out from England for that Test – before that I think he was unavailable – and the Kiwis went out and kicked arse. So I was rapt for the Kiwis and rapt for Dad, even though I never managed to get the Kiwis jersey.

The other chance when I got quite close was when the Kiwis had 16 picked for their side for the third Test against Great Britain in 1996, and we (New Zealand XIII) were the midweek game, which was basically the Warriors reserve grade team and a couple of local players. Dad flew down to Wellington and said, 'look, the best player today will get that No.17 spot for the Kiwis'. I scored the last two tries and we beat Great Britain, and I thought, 'shit, I've got a chance here'. Anyway they picked Logan Swann, who hadn't played first grade at that stage, and he played well that day as well and he deserved a spot. He ended up playing the next 20 or 30 Tests and ended up being a Kiwi legend, so I think Dad made the right decision.



Do you feel that being so versatile during your career held you back from cementing a permanent spot, or did it help you play more games than perhaps you would have if you specialised in one position?

It probably helped me play more games. I mean, the only reason you become versatile is because you're probably not good enough to cement that one spot. And in hindsight I wasn't good enough to cement that five-eighth spot because I didn't really have the kicking game, and I wasn't good enough to cement a hooker role or centre role because before I went to the Warriors I hadn't played in either position. Actually, I played a handful of games for Hull in the centres.

And it was hard, I remember sitting on the bench and I'd only trained five minutes at 6 during the week and then one of the outside backs got injured. Tea (Ropati) was supposed to be covering the outside backs, but because it was so early in the game he was still having his nervous shit in the changing rooms! Next thing, I'm playing the entire first half against the Roosters, who were a good side, at centre. And I probably hadn't trained at centre for four, five weeks. That was it, I was basically there to go out, tackle, plug up a hole, where in the NRL you need to be training and playing week in, week out in that same position to have any traction.

But I don't blame the coaches because I was just happy to be there and in hindsight because of that versatility I probably got more games than I deserved.



Did you retire so young due to a lack of passion for the game?

No, I basically got the option to go back to the UK, and Mark Graham had pretty much lined me up with a contract at London (Broncos). My wife (Jane) had just fallen pregnant the same week I found out I was cut (by the Warriors), so... she'd hated it the first time around. At some stage, a player needs to say it's time to give up the dream and traipsing your family halfway around the world for average money. If I was a Matthew Ridge or a Stacey Jones and I could get £400,000 then it's an easy decision.

And in hindsight I made the right decision, because in my first year after retiring, I made more money in business than I did playing five years of professional sport. And it's not always about the money, but it was then more about family. I was an average player on average money, why would I go halfway around the world to keep the dream alive? I'd had a good run and I think it was the right time.



You stayed in Auckland for several years after that?

Yeah, we did. And what I teach young fellas now is, sometimes you take a contract – I probably went from $30,000 down to $10,000 when I moved from England to Auckland, but I was smart enough to know the $10,000 wasn't the big thing. The Warriors were buzzing at that stage, and the contacts that we made in the corporate boxes after the match were worth five-fold of what my contract was worth.

I met a gentleman there that was tied up in the As Seen On TV business, and when he found out I was leaving the Warriors he offered me an opportunity, and it really set me up for life. So networking in those corporate boxes was invaluable.



When did you and your family move back to Canterbury?

It would have been 2006 when we came back. My oldest daughter turned 5, and it was always the family plan to bring her home for her schooling in Christchurch, and that (grandparents) Frank and Joan would be coming back from the UK to find a piece of land that we could bring up the family on, near the grandparents. So that was the main reason for coming home, more family than anything.



What have you been doing with yourself, aside from Rugby League, since you've been back in Canterbury?

Since the earthquakes, we've set up a building company, a plastering company and a painting company. We've got a number of League players working for us. Quite a few Linwood boys, quite a few Hornby boys. Just trying to look after that League community, and the business has been very successful. The last three or four years have gone really well, we've had up to 26 staff.

I've also got another company called Roar Material with a business partner, Hamish Miller, in Auckland. He's a very clever marketer, he works for FIFA and does a lot of work for New Zealand Football. We brand sports equipment, so we've got brands like ASB, McDonald's. So we brand soccer balls, cones and boot bags and that sort of thing.



Talk us through your coaching career in the region?

When I first got back there was a couple of clubs talking to me. Celebration at one stage asked me to give them a hand, so I went in there for a year and, where I could, added advice. Then I had a couple more years off and had a call from Jeff Whittaker to say that Halswell were looking for a new coach (in 2011), and at that stage they hadn't made the finals for four years. But Phil Prescott had done a lot of good work over the previous two years and got a pretty good team together. I was also talking with Linwood at that stage; they interviewed me as well, but I chose to go with Halswell. Which is a long way from Clarkeville, but I decided to give those guys a go.

I managed to get a couple of senior signings across, both from Celebration, Manu Weepu and Jaye Pukepuke. And I really thought we needed that muscle there, because Halswell always had a great ability to produce juniors but they would blood five of six juniors in at one time without that muscle around them and a lot of them got disillusioned, and beaten up basically. We had a real good mix; we won the Grand Final comfortably that year and won the competition.

Then the earthquake stuff started, and the following year (2012) I felt like I probably gave about 80 per cent to the team compared to 100 per cent the year before. We had a very good team and went very well in the competition, but we probably got the wettest day of the year in the Grand Final. We'd beaten Hornby by about 30 in the semi on a hard pitch two weeks beforehand but 'Stuey' (Hornby coach Brent Stuart) did a great job that day, got his boys fired up, and their older boys really stepped up – Corey Lawrie was exceptional that day – and they deserved their win.

At that stage my business was getting bigger and bigger, so I thought I would concentrate on work, because I've got staff I'm responsible for and I felt if I was to coach Halswell again I could only give them 60 per cent and those boys deserved 100. So Darrell Coad took over, with Craig Sutherland as manager, and they were extremely successful for the next couple of years. I think it's important that when you leave a club, you've got to make sure they're strong. You're not just walking away from it. I've stayed on the Halswell coaching panel for the last couple of years, selecting their coaches. But yeah, I really, really enjoyed it.

And this year I just employed a guy to take my role over, so I had a little bit more free time. I gave Halswell an indication I was happy to help them out where I could, but they've got a good coach in place there, Robbie (Fa'alilo), and he's obviously had it under control. I got an SOS call from Papanui basically, saying that they were three weeks out from the competition starting, and they were having a few wee issues there, and could I turn up for a few trainings or half a season – we didn't really know. It was just 'can you turn up and help out', see how it goes, and possibly work on work ethic and that sort of thing. And I'm still there, I'm not sure how much longer they'll need me.



And the Tigers are having a great year so far?

Very much so. If someone had said we would win four of our first seven games, the first round, we would have been happy with that. I think Linwood's the team to beat, and to get them first up, I think was perfect for us because to get away to a 22-0 lead after 15 minutes was a luxury that won't happen again. They were the better team for the last 60 minutes and came home strong, but we held on and to get that win was a real bonus.

I think since then, we've worked hard for each of our wins. The boys have got to be given a lot of credit, you know, quite a few new players – it took a while to get the combinations – but a lot of Papanui boys here have been hammered in recent seasons; I can remembered beating them 104-nil with Halswell one year. But some of those boys have hung in there and they deserve this.



Having one of New Zealand's great coaching minds at your disposal, has Frank been forthcoming with advice?

Yeah he is, he's actually doing a bit with the (Papanui) 16s at the moment. He was coaching at Kaiapoi but they didn't have enough numbers in the 15s to fill the grade this year, so four or five of his boys went to play for Papanui, and he thought he'd follow them across and he's doing very similar to me – helping out where he can. Yeah look, he's knowledgeable, and quite often I'll pop over or call in on the way home from training and say 'this has happened' and 'what would you do if you were in my shoes?'.



Do you have any aspirations to go any further in the coaching sphere, or is it more about putting back into the local League community?

No, I don't think so mate. I'm 43 now, so if I was to try to make it, you'd spend 10 or 15 years working your way through the 18s and NRL 20s and reserve grade sides, you know, and again you're traipsing your family around for a dream. And the chances of getting an appointment at the end of it are very minimal, and if you do get an appointment, how long's your career? So I'm quite happy with how we are as a family, and financially, so I can just give back mate.

And I'm bound to cop flak out there because there's probably people out there calling me disloyal – 'you've coached a bit at Celebration, you've coached at Halswell, and now you're coaching at Papanui but you're a Hornby player, what's the story' – but I'm here for Rugby League mate. I don't care what club people say. Halswell needed a hand, and because of my friendship with Jeff Whittaker I said I'd do it and I did it for two years. Now Papanui have come to me and said they needed a hand, and that's what I've done. Hey, there's going to be haters out there, but if we were getting beaten by 50 or 60 they'd be saying nothing. To me, if they're talking about us, that means we're a threat and must doing something right.

At the end of the day, I'm getting paid absolutely nothing from Papanui, I didn't want any money, I don't need the money. I'm there to help 20 young men achieve what they deserve.



It's been a particularly tough time for Rugby League in Canterbury since the earthquakes. How do you feel the code is shaping up here now?

Everyone told me that when the earthquake hit, it would be great for rugby and Rugby League because we'd have an influx of labourers and whatnot. But it actually worked in reverse. The labourers that came from Auckland and Aussie came here to work, not play sport. And the guys that were currently playing were then super busy, so a lot of them dropped away. Because on a Saturday they might earn $250 – well, most clubs in Christchurch, the players don't get paid. So why wouldn't you put food on the table and work on a Saturday?

And traffic's doubled, so you're getting less and less at trainings because guys are late. It is frustrating, but at the end of the day these boys are giving their services for next to nothing, they're putting their bodies on the line each Saturday for a club, getting nothing out of it – it actually costs you money now to play. So the days of banging the tables and saying, 'if you don't turn up to both trainings you're back down to the Bs' are over. You've just got to be flexible and understand, put yourself in their position.

Playing-wise, I still think we've got a good competition at premier level. I think where we're falling down is we're losing kids when they start high school. Anyone with talent is getting earmarked by rugby schools. And I can't blame the parents of the kids for that, because if I was a parent that had a kid at Hornby High, where I went, or Aranui High or Linwood College, and I got a rugby scholarship to go to St Andrew's or St Bede's, all expenses paid for, then to me as a parent that would be a better pathway.

There was a bit of money around at school level when I played, and I can remember one year we might have had 14, 16 schools in that competition. It would be nice to get a sponsor to sponsor a school competition. I think there's a lot of guys out there that actually prefer League to play but perceive there's more opportunities in rugby, hence why they go down that path. What they don't realise is that in rugby they might be up against another 10 or 12 quality players, and the chances of making the Crusaders or whatever is, I think, minimal.

They've got to remember that there's scouts coming over here all the time, and they feel obligated to pick one or two players up to justify their trip. So if you're playing here as a young fella, and you come to League, you haven't got the same competition. It is actually a lot easier to get that pathway and suddenly you're with an NRL club.

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