General Queen's Birthday Honours: Tawera Nikau

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Queen's Birthday Honours: Media-shy league legend Nikau ducks out of limelight

Monday June 5, 2006
By Jon Stokes

League legend Tawera Nikau spent the day duck-shooting in preparation for receiving his Queen's Birthday honour today.

Getting hold of the 39-year-old father of three, grandfather of one, and 19-test former Kiwis second-rower is a tough ask - and proves impossible.

Today Nikau, who is of Waikato iwi descent, becomes a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to rugby league and the community.

Close friend and former Kiwis captain Richie Barnett said the award was well deserved, but he was not surprised his notoriously media-shy friend had made himself scarce yesterday.

Nikau dominated the code for more than a decade in a career that saw him play for NRL sides Cronulla Sharks and Melbourne Storm as well as English super league clubs Sheffield and Castleford.

He was once named in the World XIII as the best second rower on the planet.

He played 53 times for the Storm and a stand at Olympic Park is named in his honour after he led the side to grand-final glory in 1999. He was named man of the match in that 20-18 win over St George.

Since returning to his home town of Huntly in 2001 after retiring on completion of a final year with Warrington, in England, he has had stints coaching the Wai-Coa Bay Stallions Bartercard Cup side.

He also took ownership of the town's famed Shands Bakery and teamed up with the N2N Sports Academy Trust, with life-long friend Shane Nepe, and Team One - a corporate training company owned with Frano Botica and Eric Rush.

Barnett said he and Nikau first played together in late 1980s for Otahuhu.

At that time Nikau was playing all year round, spending the New Zealand summer playing for Castleford.

Barnett said it was important that Nikau's work off the field was also acknowledged.

In 2001, Tawera Nikau's wife, Letitia, took her own life in England.

In 2003, he lost his right leg below the knee after crashing his Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

"That is the thing I have noticed with Tawera, he is such a positive guy. He looks at things with the idea that attitude is the key to it all," said Barnett.

"He is a fantastic role model for people with what he has done, both in his motivational work and the work he has done with youth and his Huntly community."

Nikau also fronts sports programme Code on Maori Television and provided commentary during this season's Bartercard Cup.

He has also stepped into the ring for charity, boxing in the 2002 and 2004 Fight for Life.
Well done Mr Nikau!
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