Mountain man Roman celebrates 100th game

By Jared Smith

The cheer he received from team mates when he finally walked back into the dressing shed after fulltime was indicative of the respect in which Steelform Whanganui’s latest game centenarian Roman Tutauha is held.

The 37-year-old hooker became the 15th man to play 100 First Class games for the province in Saturday’s Meads Cup semifinal victory over Thames Valley, and like fellow centenarian Lindsay Horrocks in the week before, scored a try on the occasion – a classic hooker’s try at the back of a rolling maul from an attacking lineout.

“It’s a lovely gig and it’s a good way to keep you safe from the old end-of-year undie run, so I’m happy that I’m clear of the undie run and that one just saved me today.

“That [try] really set the tone today on how we wanted to play.”

Tutauha’s 13th try for Whanganui was typical of the forward-dominated style he had developed under up in the mighty Ohakune area with the Ruapehu Rugby & Sports Club.

A large contingent of them travelled alongside his wife Mandy and their daughters to congratulate him on his milestone, while several Ruapehu and Taihape people delivered a stirring haka for the veteran at the aftermatch function.

“It’s just a big reflection on our community – nice and tight and little, bringing a lot of love,” Tutauha said.

“My family supports been awesome, over my career, I wouldn’t be anywhere in my career or anywhere close to it without my lovely lady and the work she does supporting me, and my girls.

“Also the family friends and everyone, it’s real humbling.”

Tutauha debuted in his early 20’s in the 2012 Ranfurly Shield challenge to Taranaki in New Plymouth, one of three Shield games he has played.

Since then, he has made 61 starts at hooker and 39 appearances off the bench, winning three Meads Cups (2015-17) and two Lochore Cups (2014, 2021).

His stalwart service was recognised with a callup to the NZ Heartland XV for their game against NZ Police last November, scoring a try.

“You’re just so fixed on trying to make one [game]. Had to do a bit of work to try to make the team, it just starts from there,” Tutauha said about his career.

“One game, then get through the season, and you’re like, ‘I enjoy it’, and it just keeps coming and sooner or later it just keeps ticking away.

“You never set out to make those milestones – 50, 75, 100 – but when you enjoy it, you just keep going until you can’t.”

Having learned from the veterans who came before him, one of whom in 120-game veteran Peter Rowe who presented him with his blazer with ‘100 games’ embroidered, Tutauha carries their mantle and imparts the wisdom to the next generation of Whanganui players.

“I won’t say it’s a job, it’s the way of the Heartland team – you learn, and then you pass on,” he said.

“It’s just teaching the little nitty-gritty things on what’s required,and what it means to actually put a jersey on like our one.

“It’s special for me, it’s bought the best out in me, made me want to better myself as a player, because you never know when your last game is, and I just want to keep that fight going.”

Captain Dane Whale could only express his admiration for his teammate’s achievement.

“He’s one of the nicest guys you could have in your rugby team.

“Me and him used to sit on the bench a bit, so we grew that bond in those earlier days.

“I’m very proud of him and it’s something that at the start of the season I really wanted to tick off for him [playing a semifinal to get to 100] and Lindsay [Horrocks] so it was a core goal to be able to get those boys through to that situation.”

The other Wanganui centenarians are:

  • Trevor Olney 146 (1973-90)
  • Graeme Coleman 144 (1973-83)
  • Bob Barrell 139 (1963-77)
  • Adrian Bull 134 (1985-99)
  • Peter Rowe 120 (2003-17)
  • Bruce Middleton 119 (1974-84)
  • Andrew Donald 118 (1976-84)
  • Jerome Nahona 111 (1989-2000)
  • Guy Lennox 110 (1990-98)
  • Cole Baldwin 105 (2006-17)
  • Lindsay Horrocks 101* (2013-2023)
  • Kerry Whale 100 (1985-98)
  • Brent Dallison 100 (1975-83)
  • Jason Hamlin 100 (1992-2001).


MEADS CUP: Defending two-time Meads Cup champions South Canterbury will again host Steelform Whanganui in the final for the second-year in a row after overcoming a brave Ngāti Porou East Coast 34-17 in the other semifinal at Pleasant Point. In their first Meads semifinal since 2012, East Coast led 17-3 shortly after halftime, the fifth time an undefeated South Canterbury have trailed at the break this season. However, a mounting penalty count and two sinbinnings let the home side finish strongly with 31 unanswered points for their 30th consecutive win. No8 Siu Kalala scored his 13th try in the competition to tie Whanganui’s Alekesio Vakarorogo, both of them one try behind the Heartland record of 14.

LOCHORE CUP: West Coast will host the Lochore Cup final against Poverty Bay after both eliminated the higher seeds in away semifinals on Saturday. Trying to win their first NPC title since their 1890 formation, the only current active New Zealand union yet to do so, West Coast held off a late charge by Wairarapa Bush to win 33-27 in Masterton. Poverty Bay upset heavy favourites North Otago 40-35 in Oamaru after they trailed 25-7 at halftime.

HURRICANES U18: The Hurricanes Under 18 squad and their host of Whanganui Collegiate 1st XV players were beaten 47-38 by Crusaders Junior XV at Blenheim’s Landsdowne Park on Saturday. Pita Manamanaivalu played the first half for Hurricanes ‘Yellows’ at fullback, with Rudy Ioasa and James Hardy on the bench. Oscar Mabin started the second half with Hurricanes ‘Black’ at lock.