Christchurch City Council
A special group of New Zealand Rugby League’s greats are to be honoured during the Rugby League World Cup.
Kiwis legends Olsen Filipaina, Kevin Tamati, Tawera Nikau, Brendon Tuuta and Duane Mann, former coach Frank Endacott and tireless servant of the game Sir Peter Leitch will present the match balls for the seven games to be held in New Zealand.
One of the toughest forwards of his – or any – generation, Tamati played 22 tests for the Kiwis between 1979 and 1985. The uncompromising prop began his career at the Petone club and also played for Upper Hutt and Randwick before moving to the United Kingdom to play for Widnes.
Tamati notched 52 matches for Wellington. He will present the match ball at the quarterfinal to be held at Wellington Regional Stadium on Saturday, November 18.
“It will be a moment to treasure to be in the stadium as Wellington – the city where I played most of my career – hosts a World Cup match,” Tamati said.
“Hopefully the Kiwis get through their group so all the Wellingtonians can get behind the team.”
Filipaina is an ideal candidate to present the match ball for the opening match in New Zealand between the Kiwis and Samoa at Mt Smart Stadium on October 28 having represented both nations.
Famous for his blood and thunder clashes with Kangaroos legend Wally Lewis, Filipaina played in 29 tests for the Kiwis between 1977 and 1986 at five-eight and centre. The Mangere East product played 103 combined matches for Balmain, Eastern Suburbs and North Sydney in the then New South Wales Rugby League.
“The World Cup is going to be a fantastic occasion for rugby league in New Zealand and I’m really excited to be back in the country during the tournament. It’s going to be really special to be there as the two international teams I represented face off at Mt Smart Stadium,” Filipaina said.
Nikau, a favourite son of nearby Huntly, will present the match ball in Hamilton on November 4 before the Samoa-Tonga match to mark the first rugby league test ever in the Waikato region.
Nikau, an NRL premiership winner with the Melbourne Storm, played 19 tests for the Kiwis between 1989 and 1997.
“That fortnight in Hamilton is going to be historic for rugby league and the Waikato region. The large Pacific Island communities across the upper North Island are going to generate an incredible atmosphere and I can’t wait to be there.”
On the same day in Christchurch, Endacott will present the match ball ahead of the Kiwis-Scotland match at Christchurch Stadium as test rugby league returns to the city for the first time since 2006.
The proud Cantabrian was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2007 for his services to the sport after a long and distinguished career in rugby league that included coaching the Kiwis in 35 tests including two World Cups.
“It is going to be a great occasion to be there in Christchurch as test rugby league returns to the city for the first time since 2006 and I look forward to the great turnout as the locals get behind the team,” Endacott said.
Mann was a classy hooker who racked up over 300 club appearances for Glenora, the New Zealand Warriors and Warrington. He also played 29 tests for the Kiwis and captained Tonga at the 1995 and 2000 World Cups.
Fittingly, Mann will present the match ball for the blockbuster match between the Kiwis and Tonga at Hamilton’s Waikato Stadium on November 11.
“Being there at what is going to be one of the biggest World Cup clashes ever is going to incredible for me and my family. I’m confident the game will live up to the hype and be as good a game as the New Zealand-Tonga match I played in during the 1995 Rugby League World Cup,” Mann said.
Tuuta played 16 tests for the Kiwis between 1989 and 1995. The Cantabrian also forged a successful career in England after a two-season spell with Western Suburbs in the New South Wales Rugby League. He was renowned for his fearsome defensive presence that belied his relatively slight stature.
Originally from the Chatham Islands, Tuuta is a member of the Featherstone Rovers Hall of Fame. Now a painter and decorator in Kaiapoi, he will present the match ball at the quarter-final at Christchurch Stadium on November 18.
“It has been a long time since I have been in front of a big crowd so it will be exciting,” Tuuta said.
“It will be fantastic to see test match footy back in Christchurch for the proud Canterbury rugby league community to enjoy.”
For the semi-final in Auckland on November 25, Chief NZ Ambassador for RLWC2017, Sir Peter Leitch will be recognised for his lifelong service to rugby league as he delivers the match ball.
The full list of match ball presentations for matches in New Zealand:
|New Zealand v Samoa||28 October||Mt Smart Stadium||Olsen Filipania|
|New Zealand v Scotland||4 November||Christchurch Stadium||Frank Endacott ONZM|
|Samoa v Tonga||4 November||Waikato Stadium||Tawera Nikau|
|New Zealand v Tonga||11 November||Waikato Stadium||Duane Mann|
|Quarter final||18 November||Christchurch Stadium||Brendon Tuuta|
|Quarter final||18 November||Wellington Regional Stadium||Kevin Tamati|
|Semi final||25 November||Mt Smart Stadium||Sir Peter Leitch KNZM QSM|
Tournament tickets and information available rlwc2017.com.