After 25 long years, the Pātea Warriors premier rugby league team made a triumphant return home last weekend.
Despite a stop-start season, interrupted by Covid-19 and put on hold during the local club rugby season, they finally took to the Pātea Domain in the last round of the resurgent Taranaki Rugby League competition, defeating the Western Suburbs Tigers.
Tamati Neho, who coaches the Warriors, said it was a special occasion that was the fulfilment of a long-held dream.
"Kua roa te wa nō tā mātou whai wāhi atu ki tēnei whakataetae ā rohe, nō reira he tino rā nui tēnei mō mātau. Ko te painga māku te kite atu i ō mātau taiohi huri noa i tō tatau nei whīra i te rangi nei, mātakitaki mai i ō rātau mātua kēkē, pāpā e tākaro ana."
(It's been a long time since we've been a part of this regional competition, so this is a pretty big day for us. For me the best thing is seeing our kids all over the field today, watching their dads and uncles playing.)
Pātea halfback Parekaia Tapiata said excitement has been building all year in the south Taranaki community.
First home game
"Nā te mea kua roa te wā mai i te wā i tākaro rīki tuatahi mātou i tēnei whakataetae, ko tērā pea te mea tuatahi, kātahi ko te rere o ngā piropiro i runga i te mea kei te tākaro i te kāinga."
(Because it's been a long time since we first played in this competition, and maybe because it's our first game at home I was just filled with butterflies.)
Tere Diamond was one of the key figures behind the revival of the club, thought to have been dormant since the mid-1990s, rebuilding it almost literally from the ground up.
“In 2018, my wife and I moved back here to Pātea and they didn’t have a league club. I come from a very strong league family, there were a lot of kids in the community and we decided to get some kids and started the first league club.”
Neho says, the community involvement and the kids within it are behind the enthusiasm to get a senior team back on the field.
'Community first, league second'
"Ko te mea nui hei hanga tētahi tuāpapa tētahi ara me kii, mō tō tātau taiohi kia taea e rātou te kite i te taumata, engari kia whakaoho nei i te hiahia i roto i a rātau kia taea e rātou te piki ki taumata kē."
(The main thing was to set up an avenue for our kids to see their potential and awaken a desire in them so they can push themselves to another level.)
Tapiata says the home crowd helped the Warriors run away with the 40-20 win, and finish the round robin in second place, behind only their relations from up the road in Hāwera.
"He mihi nui ki te hapori i puta mai ki te tautoko i te mea i te mutunga iho i pau te hau o te kapa heoi nā ō rātou kupu akiaki i kawea mātou ki te rārangi whakamutunga.
(We're super grateful for the community turning up and supporting us, because by the end of the game we were exhausted and it was the cheering that carried us over the line.)
"Harikoa te hapori i a mātau mahi, ko te hapori te mea matua mō tō mātou kappa, ā, ko te rīki te tuarua."
(The community was so proud of our efforts. For us the community comes first, league comes second.)
Just like the proverbial bus, after waiting 25 long years for premier league to return to Pātea, the Warriors play at home again this Saturday when they take on the Marist Dragons in the semi-finals.