Rugby league: Hokianga revels in Unicorns' return

By Shane Hurndell

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EXPERIENCED CAMPAIGNER: Colin Hokianga will be one of three "old heads" in the Hawke's Bay Unicorns team which will take on the Wellington Orcas on Sunday. PHOTO/GLENN TAYLOR HBT141903-01
EXPERIENCED CAMPAIGNER: Colin Hokianga will be one of three "old heads" in the Hawke's Bay Unicorns team which will take on the Wellington Orcas on Sunday. PHOTO/GLENN TAYLOR HBT141903-01

HB Unicorns v Wellington Orcas

Colin Hokianga was part of that big day in Hawke's Bay rugby league history.

He played scrumhalf when on September 15, 2007, the Hawke's Bay Unicorns walloped Gisborne 58-6 at Awapuni Stadium to capture the Challenge Cup, the "Ranfurly Shield" of New Zealand rugby league.

This Sunday is another big day in Bay league history.

When the Hawke's Bay Unicorns take on the Wellington Orcas at Bill Mathewson Park, Hastings, it will be the first time in almost 30 years they have taken on a Wellington senior men's side selected from the Wellington and Hutt Valley districts and it will be the Unicorns' first outing in five years. With the Hawke's Bay women and 13s, 15s, and 17s also in action it will be the first time since the mid 1990s five Bay rep teams have been in action at the same venue on the same day.

Hokianga, 30, knows the Orcas will be a tough ask and is realistic about the hosts' chances.

"There are no expectations of a win. I'm one of three old heads with a bunch of young fellas and this is an opportunity to see where those young fellas are at. The main thing is the Unicorns are up and running again," Hokianga said.

Hokianga, a Unicorn from 2000-2009, has opted for the hooker's role on Sunday to allow promising scrumhalf Keil McClutchie to push for a berth in the Central Vipers side to be named later in the year. Like many of the Daniel De Thierry-Dion Te Ahu-coached Unicorns, Hokianga will be hoping he doesn't get injured in club rugby, in his case for the MAC premiers against Havelock North at Anderson Park on Saturday.

This is his first season with MAC after 10 years with the Tamatea premiers.

"I've played a lot of union but I will pick league over union any day. League is the greatest game of all ... I was born into it," Hokianga said.

A former Hawke's Bay 13s, 16s and 18s league representative, Hokianga was close to joining his cousin Terry Nikora in the 2005 New Zealand Maori league team.

"Back in those days I had no ears. I had a disagreement with Kevin Tamati who was one of the Maori team's selectors at the time and blew my chances," Hokianga said.

A father of four, Hokianga pointed out there is a possibility he may mark his cousin Denzil Hokianga on Sunday. Denzil plays and coaches in the capital and is likely to have stints at hooker and scrumhalf in the fixture.

Hokianga is eagerly awaiting Rugby League Hawke's Bay's spring competition when he is likely to turn out for Tamatea again.

"I've got unfinished business with Tamatea. I missed last year's semifinal which they lost against the Outkasts because I was watching my son Damaruss play in the Ross Shield rugby final at Waipukurau. It was his third and final year in the Ross Shield and he was the Hastings West captain ... I was never going to miss that."

Like his Unicorns teammates, Hokianga can expect a busy defensive assignment. In sharp contrast, the Hawke's Bay women will start as favourites against their Manawatu counterparts and are tipped to dominate the Central Vipers squad to be named after the clash.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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