Rugby: Cool Ropiha wins top award

By Shane Hurndell

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Taradale midfield back Billy Ropiha at work in the freezers at Silver Fern Farms Pacific Plant at Whakatu. Photo / Warren Buckland
Taradale midfield back Billy Ropiha at work in the freezers at Silver Fern Farms Pacific Plant at Whakatu. Photo / Warren Buckland

In terms of consolation prizes Taradale premier rugby team's midfield back Billy Ropiha got one of the better ones this week.

"Yes it's the ideal bonus," Ropiha said yesterday when he heard he had won the Tui-Hawke's Bay Today Club Rugby Player of the Year award.

It was the perfect form of consolation for Ropiha, who will be out of action for the next four weeks with a fractured hand collected in the Hawke's Bay Saracens loss to Taranaki in Stratford on Saturday.

Ropiha, 23, tied for points with MAC captain and No 8 Everard Reid when the battle for the award ended at the weekend but Ropiha got the nod courtesy of his selection in the Saracens and the fact Taradale performed better than MAC in the Nash Cup competition, which they won, and the Maddison Trophy.

"It's only a small fracture and I'm confident of a full recovery which should see me back playing again at the end of August. It's just in a back slab cast at the moment," Ropiha said as fellow Magpies training squad members gave him plenty of stick during some free time at their Rotorua pre-season camp.

"Obviously there are a lot of training sessions I can't participate in but I can take on plenty of advice and also act as a waterboy and motivator."

Most of the Magpies opted for a session on one of Rotorua's most sought-after tourist attractions, the luge, yesterday but Ropiha joined a group who took in the film Hercules. He fell asleep during the movie.

"I would have preferred the luge so I could show the boys my no-fear driving skills like I had at the speedway earlier in the year. Those who did all right on the luge know they had things a little easier in my absence," Ropiha joked as the banter continued to flow from teammates.

That banter intensified as Ropiha predicted his Carters Frame and Truss Taradale team would win Saturday's semifinal against Hawke's Bay Insurances Limited Napier Old Boys Marist and go on to collect the Maddison Trophy the following week.

"We haven't lost a game at the slaughterhouse [Carters Arms Park] this season. If the boys turn up with the right mindset they will be right against NOBM. That draw we had against NOBM the other week should take away any complacency there might be in the camp."

An on-call worker in the freezers department at Silver Fern Farms Pacific Plant at Whakatu, Ropiha, is unlikely to be called upon until injury free. However his workmates who support other clubs will text him some stick if his prediction isn't backed up.

One who knows how to make correct predictions is Ropiha's Taradale co-coach Blair Cross who predicted at the beginning of this month Ropiha would win this award.

"Billy is extremely deserving of this award. He has put the effort in and his selection in the Magpies pre-season squad reflects that. It's a shame he's injured at the moment but I have no doubt he will do us proud at Magpies level just as he has during the club season."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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