Dr Pita Sharples: Last match one of ABs' best

By Roger Moroney roger.moroney@hbtoday co nz

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RUGBY FAN: Waipawa-born Pita Sharples with two of his six mokopuna, Te Aowairauita Paenga (left) and Te Ahu Paenga. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
RUGBY FAN: Waipawa-born Pita Sharples with two of his six mokopuna, Te Aowairauita Paenga (left) and Te Ahu Paenga. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

In the countdown to the Napier test, Hawke's Bay Today asks prominent locals to recall their most cherished All Blacks moment.

MY FAVOURITE ALL BLACKS MEMORY - MAORI PARTY MEMBER DR PITA SHARPLES

After explaining why I'd given him a call, the Honorable Dr Pita Sharples, paused for a moment and said: "Hang on ... I'll have to write that down."

"That" was the date of September 6 - the day the All Blacks take on Argentina at McLean Park in Napier.

He knew there was a game coming up but the workload meant things were effectively planned "day to day".

"There's so much going on ... damned election and I've got a lot of ministerial things to sort out," the Maori Party member for Tamaki Makaurau said, before confessing: "Rugby? It's my favourite topic."

He's a good Central Hawke's Bay lad is Dr Sharples.

Born in Waipawa, he attended Takapau Primary School before moving on to Waipukurau District High School and then on to Te Aute College, where he became head boy.

He has strong links to Ngati Kahungunu, as well as iwi affiliations to Ngae Te Kikiri o te Rangi and Ngati Pahauwera, and is Minister of Maori Affairs.

And he likes his rugby ... a lot.

"I was in the 1st XV at Te Aute for a couple of years," he said, before recalling a near historic moment when the Te Aute team had long unbeaten side New Plymouth High School on the ropes at 11-3, with the final whistle closing in.

But the Taranaki side grabbed a penalty and then a late try, and the scores were tied up.

"Ah," he sighed.

And he recalled rubbing shoulders "a little time back" with players such as Waka Nathan, Bryan Williams and the late Kel Tremain.

"Bryan Williams was one of our greatest wingers ever. Those big hips ... he hammered them through the South African backline every time."

Dr Sharples has been to "heaps" of All Blacks matches but does not have to go too far back to come up with the one that stands out.

"Last weekend, when they tore into the Aussies," he said.

"We didn't just beat them, we went out and smashed them and, hey, the Aussies had a pretty good team out there."

He said the combination of players and the approach the side took in the Bledisloe Cup hammering was close to as good as it got.

"They are a very good team and we've got plenty of first-fives," he laughed.

And Dr Sharples reckoned the Magpies had another All Black first-five prospect in Ihaia West.

"He is very good, a fine young player and we need those young ones to come through."

The young players were the "hungry ones", Dr Sharples said.

"I love it and I've got a lot of great memories."

He is also hoping the Magpies can add to those great memories when they take Counties on for the Ranfurly Shield this Saturday.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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