Hundreds attend tangi of former Magpie

By Doug Laing

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FAREWELL: Mourners gathered for the tangi for Roger Chappell in Pukehou yesterday. PHOTO/ DUNCAN BROWN
FAREWELL: Mourners gathered for the tangi for Roger Chappell in Pukehou yesterday. PHOTO/ DUNCAN BROWN

Road crash victim and former Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby representative Roger Chappell was farewelled by about 600 people as his tangi came to an end south of Hastings yesterday.

But missing were partner Jessica Karaitiana and infant daughter, both in hospital in Auckland where Ms Karaitiana was able to listen to the late-morning service via mobile from the paepae in front of the whare Keke Haunga at Pukehou Marae, near where Mr Chappell grew up in Otane and first displayed the skills which would take him to the fringe of the new era of professional rugby.

Aged 42, Mr Chappell died on Sunday, after the vehicle he was driving soon after the family left Masterton to return to Hawke's Bay was involved in a head-on crash with a vehicle driven by 77-year-old former Mangamaire store proprietor Eric Bird.

While Mr Chappell died at the scene, soon after his partner and child had been removed from the rear of their vehicle, Mr Bird died later in hospital.

His funeral will be at the Mangamaire Hall, south of Pahiatua, starting at 2pm.

At a service led by celebrant and family friend Huia Borell, who was on a short holiday in Australia when she heard of the tragedy, family, community and rugby were the topics of day in the tributes which started with the welcome from James Graham, former rugby teammate and brother-in-law of Mr Chappell's sister, Vikki.

She also spoke, supported by surviving brother Brendan, while among other tributes in a service lasting an hour-and-a-quarter was that of Chelsea Smiles, standing with her sisters, Summer and younger Leara, Mr Chappell's first daughter. A tribute was also read on behalf of parents Allan and Evelyn Chappell.

Others were delivered by Mr Chappell's cousin and close friend Kelly Kupa and uncle and former rugby coach Mike Ataera, a senior staff member at Silver Fern Farms Takapau, where Mr Chappell was working, travelling each day from Dannevirke.

It told the story from the time Mr Chappell started playing rugby in Otane and made the Central Hawke's Bay C Grade representatives, and then played in the Ross Shield Hawke's Bay Hawke's Bay primary schoolboys sub-unions tournament.

Smallish in stature, he was a halfback or first five-eighths as he continued his rugby at nearby Te Aute College, and then for a short time in the first XV at Central Hawke's Bay College in Waipukurau, coached by Peter Fleming, who was yesterday the funeral director.

He left school to play senior rugby for Otane, at the age of 17, sister Vikki yesterday recalling one of the bigger triumphs coming in the earlier years, when country village club Otane won a Premier division match against city powerhouse Taradale.

Mr Chappell died on the 21st anniversary of his Magpies debut which was as a Hastings Celtic club representative against Poverty Bay on June 5, 1995, in a Hawke's Bay lineup which included future All Black and now Magpies assistant coach Danny Lee and Maori All Blacks Jarrod Cunningham, George Konia and Orcades Crawford.

He scored two of the Bay's seven tries that day and played twice more for the team that year, missed the following year and then played the Bay's only two games in 1997 when he was a substitute in the first inter-provincial game in the two-year Central Vikings Hawke's Bay-Manawatu merger experiment.

The following year, having joined Napier club Technical, he two of the Bay's three games, and made four more Vikings appearances, as second-string first five-eighths to Samoan international and former All Black Steven Bachop.

The last of his 8 matches for the Magpies was in 1999, after a stint in the US he returned to play five games for East Coast in 2004, and after more time overseas, in Italy, he returned to the Bay in 2007 and played for Taradale, including an important semi-final dropped goal on the way to winning the Premier championship's Maddison Trophy.

But he would always return to his roots at Otane, playing and coaching in the second division and bringing with him some of the more serious approaches to rugby, like arriving half an hour before the players and lining out the cones, tackle bags and gear.

According to Mr Ataera, the players' own regime had leaned more towards 45 minutes of touch football and two hours having beers afterwards.

He recalled players turning up, looking at their coach, teammate and the training aids, and asking: "What's this guy on?"

But it had, they all said yesterday, laid the path for others who were to come through, including current Magpie Shannan Chase.

As the service ended, the powerful Kahungunu haka Tika Tonu rang out as Roger Chappell was carried out, to be taken a few hundred metres down State Highway 2, for burial at the urupa off Boundary Rd.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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