Boy Waaka jnr's body is telling him it's time to step back and focus on coaching alone ... and he's listening.
"Yes a win in the grand final would be the perfect farewell from playing," the Kahuranaki player-coach said on the eve of today's Hawke's Bay premier rugby league grand final against unbeaten defending champions Bridge Pa at the Hawke's Bay Regional Sports Park in Hastings.
The fact prop Waaka, 37, is playing alongside his son, winger Titiana Araia-Waaka, and brother and hooker Sironen Waaka, adds to the significance of the occasion. But Waaka, who has been playing league since he was a youngster and union for Hastings Rugby and Sports and Otane since leaving Karamu High School, is putting his team first.
"If our Kahuranaki side could win the premier title a year after winning the reserve grade title ... that would be awesome. We're not short of confidence after drawing 34-all with Bridge Pa a fortnight ago and we've trained well," Waaka said.
Waaka has also made the right move shifting former Magpies rugby speedster Shannan Chase from the inside backs to fullback.
"We know Bridge Pa like to use the high kick as well as their fast outside backs. Shannan can cope with all of that as well as organise our backs with his chatter," Waaka said.
He agreed if his team's bigger pack can provide quality go forward and his troops complete their sets they will have every chance of causing an upset. Waaka also knows Bridge Pa won't be short of supporters because they also have teams in the women's and reserve grade grand finals against Tamatea and Maraenui respectively.
"Our supporters are among the loudest around ... there will be no problems there," he added.
Waaka's Bridge Pa counterpart, standoff Ihaka Waerea, 28, said his club has placed a big emphasis on becoming the first in more than a decade to capture all three titles in the same season.
"If the other two have won theirs before we kick off we won't want to let them down. We're excited and quietly confident ... to win two titles in three years up in this grade would be pretty special. Obviously going to the national Maori tournament at Labour Weekend is the bigger picture for us but we consider this weekend the last of the hurdles we want to get over before we focus on that," Waerea said.
He is proud of how well his team has done after losing nine of last year's Premiership-winning squad. He said the tremendous depth through his team and the George Hokianga-coached reserve grade side has been the key to their success.
"At the same time we have to thank Dannevirke Tigers for waking us up in the manner they did by dominating the first half of our semifinal last week. We know we have to start well against Kahuranaki because they have too much class. We know they've got a huge pack and their runners will often take more than one tackler to bring them down," added the Hato Paora College old boy who started playing league while at Otago University and carried it on in Australia and in the United States.
■Bridge Pa: Jarome Mareikura, Hemi Waerea, Jeston Craig (co-captain), Nathan Ramsay, Harris Solomon, Ihaka Waerea, Piripi Jessup, Uruta Collier (vice captain), Colin Hokianga (co-captain), Ramiha Smiler, Ivan Bellamy, Buffy Wainohu, Willie Schuster.
Interchange: Raun Makirere-Haerewa, Clinton Vaiusu, Jesse Tuhua, Isaac Paewai.
■Kahuranaki: Shannan Chase, Kayden Kingi, Joe Phillips, Kody Lancaster, Titiana Araia-Waaka, Cole Eru, Czebalos Smiler, Boy Waaka jnr (captain), Sironen Waaka, Wes Rapana, Nevada Hemopo, Danie Henderson, Hayden Rapana.
Interchange: Kelly Graham, James Taiti, Les Hapuku-Te Nahu, Shawn Moran.