League: Wiki - Pedia

By Peter Jessup, Winston Aldworth

Ruben Wiki commands respect wherever he goes - from his legion of fans to his comrades in arms in the NRL and Kiwi squads. His contribution is invaluable, and our A-Z shows exactly what makes Ruben run.

AGELESS: At 35, Ruben Wiki is the oldest player putting his body on the line in the world's toughest league competition.

BEER MAT: Legend has it that former Warriors supremo Ian Robson signed the promising young Wiki to a Warriors contract penned on the back of a beer mat. The Canberra Raiders had one on A4 with loads of legal words in it. Second prize to the beer coaster.

CHARITY: Wiki pitches in to help the Auckland Rugby League Nutrition in Schools programme and the "Family Violence: It's not OK" campaign. He also helps raise money for the Prostate Foundation and the "Turn your life around" campaign. Good man. He even gives up his time to front the "Cheers Volunteers!" campaign encouraging people to get involved helping out local sport, making him the volunteer's volunteer.

DENZEL: Ruben loves a Denzel Washington flick. He even went so far as to name his son after the star of He Got Game and Mother Goose: A Rappin' and Rhymin' Special.

EDMUND: The young Ruben was a pupil at Sir Edmund Hillary (right) College in South Auckland, and he's done the great man's name no disservice with his achievements on the league field.

FOOD: Don't say it to his face, but the Warriors hero is something of a mummy's boy - his favourite food is his mum's chop suey.

GREEN MACHINE: After the small matter of the Auckland Warriors was out of the way, Wiki was signed to the Canberra Raiders and introduced to the rough-and-tumble world of big-time league alongside the great Mal Meninga. He has since credited his centre partner Big Mal as an early influence and inspiration.

HARD: As nails.

ICE: Cool as.

JAKE: The great man's nickname is Jake the Mus (right), referencing his big muscles and tendency to be photographed shirtless.

KAVA: Those techno-coloured, super-modern, isotonic sports drinks are alright if you're into that sort of thing, but Wiki relies on a more traditional post-match tonic. The Warriors and Kiwis hero swears by kava: "I believe in it. If it's going to help me get on the field the next week, I'll do it," says the centre-cum-prop. "We get the boys together after a game, sit down and have a bonding session together. It's also about rehydrating after a game."

Kava, which is related to the black pepper plant, is produced as a drink by straining a mixture of water and the shredded, pounded, or dried root of the plant. Wiki doesn't drink alcohol, but made the jaw-numbing drop part of his routine after researching its healing properties. "It just makes you nice and relaxed. I did some research on it last year, there's an anti-inflammatory ingredient. It's good for soreness, stress, bumps and bruises so that works out pretty well for me.

"The boys have bought into it, it relaxes them - then off to bed."

LEOPARDS: As in the Otahuhu Leopards, the junior team where the talents of a young Wiki first caught widespread attention. It's a club with a respectable record for producing top talent: the alumni board includes Mark Graham, Manu Vatuvei, Richard Blackmore, Cooper Vuna, Clinton Toopi, Hugh McGahan, Tawera Nikau, Richard Barnett and Tea Ropati.

MENTOR: For his first international series as coach, Kiwis boss Stephen Kearney turned to the greatest font of knowledge and mana at his disposal: Wiki, with Stacey Jones, is mentoring the Kiwi side in the build up to next week's Centenary test against Australia. "I was always so proud to play for my country, to pull on the black and white jersey," says Wiki. "I hope I can pass some things on to the boys and help to bring some pride back into the jersey."

NAKEDART: Ranking higher than the dishwashing drawers and beige fabric sofa range at last year's Auckland HomeShow, sculptures of Ruben Wiki's bare chest proved a popular drawcard for homemaking mums. The limited edition artworks (below), moulded from his torso, were detailed enough to show veins, scars, skin texture and the faint outlines of tattoos. NakedArt co-owner Shirley Cairns said: "Ruben only had to sit there for 20 minutes but I can now say I chopped Ruben Wiki's shorts off."

O NZM: Wiki was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queens Birthday Honours last year.

PENSION: At 35, Wiki is closer to making withdrawals from his superannuation plan than any other player in the NRL.

QUEEN ELIZABETH II: On last year's All Golds tour of Britain, Wiki led the side in an impromptu haka in front of the head of the Commonwealth (bottom), Prince Phillip and a couple of whimpering corgis. The team had just been introduced to the royals at Buckingham Palace. Wiki admitted he was "nervous has hell" and "nearly forgot all the boys' names" when introducing the side.

RECORD: Over a 12-year period, Wiki played a world record 55 tests, stretching from his first against Papua New Guinea in 1994 to his final hit out against Australia in 2006 Tri Nations final.

(Also ROGERS: Wiki's middle name is James - that's Ruben James Wiki. His mum won't confirm or deny that he was named after the Kenny Rogers [above right] song Ruben James).

SANTA: Ruben's wife - Santa Wiki - was to blame for the few weeks suspension for ill-discipline and high tackles he sat out each season when playing for the Canberra Raiders. "Once a year she goes home to Auckland and I get frustrated and I get sent off," he figured. "I used to think it was a funny coincidence but I've got one every year. She goes home with the two kids and I get suspended."

TWENTY-FOUR: The highlight of Wiki's test career was captaining the Kiwis to their historic 24-0 Tri Nations victory over Australia in 2005.

UMAGA: Wearing the colours of the Junior Kiwis, the great man played in the centres alongside a young guy from Wainuiomata called Jonathan Umaga. While Ruben made his mark in the Kiwis jersey, Tana Umaga became a great All Blacks captain.

VAINIKOLO: Big Lesley was motivated to join the Canberra Raiders by the presence of his hero Wiki in the Green Machine ranks.

WARRIOR: Not just the mob Wiki plays with here in Auckland - Aussie supercoach Wayne Bennett (who knows a bit about the game) reportedly said during the All Golds tour last year that he had only ever coached two "genuine warriors" in his life. One was granite-tough Kangaroo Shane Webcke and the other was our man from South Auckland. Respect.

X-RAY: It's (probably) a medically proven fact that x-rays don't work on Ruben Wiki because he's made of adamantium. And if it's not a fact then it should be.

YARDAGE: He's the go-to man for the Warriors when they need to break the advantage line.

ZEALOTS: Wiki has many zealous fans. But only for his most devout followers will he sign off autographs with a personal self-help mantra that would do Torquemada proud: "Pain is weakness leaving the body".

In the fraternity of Wiki obsessives, a Kiwis jersey bearing the Chrisco sponsorship tag and this catchy line above the great man's moniker is something of a religious icon.

RUBEN WIKI
Position: Prop
Age: 35
Date Of Birth: 21/01/1973
Height: 186cm
Weight: 104kg
Current Club: Warriors (No 123)
NRL Points: 288
NRL Appearances: 294 (69 for Warriors 2005-08, 225 for Canberra 1993-2004)
NRL Debut: Canberra v South Sydney, Bruce Stadium, June 13, 1993 (Round 11)
Previous Clubs: Canberra 1993-2004 (NRL) 225 games, 60 tries; Otahuhu Leopards, Otara Scorpions (Auckland)
International honours: 55
Tests for Kiwis 1994-2006, Kiwi captain 2003-2006 (18 tests)

Injury robs Canberra farewell

Ruben Wiki was looking forward to fronting up against his old Canberra side at Mt Smart Stadium on Sunday, his last chance against the Raiders before he heads for Super League in England.

A wrist injury prevents it. Instead his input as vice-captain will be like that of injured captain Steve Price, words of motivation, small tips, quiet words of encouragement to the younger players who replace them.

He was a 20-year-old centre from the Otahuhu club when he signed for the Raiders, he played 225 games for the club from 1993 to 2004 and remains in fifth place on the ladder for appearances for them. It was from there that he launched his test career, now holding the record for most internationals (55) by any player.

"I never want to miss any game, especially when it's against the Green Machine and in front of our fans as well," he said.

"I've played against them every other time since I've been with the Warriors. We won here the first year [2005] but the last two years we've played them were in Canberra and the Raiders won both times."

It was Wiki's 250th NRL match in 2006 and the Warriors lost 26-24.

"So I was really looking forward to giving them a friendly welcome to Mt Smart Stadium," he said. "I'm disappointed I won't be out there but I'm giving the boys all the support I can. I'm sure they'll come up with what's needed."

At 35, Wiki is said to be in hot demand at Super League clubs with his manager Jim Banaghan claiming wide interest in a two-year deal. After that, the door is open at the Warriors.

The Warriors have the bye in the ninth round of the NRL and Wiki hopes to be fit for consideration against Penrith on May 18.

- Peter Jessup

- NZ Herald

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