Athletes who have competed at a high level often never lose their competitive drive. That certainly seems to be the case for Rotorua's Dinny Mohi.

The 78-year-old has had a busy week competing in the Super Seniors (76+) singles and doubles at the Aotearoa Māori Tennis Championships in Rotorua.

Mohi has been playing in the annual tournament regularly since he was 42, winning multiple age group titles. However, before he was a Māori tennis champion, he was an accomplished rugby player.

He played 156 games for Bay of Plenty between 1961 and 1977, and represented the Māori All Blacks, but rugby is not a game the body can handle forever, so he picked up a tennis racquet.

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"I've been playing this tournament for quite a few years now, after I finished playing rugby. I love it, the whanaungatanga - the families gathering, a lot of people I used to play in the old days.

"The tennis keeps me fit and active," Mohi said.

The tournament gave him a sense of pride in several different ways, mainly representing his iwi, Ngāti Rangiwewehi, and seeing his mokopuna (grandchildren) playing in the under-16 age group.

"My wife and I are very proud. I have two granddaughters playing, Riria won the under-16 singles yesterday (Thursday), she beat her sister Marino to get in the final. They're playing together in the doubles now.

Rotorua's Dinny Mohi in action at the Aotearoa Māori Tennis Championships. Photo / Ben Fraser
Rotorua's Dinny Mohi in action at the Aotearoa Māori Tennis Championships. Photo / Ben Fraser

"You get to see all the mokopuna coming through, they're so great to watch, the talent is at a very high standard."

Mohi has already successfully defended his 76+ singles title this year and his attention has now turned to the doubles, in which he plays alongside Whakatāne's Richard Collier.

"We've got a bit of a mountain to climb, but the biggest thing about playing Māori tennis is the participation and enjoyment - meeting your old friends."

Mohi is not the only player who starred in another sport before becoming a Māori tennis champion, the tournament is littered with men and women who have fascinating sporting histories.

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One of those is Mohi's good friend Ron Farrell, 79, of Wellington, who he looks forward to catching up with each year.

Farrell is a former rugby league player who played a record 81 games for Wellington and represented New Zealand. He said he always played tennis during the rugby league off-season as a way to stay fit.

"I started playing tennis as a junior, my aunty had a grass court. In those days, rugby players would finish for winter and put on two or three stone during the off-season, which they'd have to try and drop before the next season, but tennis kept me fit.

"Tennis is in the family as well, my brother was a Māori singles champion three times and doubles champion six times," Farrell said.

He plays in the Māori championship every year that he can and always looked forward to it.

Rotorua's Dinny Mohi, 78, (left) and Wellington's Ron Farrell, 79, at the Aotearoa Māori Tennis Championships. Photo / Ben Fraser
Rotorua's Dinny Mohi, 78, (left) and Wellington's Ron Farrell, 79, at the Aotearoa Māori Tennis Championships. Photo / Ben Fraser

"I like the camaraderie, the atmosphere and the challenge. I'm still pretty competitive, I want to do my best and practise a lot. Dinny is awesome, he's determined and he's out there doing it. It's nice to see the tennis back in Rotorua as well, it's the home of tennis in my opinion."

Māori Tennis president Dick Garratt said, while the super seniors such as Mohi and Farrell insisted the tournament was all about having fun, once they got on court there was no doubt they were there to win.

"You never lose that competitive drive and these guys were legends in competitive sport. Ron [Farrell] has been playing this tournament for 64 years, since 1954 when it was held in Dunedin. He has the odd years out, but he's usually here.

"They are both hugely fit for their age and they are great role models for the young kids coming through here, it's great for the sport. Back in their day there weren't as many sports - you played tennis or a bit of cricket in the summer, rugby or rugby league in the winter.

"Now there are 30 different sports and that's a challenge for the game of tennis. These guys show you can maintain your fitness and the health and wellbeing of our people is very important. It's essential that they show our whanau how to stay in good shape," Garratt said.