Simon Kay fulfilled a life-long dream playing his 100th game for his beloved Te Awamutu Sports Senior A rugby team.

It has taken this year's 31-year-old inspirational captain longer than usual to reach the milestone due to a five year stint playing abroad, but he says it was well worth the wait.

"Having my family and friends present on the day meant a lot, especially my father David who has played over 100 games for Te Awamutu United and my grandmother Bev who is our club patron," said Kay.

Te Awamutu Sports rose to the occasion, thrashing Putaruru 87-14 on home turf, outscoring the opposition 13 tries to two including a Kay five pointer that he converted from the side-line.


Kay has switched back and forth from hooker to flanker over the years, proving equally proficient in both roles.

"Earlier in my career I was always a flanker, it wasn't till I was about 16 that I changed to hooker and I loved it," he said.

"The game was getting a lot faster, hooker allowed me to play a tighter game but still get around the field as another loose forward. Hitting my targets at lineout time also became a great asset."

As a hooker he was a lot heavier, around 100kg. But Kay says with rugby no longer his main focus in life (he and his wife of seven years, Rochelle, have a baby due this year) his weight has dropped to around 92kg, so it made sense to revert to the back row.

That all changed once again this year after Jack Munce dislocated his shoulder in the earlier rounds, necessitating Kay to slip back into that hooker role.

"I have been lucky over the years to team up with some great props at TA," said Kay.

"My main combination was with Adrian Tucker and Kieran Ramage. Those boys were just tough men, good solid club players that most teams feared coming up against.

"It was also pretty cool teaming up with Nathan White and Ben May when they weren't on Chiefs' duties."


When it comes to premier rugby, Kay says there is no easy opponent for Te Awamutu Sports.

"But if I had to narrow it down to one, it would have to be Ōtorohanga who always had the luxury of fielding the bigger pack of forwards. Being a local derby definitely brings a different feeling to the game. It's a big occasion for both towns and you always came off the field knowing you have been in a battle ... sore for days sometimes. The same applies to Hautapu in the Battle of the Waipā."

Kay says there is no easy answer when it comes to TA Sports making the top eight in Waikato premier grade.

"For me it's quite frustrating as I was always a part of a TA team consistently knocking on the door of the top four before venturing overseas.

"The current players are trying so hard and to keep losing some of those big games by just a point or two is very gutting. We have a lot of local talent and guys that love playing for TA which is awesome because it gives a great atmosphere and culture compared to some other clubs."

The centurion says club rugby in the Waikato has changed so much over the last 15 years.

"Under 19s and 21s used to be so strong and you normally would serve your apprenticeship' in these grades after leaving school which meant premier players were a lot older and a lot more physical. Nowadays players are making the premier side straight out of 1st 15 so the games seem to be a bit faster and guys are really keen to just chuck the ball around.

"In order to move forward, having a bit more depth would be awesome, but unfortunately most clubs are starting to struggle with numbers."

Kay says the major difference between TA Sports and the bigger clubs at the moment is that when it counts (60 minute mark) they roll on a fresh bench of players of equal quality whereas TA Sports' bench has already played 40 or 80 minutes for the B team.

"Having said that, we actually have a very young team, guys straight out of school stepping up and guys in their third season but yet only 21. So if we can hang on to these players I'm sure TA rugby will get back to where we all know what we are capable of."

Kay left for the UK in 2011, playing a season in the Scotland premier league for West Of Scotland RC, in Glasgow, then on to London for another season playing for London New Zealand in the London league.

After leaving the UK he moved to the Gold Coast where he played a further three seasons.

To be away for five years and to still reach 100 games for TA means a lot to him, it has always been a personal goal of his.

Kay has no immediate thoughts of hanging up the boots.

"My love of the game is still strong but my body is definitely telling me to slow down, still being sore on a Monday is hard work. Rugby is a massive part of my life and hanging up the boots is definitely going to be hard, but at this stage we will just have to wait and see."