Tamatea premier rugby league player Johl Mihaka is often the target of friendly Facebook banter from his teammates.

It's all to do with the concern his wife Samantha Harper displays for his wellbeing.

"You know when the coach sends out messages asking who is available. When all the boys see I have confirmed my availability they all come back asking if Samantha has allowed me to play. It's all good fun and good for the team spirit," Mihaka explained with a laugh.

"Samantha tells me league doesn't pay the bills and all my gear might be at the front door if I come home injured again."


A father of two, Mihaka, 31, celebrated his return from two seasons on the sidelines recovering from a broken leg by scoring two tries in Job Building Ltd Tamatea Arikinui's 38-28 win against Maraenui in a first round fixture of the Hawke's Bay competition at Hawke's Bay Regional Sports Park last weekend.

"I was so happy to get through the game uninjured I texted a photo of myself home to Samantha before I left the park. She appreciated that I was able to drive myself home and didn't need a ride ... you know the story, a happy wife means a happy life," Mihaka said.

The Hustler Equipment Limited engineer in Hastings was impressed with how the new-look Tamatea side performed against a Maraenui outfit which was match fit after the majority of their players had turned out for the Maraenui division two rugby team in their final against Otane the previous week. Centre Mihaka was particularly rapt with his two tries.

"My first one came with my first touch of the ball when we were two tries down. I received a good pass from Jaedyn [standoff Eagle] beat two players and then their fullback in a one-on-one situation."

Despite Tamatea having seven players new to the game, Mihaka is confident they can win the clash of the unbeaten sides from round one when they take on Napier Pirates in the feature round two game today.

"I was a bit worried about the new fellahs at first. But they ended up carrying us older guys," Mihaka recalled.

"I loved it and it was good being able to roll on and roll off. I didn't want to thrash myself in my return."

Mihaka broke his leg when playing for the Tamatea premier rugby team in 2017. He was one of the side's best players before the injury.


A Hastings Boys' High School old boy, Mihaka, only played third XV rugby when at school.

"Even then I think it was only one game. I was more into girls back then unlike my Ross Shield days," Mihaka recalled with a laugh.

He was a winger for the Hastings East team which won the 2001 Ross Shield tournament in Dannevirke. One of his teammates was a then future All Black Israel Dagg who, playing No 8, was the top tryscorer of the tournament and also the Taupo Trophy winner for player-of-the-tournament.

"I was pushing Izzy for the top tryscorer but towards the end of the tournament he got greedy and I never saw the ball. We ended up calling him Sticky Fingers," Mihaka recalled with another laugh.

"Izzy and I played together in the Tamatea 11th and 12th grade teams. We did well for a bunch of streetkids who Rangi Naera picked up each week in his van. In one game we scored 185 points ... that might still be a record," Mihaka explained.

Like Mihaka, who has played for Tamatea since 2011 apart from one season with the Omahu Huia, long-serving Tamatea coach Adrian Rowlands was thrilled with Tamatea's win last weekend.

"We only had one training last week because the lights at Kirkpatrick Park were out of action. With seven newcomers it's a case of back to the basics for us," Rowlands said.

Other premier games today will see Maraenui take on defending champions Bridge Pa and Bay Bulldogs will play Kahuranaki. The only women's clash will see defending champions Tamatea take on YMP.

Reserve grade fixtures will see Bay Bulldogs play Flaxmere Falcons, Omahu Huia take on Bridge Pa and MAC take on Outkast Sports. All games are at the Hawke's Bay Regional Sports Park.