Is Nick Makea the saviour of Otamatea rugby?

That is the question which must be asked of the 37-year-old former Tasman squad member who has signed on for his maiden coaching year with the club's premier side this year.

The Otamatea Hawks currently sit at the bottom of the premier rugby table but after just three games into his tenure as coach, the jury is still out on whether Makea can turn this team around.

The man certainly has the credentials to make the necessary improvements on the pitch.
A former Onehunga High School and Hastings Boys' High School student, Makea moved to Nelson when he was 24 to take up a three-year contract with the Tasman rugby team.

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Through injuries and performance-issues, Makea then found himself in Westport, playing for Buller and West Coast in the Heartland Championship.

It was there that Makea transitioned into coaching four years ago and in 2017 as an assistant coach, he took West Coast to the Lochore Cup final against Mid Canterbury, which they lost.

After moving to Northland in the same year with his wife and two children, Makea resisted offers to jump right into coaching the premier side in 2018, choosing instead to help his son's under-11 team.

Now, convinced in his dream to see Otamatea become a top rugby club in Northland, Makea was determined to encourage more players, officials, coaches and supporters to the club.

"I really want to concentrate on coaching because the Hawks are still rebuilding, numbers are pretty scarce," he said.

"My biggest driver at the moment is to have an enjoyable, family-orientated theme within the club because there hasn't been much of that here."

At times, players numbers for the premier and premier reserve teams had been so low
Makea himself had to take the park and play in both games.

He said shaping the club's culture to appeal to families would fill a gap in the club's administration and player base which was sorely needed.

Nick Makea (left) often has to don the jersey and take the field due to player shortage, seen here playing for the Otamatea premier side against Hikurangi in March. Photo / John Stone
Nick Makea (left) often has to don the jersey and take the field due to player shortage, seen here playing for the Otamatea premier side against Hikurangi in March. Photo / John Stone

"We've got people running around doing too many jobs because we don't have a lot of people putting their hands up.

"If we can create an environment which people want to be in, we'll have more people turn up and do the extra stuff."

But rugby wasn't the only way Makea set out to help his community. Also a personal trainer, he operated the Toka Sports Academy in Kaiwaka which was a fitness and skills-based training group twice a week for 48 children between the ages of eight and 19.

"My whole thing is basically getting kids or anyone off the couch ... that's been a big driver for me," Makea said.

"We've got so many kids with so much potential that I want to help them harness, too many are getting lost along the way."

His commitment to exercise and healthy-living went further, taking classes at the Level Movement gym in Mangawhai three times a week and making videos with his academy recruits about the benefits of nutrition.

Nutrition in Sport talk tomorrow night 7pm at the KSA Pavilion with highly qualified nutritionist Dave Shaw. IT IS FREE for anyone thanks to our local sponsors👍🏽 So don't miss out on an opportunity to get some useful tips that might help you or your family make better choices at the four square😁 before or after trainings or games or just in everyday life. I asked some of my young athletes last night, what is nutrition? Some funny answers🤣

Posted by TOKA Sports Academy on Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Makea's work in the community also involved local schools where he promoted his initiative, Mindshift, which focused on students "knowing themselves, checking themselves and being themselves".

Makea had a first-hand experience of the struggles some students faced in school, growing up with dyslexia.

"When you can speak well you don't seem dumb but when it's time to put pen to paper it seems like a blur in your head so you have to try and figure it out in other ways," he said.

"I hated school because I was dyslexic so my whole thing is to keep kids in school whether they are dyslexic or not because of the advantages of staying in school."

Struggles with dyslexia have not stopped Nick Makea from being a huge presence in his community. Photo / John Stone
Struggles with dyslexia have not stopped Nick Makea from being a huge presence in his community. Photo / John Stone

Although his dyslexia had hampered his progress in some of his other jobs, Makea said throwing himself into community work was a way for him to give back.

"A community is built not on what you get out of it but what you give to the community and all I know is that you feel good when you do things for people."

As for the Otamatea Hawks, Makea encouraged people in the community to get behind their club in what could be an exciting few years for its teams.

"I just want to get to a position where the club is strong, it might take a couple of years but we can definitely be one of top-performing clubs in Northland."

Tomorrow's draw

Bayleys premier grade, round four fixtures (all games start at 2.15pm):

Hikurangi v Waipū at Hikurangi RFC: Field 2
Wellsford v Kerikeri at Centennial Park: Field 1
Mid Northern v Old Boys Marist at Mid Northern RFC: Field 1
Western Sharks v Kamo at Kaihu RFC: Field 1
Otamatea v Hora Hora at Kaiwaka: Field 2