It was one of those negative comments I wished I hadn't heard while on the sideline at a Hawke's Bay premier club rugby match earlier this season.

"What's that mobster doing on the field ... he's giving our code a bad look," remarked a spectator while pointing at Tamatea winger Puk Kireka during a match against Napier Technical at Whitmore Park.

Yes, father-of-three Kireka, 31, is a mobster but also a player with one hell of a story to tell. His first season of rugby is a positive follow-up to a 13-month fitness programme which saw him shed 31kg under the guidance of Tamatea head coach Levi Armstrong at Patu Gym.

"Basically I just wanted to get healthy ... look good and feel good," Kireka recalled.


A Taikura Rudolf Steiner School old boy, Kireka didn't play much sport during his secondary school years.

"I just went to school to eat lunch and play a bit of basketball at lunchtime," Kireka said.

Before this rugby season his only sporting pursuits were one corporate boxing bout, some touch and a season with the Bay Bulldogs rugby league side which won Hawke's Bay's reserve grade title last spring. Despite this limited sporting background Kireka was the best during Tamatea's pre-season fitness tests and recorded a time of 7m 50s for the main test which involved 30 press-ups, 30 squats, 30 sit-ups and three consecutive 500m sprints.

"I could have done more than those three 500 metres at the end ... that's how good I felt," Kireka recalled.

He understood there may be sceptics who will question whether meth was used during his weight loss programme.

"I was into meth before my last stint in jail. But I kicked the habit while in prison and I've been drug-free for the last four years," Kireka explained.

A mobster since 2008, Kireka, had two prison lags, a three-year one on violence-related charges and a two-year one for standovers.

"I first went to court when I was 16 and I haven't been back since 2016. Meeting Levi [Armstrong] in 2017 helped turn my life around. I've proved to be an inspiration for other mobsters throughout the country. Since they have read about my lifestyle change on Facebook many have been in touch asking about my fitness programmes so they can follow them."


Kireka will start a level four Sport and Recreation course at EIT next month with the aim of gaining a diploma and then a degree before securing a job within the sporting industry.

"I know it will be hard to get a job with my tatts," Kireka said pointing to the mob colours which decorate his face.

"I will always be a mobster but it's important to show we can have better lifestyles. I want to bring some of the others on board this better lifestyle.

"A lot of them are still drinking and smoking. While they aren't getting into much trouble they are still ruining their lives with their lifestyle," Kireka stressed.

He has played in four of Tamatea's 13 games to date this season. A foot injury as well as a red card restricted his appearances earlier in the season.

Kireka has recently recovered from a wrist injury and hopes to have 30 or 40 minutes off the subs bench today when Tamatea take on Progressive Meats Havelock North in a round five Tui Maddison Trophy fixture at Anderson Park today. Both he and Armstrong, who tasted Maddison Trophy glory four times during a 132-game career over 10 years with Havelock North believe this match is an ideal opportunity for Tamatea to end their winless run this season.

"We're hoping they will still be hung over after their 125th anniversary celebrations last weekend," Armstrong quipped.

Once the club rugby season ends Kireka will be back in action with the Bay Bulldogs league team which has been promoted to Hawke's Bay's premier club competition. He also hopes to have another corporate boxing bout before the end of the year.

Tamatea will be doing well to stay within 17 points of the villagers. There will be plenty of interest in how competitive Northfuels Central can be with Auto Super Shoppe Hastings Rugby and Sports at Elwood Park and in particular how well Central locks Tom Parsons and Geoff Cridge go against their former team.

This pair were influential figures in Central's convincing win against MAC last weekend.

WIT Napier Old Boys Marist should beat Altherm Window Systems Napier Technical by at least 13 at Whitmore Park, Taradale Rugby and Sports have the ammunition to beat Tanalised Napier Pirate Rugby and Sports by 17 at Tareha Recreation Reserve and Tremains Andrew Clark Clive should pip MAC by seven at Farndon Park.

NOBM will have the services of Magpies wider training group outside back Saia Paese who served a one-game suspension during the Magpies pre-season clash against Wairarapa Bush last weekend after being ordered off in the Green Machine's match against Napier Pirate Rugby and Sports. Pirate prop Kelsey Miller will miss playing against his former Taradale team as this is the first match of his two-game suspension after being ordered off in the same match.