Point guard Reece Tuala-Fata is eyeing another season with the Bay Hawks basketball team ... eight years after his last one.
"I want to give it one last go. That's the main reason I played in last year's new-look Hawke's Bay Elite League," Tuala-Fata said.
A new Irongate School teacher this year, Tuala-Fata, 33, played for the Hawks in 2005, '08, '09 and '12. His older brothers Peleti (1994 and '95) and Paul (2001) are also former Hawks.
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A member of the Hastings Old Boys team which lost 85-80 to the Kings in last year's Hawke's Bay Elite League final, Tuala-Fata, averaged 31 points a match in the league and was selected in the All Star Five.
Before resuming his quest to return to the NBL Tuala-Fata's main basketball focus will be the January 18 match between his Hastings Boys' High School Old Boys team and their Napier Boys' High School counterparts in the Hastings Sports Stadium. It is being played to celebrate the life of former Hawk and HBHS player Patrick O'Brien.
Hawke's Bay's 2019 Person of the Year, O'Brien, was one of two people killed in a car accident on the Hawke's Bay Expressway last year. The fixture will also double as a fundraiser for the Te Anahera O Te Rangi Charitable Trust which 2017 world kickboxing champion O'Brien and wife Theresa formed in memory of their late daughter.
Tuala-Fata made the HBHS senior A team as a Year 10 student in 2000.
"That's how I qualify for next week's game. Obviously we want to put on a good game for everyone but in particular for our fallen brother who did so much for the community. We all have our special stories about the brother and how he impacted everyone's lives," Tuala-Fata said.
"Last year was a really hard one for me as there was a bit of depression after going through a separation with my ex-wife," Tuala-Fata, a father of four daughters, explained.
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"Pat reached out to me, worked hard with me and gave me plenty of encouragement. I joined his gym and did some boxing with him," Tuala-Fata recalled.
"He always stressed it doesn't matter how you fight in the ring ... it's how you fight outside of the ring."
Tuala-Fata pointed out he is impressed with the calibre of players on the hosts roster for next week. While uncertainty surrounds the availability of former Tall Black Paora Winitana fellow former Hawk and former Tall Blacks squad member Arthur Trousdell is returning from Australia, O'Brien's brother and former Hawk Henare O'Brien is returning from Bali.
"We all understand the kaupapa. The brother [Patrick O'Brien] will be up there hounding us if we don't get the win.
"At the same time we won't be taking the Napier old boys lightly. They have a lot of players with NBL experience including Jamie [Henare], Roger McPherson and the Davies brothers [Dwayne and Damion] ... they might not have played for a while but they will still have the top two inches," he added.
Former Hawk Thomas Bartlett, who has been organising the HBHS team, believed Patrick O'Brien was the best secondary schools player in the country in 1998.
Knee injuries suffered at the end of that season slowed him down the following year when future Tall Black and Breakers legend Kirk Penney captured the MVP award while playing for Westlake Boys' College.
"That 1999 team was our best one. That was the year we beat Church College who had not been beaten for the previous eight years. We should have made the final and when we lost our semifinal I remember Patrick punching the walls in our changing room ... that's how competitive he was," Bartlett recalled.
In addition to the match between the old boys, there will also be a game between the current NBHS and HBHS squads, a three-on three fixture and an auction of basketball and kickboxing memorabilia.
Meanwhile the postponed 10th edition of the Battle for Life charity boxing event will be staged in Onekawa on March 21. The event, which was organised annually by O'Brien and his wife, was originally scheduled for November 16 but was postponed after O'Brien's accident the previous day.
BFL founder O'Brien would have turned 39 during the week leading up to the March 21 event. Theresa pointed out that in the wake of the postponement the fight card will be redeveloped from scratch.
"We are inviting those previous BFL boxers and first timers to compete this year as we honour Patrick by continuing on his legacy of inspiring change," Theresa said.
People wanting to compete can email email@example.com
VIP tables purchased for the November 16 date will remain in place for the new date. More have also been released for sale and all sales inquiries can be made through the email address above.
Teams for the 6pm old boys basketball match:
HBHS: Paul Tuala-Fata, Leighton Ashcroft, Thomas Bartlett, Henare O'Brien, Arthur Trousdell, Reece Tuala-Fata, Herman Ah Kiong, Ben Southon, Kayne Hawea, Wallace Christian, Paora Winitana.
NBHS: Daniel Evans, James Henare, James Lyver, Janeiro Seumanu, Jeremy Glaser, Roger McPherson, Simon Robert, Jordan Pomana, Damion Davies, Puke Lenden, Conrad Kahu, Regan Spooner, Aidan Daly, Dwayne Davies.