Over the past century, Waikato rugby has seen some legendary players wearing the red, yellow and black jersey with absolute heart and pride.
The province has 22 centurions beginning with Has Catley in 1952 and the most recent being Dwayne Sweeney in 2019, both of which took 17 years to reach this milestone.
During Waikato Rugby's 100-year celebrations this year, many of these players will take part or make appearances at the events.
Sport Waikato CEO, former All Black and Croatian International and Waikato player #883 Matthew Cooper MNZM is a proud Mooloo man.
After 63 appearances for Hawke's Bay from 1985-1989, he made the move north where he debuted for Waikato against Otago in 1990.
"Just the opportunity to wear the famous jersey was a highlight in itself," said Cooper.
He had always been excited by the back play that George Simpkin introduced and when Daryl Halligan moved to Australia to play rugby league, an opportunity arose for Cooper.
"That turned out to be a wonderful decision for Daryl and an opportunity for me that I'll never forget.
"It came from a phone call from Glen Ross who had just started and coached a very impressive Waikato team in 1989. Glen is one person I always look back and acknowledge.
"I was just really attracted by how Waikato played its rugby. It was such an expansive game of rugby and I always remember watching the shield era in the early 80s, once they'd beaten Auckland and Arthur Stone had got the intercept try."
He played for Hamilton Marist for around 10 years with the 1994 Waikato Breweries Premiership win over Fraser Tech ranking as a career highlight.
From 1990-1999, Cooper played 124 matches for the Waikato province scoring a record 1604 points under four different coaches Ross, Kevin Greene, John Boe and Kiwi Searancke.
"It was certainly something I was gunning for was the opportunity to play 100 in the red, yellow and black jersey."
Game number 100 is a fond memory for him.
"I was pretty passionate still, if you ask my fellow teammates they'd probably say I was a little bit too passionate," he said.
"It was against King Country which was quite neat, our neighbour. It was at Rugby Park. I always reflect back when I ran on for my 100 that Waikato is my home. Now I feel very much now that I've earnt my stripes in terms of being a Waikato man. That's one thing I'm very proud about. It was quite a defining moment for me after 10 years."
Another favourite memory of his was when Waikato beat Auckland and hosted their first NPC grand-final against Otago in 1992.
"You could hear Otago go onto the field and all you'd hear was this big drone of noise and booing, there were 30,000 at Rugby Park. All of a sudden the referee blew the whistle, 'Waikato your turn to come out', led by John Mitchell. Mitch would say 'we're not going out' and the referee would blow his whistle again and he'd say 'we're not going out, shut the door.'
"You could hear this roar start to build and you could hear the cowbells and the terraces there were flags. The whole place was an absolute theatre of noise, colour and bells. Once again John Mitchell held us back. Finally, he said 'are we ready?' and we went out.
"I'll never forget the moment of sprinting onto Rugby Park and the noise was just deafening. It was a great moment for us but it must have a great moment for the fans. Waikato proceeded to absolutely annihilate Otago that day."
The final score was 40-5 – Waikato's maiden NPC title.
Cooper's 57 penalty goals for Waikato in 1993, still stands as a record for most penalties in a season along with 12 conversions in the 1990 match against Wairarapa Bush sitting at first equal with Glen Jackson's equalising record, a decade later, against West Coast.
At the turn of the century, Cooper thought it would be neat to be involved when Waikato turns 100 and as the club has reached the milestone, he feels just as proud to have represented the province and the great people of his club.
"There was no greater feeling than running onto the field in a Waikato jersey. It wasn't a team – they were your mates. We were really committed, we loved to go out and win and represent the province but the greatest thing about playing for Waikato is we were all good mates. Playing for Waikato was without a doubt the highlight of my career and we had the best fans in the world," he said.
"The loss of outstanding players and great mates in Aaron Hopa in 1998 and Ryan Wheeler in 1999 knocked us all and special mention to Farrell Temata – a brilliant assistant coach who we lost far too early.
"I think my tenure and my career with Waikato rugby has been really defining in who I am and where I am today in terms of how life's panned out for me in the Waikato region. It was and always will be a very special part of my life."
In celebration of the centenary year, the squad below are some of Waikato's most capped players from 1921-present.
Centurions Steve Gordon, Ian Foster, Richard Jerram, Deon Muir, Rhys Duggan and Warren Gatland all have connections to Te Awamutu while Graham Purvis and Andrew Strawbridge both played club rugby for Ōhaupō.
1. IAN CLARKE
100TH GAME: July 15, 1961 vs France at Hamilton (won 22-3)
YEARS PLAYED: 1951-1963
TOTAL POINTS: 42 (14 tries)
2. WARREN GATLAND
100TH GAME: September 2, 1992 vs Wellington at Wellington (won 39-10)
YEARS PLAYED: 1986-1994
TOTAL POINTS: 71 (17 tries)
3. GRAHAM PURVIS
100TH GAME: March 25, 1992 vs NZ Divisional XV at Hamilton (drew 30-30)
YEARS PLAYED: 1984-1993, 1997
TOTAL POINTS: 45 (11 tries)
4. STEVE GORDON
100TH GAME: April 22, 1995 vs Natal at Durban (lost 21-25)
YEARS PLAYED: 1987-1997
TOTAL POINTS: 13 (3 tries)
5. RICHARD JERRAM
100TH GAME: August 13, 1994 vs King Country at Hamilton (won 45-10)
YEARS PLAYED: 1988-1994
TOTAL POINTS: 122 (28 tries)
6. MIAH MELSOM
100TH GAME: August 8, 1984 vs Wairarapa Bush at Hamilton (won 52-16)
YEARS PLAYED: 1977-1984
TOTAL POINTS: 88 (22 tries)
7. DUANE MONKLEY
100TH GAME: June 6, 1994 vs Thames Valley at Hamilton (won 74-3)
YEARS PLAYED: 1987-1996
TOTAL POINTS: 111 (24 tries)
8. JOHN MITCHELL
100TH GAME: September 26, 1992 vs Auckland at Auckland (won 27-21)
YEARS PLAYED: 1985-1994
TOTAL POINTS: 286 (67 tries)
9. RHYS DUGGAN
100TH GAME: September 12, 2003 vs Otago at Hamilton (won 27-15)
YEARS PLAYED: 1994-2004
TOTAL POINTS: 103 (20 tries, 1 drop goal)
10. IAN FOSTER
100TH GAME: 5 Jun 1995 vs North Harbour at Hamilton (won 33-26)
YEARS PLAYED: 1985-1988, 1990-1998
TOTAL POINTS: 322 (20 tries, 42 conversions, 36 penalties, 12 drop goals)
11. JOHN BOE
100TH GAME: 17 Aug 1985 vs Otago at Hamilton (lost 14-16)
YEARS PLAYED: 1979-1988
TOTAL POINTS: 298 (14 tries, 37 conversions, 20 penalties, 36 drop goals)
12. CHRIS ELLIS
100TH GAME: 26 Sep 1987 vs Bay of Plenty at Hamilton (lost 25-46)
YEARS PLAYED: 1980-1984, 1986-1988, 1991-1992
TOTAL POINTS: 132 (33 tries)
13. MATTHEW COOPER
100TH GAME: 26 Jul 1998 vs King Country (won 76-0)
YEARS PLAYED: 1990-1999
TOTAL POINTS: 1604 (38 tries, 331 conversions, 252 penalties, 1 drop goal)
14. DWAYNE SWEENEY
100TH GAME: 21 Sep 2019 vs Tasman at Hamilton (lost 26-35)
YEARS PLAYED: 2002-2019
TOTAL POINTS: 134 (18 tries, 16 conversions, 4 penalties)
15. ANDREW STRAWBRIDGE
100TH GAME: September 2, 1992 vs Wellington at Wellington (won 39-10)
YEARS PLAYED: 1983-1995
TOTAL POINTS: 646 (53 tries, 83 conversions, 78 penalties, 5 drop goals)
16. PAT BENNETT
100TH GAME: August 16, 1981 vs Bay of Plenty at Hamilton (won 13-3)
YEARS PLAYED: 1973-78, 1980-1983
TOTAL POINTS: 20 (5 tries)
17. RICHARD LOE
YEARS PLAYED: 1986-1993
TOTAL POINTS: 111 (27 tries)
18. PAUL KOTEKA
YEARS PLAYED: 1978-1984
TOTAL POINTS: 28 (7 tries)
19. REX PICKERING
100TH GAME: September 1, 1965 vs Southland at Hamilton (won 23-9)
YEARS PLAYED: 1955-1965
TOTAL POINTS: 54 (18 tries)
20. DEON MUIR
100TH GAME: October 19, 2002 vs Otago at Hamilton (won 41-37)
YEARS PLAYED: 1995-2002
TOTAL POINTS: 210 (42 tries)
21. DOUG PHILLIPS
100TH GAME: October 12, 1981 vs Lautoka at Lautoka (won 39-22)
YEARS PLAYED: 1966-1975, 1977-1981
TOTAL POINTS: 173 (12 tries, 37 conversions, 18 penalties, 1 drop goal)
22. DON CLARKE
YEARS PLAYED: 1951-1964
TOTAL POINTS: 737 (11 tries, 106 conversions, 154 penalties, 9 drop goals)
23. BRYCE COWLEY
100TH GAME: June 2, 1958 vs Auckland at Hamilton (won 15-5)
YEARS PLAYED: 1948-1958
TOTAL POINTS: 184 (40 tries, 2 conversions, 2 penalties, 18 drop goals)
Don Clarke, Ian Clarke, Bryce Cowley, Miah Melsom and Rex Pickering have all passed away.
The public have the opportunity to become a member of the 100 Club for $121 and will receive the following benefits: 100 Club Membership Certificate, a special WRU 100 Club lapel badge and presentation box as well as their name along with the other 100 Club members, will be sublimated on the front of both the Men's NPC and Women's FPC Playing Jerseys for the 2021 season.
For an extra $85 a replica supporter's jersey or replica playing jersey can be purchased which will include all the 100 club members' names on it.
Waikato fans can become a member of the 100 Club by registering their details and paying the admission fee at mooloo.co.nz/100-Club-Membership – get in quick to ensure your spot.
To register for the centenary head into the Te Awamutu Courier office to fill out a form or online to mooloo.co.nz/Waikato-Centenary.