Rik Manaia (Ngāti Maniapoto) and Keith “Rat” Ratcliffe (Ngāi Tahu) are preparing themselves to take part in the World Masters Games which begin in Auckland on April the 22nd.
The two players exude the confidence and energy normally reserved for men half their age.
Ratcliffe is enthusiastic about the upcoming games, “The Masters is a chance to test myself playing the game I love against similar-aged athletes from around the globe. And best of all I get to do it playing alongside my mates. Five days out and I'm starting to get really excited!”
The two men and their team are taking the challenge in their stride and have received the best wishes of their club, College Rifles, which has a rich history that spans 118 years.
They are under no illusions as to the mammoth task that awaits them and their teammates when they take their place on the rugby field for the World Masters Games.
The creaking bones are getting louder, the aches are more noticeable and the stories of former glory are being stretched much further.
Manaia says, “For a competitive guy like me, the chance to play in this tournament is an opportunity to test myself against other guys who also want to win. Being older we don't get the chance to really play for something tangible and with meaning like this.”
Their first assignment is to arrive at the park unscathed and in one piece. Training was cancelled this week to allow time to recover from a pre-Masters game against some younger Crocs and invited guests.
The Older Crocs gave the younger team a lesson on the field and scoreboard, running in numerous tries at will. The hit out was exactly what the team needed heading into what will be a very competitive tournament.
When asked about claims from his teammates that he doesn’t pass the ball, Manaia confidently and humourously replied, “I would have to say it’s a rumour started by the forwards, basically to deflect the fact they continually drop the ball and need someone to take the heat off them. Luckily I have big shoulders.”
“While I'm still available for All Black selection the phone hasn’t rung so this is a great chance to compete and possibly win something on a world stage,” he says.
The World Masters games rugby tournament will be held at Lloyd Elsmore Park, Pakuranga.