Rugby and sparkly top-hats normally don’t go hand-in-hand but Chisnallwood Intermediate broke the mould at the Anchor AIMS Games this week.
Coach Daniel Vann introduced the hat for “Dick of the day” – awarded for good-natured infringements like tardiness, silliness or just general teen-boys-having-fun mayhem – and the Thursday wearer, Cairo Rangihuna-Ruru was a repeat offender.
“If you get the most crosses, you get the hat and if you get the most ticks, you get a prize,” Rangihuna-Ruru explained.
While he missed out on getting the prizes, he accepted the DOTD hat with pride.
Despite their off-field antics, however, on the pitch the sole South Island representatives at the sevens tournament were focused and serious… and even a little bit scared.
Alesana “Sana” Mailei is usually bigger than most players his own age he meets in Christchurch but the pool of talent
“We were versing our first team and I was next to him and he said ‘I’m so scared right now’ because we were marking the biggest players on the team,” Rangihuna-Ruru said.
Mailei recovered his confidence for the match against Te Wharekura o Ruatoki, with one impressive try leaving defenders trailing in his wake.
“Someone went on Sana’s neck and he flung him off. It was an accident but [the opponent] went to hospital,” Rangihuna-Ruru said, after the Chisnallwood team had rushed to check the player – who had broken his wrist – was alright.
Mailei was quiet when it came to his talents but the team comedian Rangihuna-Ruru was more than happy to speak on his behalf.
“You’ve gotta be a humble player. He’s real humble he doesn’t talk himself up… well, sometimes to the girls!”
Mailei will tell the younger players to “harden up” if they are being slack and is quick to laugh if they miss tackles but he is also quick to share the glory.
“He’s the brother. He helps us heaps on the field. He’ll off-load if we’re by ourselves, he’ll let us take the score. He’s generous,” Rangihuna-Ruru said.
And the generousity of Tauranga Intermediate families who are billeting them has impacted the boys too.
Rangihuna-Ruru wanted to say “thanks heaps” to the Tully family and Mailei said that the Deputy Principal Kathy Colville has “the best family ever!”
Friday was the day at the games and Chisnallwood went back to Christchurch with a solid 30th placing, returning to a city still devastated by the 2011 earthquakes.
Rangihuna-Ruru remembers, as a Primary student, being yelled at by his Mum to “get up,” seeing beds shaking and having to move from his damaged house. He still sees the effects in 2017.
“It’s getting better but it’s pretty damaged in town. There’s heaps of tagging on the walls and homeless people so I feel sorry for them.
Despite his DOTD-hat wearing and spirited personality, he had some decidedly serious and bold hopes for his rohe.
“If I was rich, I’d donate heaps of money – I’d want everyone to live a safe life.”