One question has been asked regularly by spectators during the first two weeks of Hawke’s Bay’s premier club rugby league competition.
Is that former Hawke’s Bay’s Strongest Man winner Sam Magele turning out at prop for Maraenui? Yes it is.
Father-of-four Magele, 40, who won the last Hawke’s Bay’s Strongest Man competition in 2013, last played league five years ago and returned to the sport this season as part of a weight-loss mission.
“I started the 40-Week Challenge last November. You had to lose 40kgs in 40 weeks. I only managed 37kgs so I decided to carry on with the aim of completing it,” explained Magele, who was 213kgs when he started.
“I’m hoping to keep losing weight so I can get my fitness up to play rugby for Tech next year.”
Last year he bettered the New Zealand bench press record for competitors over 120kg with a lift of 307kg, a 1kg improvement.
“My days of Strongest Man competitions are over. The boys are a lot bigger these days and they have a few lollies, which I’m not into,” he said, referring to performance-enhancing drugs.
“It’s important I keep motivated. I want people to think if a big guy like me can get out on the field then they can do it too,” Magele explained.
The truck driver for NZL Transport & Hiab Specialists had two short rests during 60 minutes of action when Maraenui were beaten 40-22 by Tamatea in Saturday’s second-round fixture at Hawke’s Bay Regional Sports Park in Hastings. While he didn’t score a try as he did in the previous week’s 42-18 loss to Bridge Pa, Magele said he relished marking former Hawke’s Bay Magpies prop Mason Kean.
“Everyone told me how highly Mason is ranked. He is tough but I enjoyed running it straight at him. Tamatea are a tight outfit and well organised with their systems. We did well to get 16 players for the game and although I hurt my shoulder in the first half I kept going because we ran out of subs.”
“If my shoulder is right I’ll be back out there playing again next week,” Magele added.
In the other premier grade clash, defending champions Kahuranaki were handed a 78-14 drubbing by the team they beat in last year’s grand final, Bridge Pa. Winger and man-of-the-match Jarome Mareikura scored four tries for Bridge Pa.
“It was a bit of a grudge match for us and it was good to put on a display like that for Colin,” Bridge Pa player-coach Ihaka Waerea said, referring to scrumhalf Colin Hokianga who was playing his blazer game, 25th match, for Bridge Pa.
Hokianga secondrower Rana Huata and captain and centre Jeston Craig joined Mareikura on Waerea’s MVP list. Waerea was impressed with his team’s ball security and completions.
Secondrower Teina Huia celebrated his Bridge Pa debut with a try. Hooker James Bailey, Craig and winger Roger Paewai scored two tries each while standoff Waerea and substitute Buffy Wainhou also scored tries.
Former Magpies winger Mikey Vuicakau also made his debut for Bridge Pa. Former Canterbury rugby league rep Jermahl Carroll shone at fullback for Bridge Pa, in general play and with his goalkicking.
Kahuranaki were missing several key players in their first outing of the season. Standoff Czebalos Smiler and experienced forward Boy Waaka were their best players.
Reserve grade games saw defending champions Bridge Pa beat Omahu Huia 38-22 and Bay Bulldogs wallop Flaxmere 60-8.
Women’s grade fixtures saw Hastings Rugby and Sports upset Tamatea 32-22 and defending champions Bridge Pa beat improving newcomers YMP 50-4.
By Hawke’s Bay Today reporter – Shane Hurndell