Leilani Hakiwai endured the pain and discomfort all week, and played all of the epic final. Photo / Ian Cooper
One of the heroes of the Hawke’s Bay Tui Farah Palmer Cup women’s rugby Championship win has revealed that she played the final, and scored a try, with a broken ankle.
Plucky 17-year-old Leilani Hakiwai
believes the injury happened while playing at center about 60 minutes into the team’s semi-final against Northland Kauri at McLean Park, Napier, on September 3.
She hid the pain and discomfort all week and played all of the 24-20 final win over favourites, the Otago Spirit in Balclutha, scoring the confidence-boosting second try.
She’d had second thoughts after she took her first tackle, but with the confidence of teammates behind her and the camaraderie that had grown week by week, she blocked out the pain again and carried on.
Waking up in Dunedin the next morning, the ankle was significantly swollen and a visit to a doctor back in Hawke’s Bay confirmed a hairline fracture of the ankle and ligament injuries. Hakiwai was in a moonboot as she made it to McLean Park on Saturday for the Hawke’s Bay Rugby Union’s recognition of the success.
The Tui were guests at the sponsors’ dinner before the Magpies’ Ranfurly Shield defense against Wellington, with a halftime marking of the triumph and a lap of honour. The team were given multiple standing ovations around the ground in front of about 8200, some of whom may have wondered about the player being carried from time to time by her teammates.
Hakiwai only started playing rugby last year but had been more in tune with the rugby league background of her brothers and dad, and played league for Ngati Kahungunu in a tournament earlier this year.
Had it not been for the injury, she would have been out on the league field in Hastings on Saturday, an opportunity which was taken by at least two teammates for a match against each other before heading for McLean Park.
Hakiwai explains her decision to play the same way she describes any ambitions she might have in the game, such as playing in the Premiership next year or one day playing for the Black Ferns.
“I just want to play,” she said. “And I wanted to play in the final. I was determined to play.”
On Saturday night, the acclaim at McLean Park was unprecedented for a women’s rugby team in Hawke’s Bay, and Hakiwai said: “It was awesome being acknowledged like that. It was a real cool night.”
Meanwhile, the Wairoa men’s representative side retained the sub-unions trophy, the Barry Cup, with a 32-12 win over East Coast side Waiapu on Sunday at Lambton Square, Wairoa.
Again the holders spread the tries around, six in all, with two in the first half to take the lead at 12-0, before conceding a try and conversion to the Te Araroa-based challengers going into halftime.
The first-half tries went to first five-eighths Rana Hubbard, between the posts and then kicking the conversion, and hooker Wayne Hema scored the second.
Second-half tries were scored by second five-eighths Blaze Wairau-Taylor, replacement wing Clay Wesche, fullback Paoraian Manuel-Harman and halfback Kingi Te Amo.
Wairoa won the Cup by beating Waikohu 20-15 at Te Karaka on August 28, and scored seven tries in the first defence, against Uawa, on September 4.
Winning the Cup for the first time since 2008, the 2022 reign is already Wairoa’s most successful tenure in two decades, back to when a two-year tenure ended in 2002.
They face another defense on Sunday, and if successful will on October 2 be playing the last match of the season with the hope of retaining the Cup into 2023, to mark a century since the Cup was first presented, in Wairoa.
Hawke’s Bay Under 18 landed themselves a home Hurricanes Region Youth Council final with a four-tries-to-one 26-5 away win over Wellington on Saturday.
No 8 Matolu Petaia scored twice, and the other tries were scored by flanker Aone Lolofie and Tyrone Chrystal. First five-eighths Koby Deacon added three conversions.
The side started their campaign with a 24-21 win over Poverty Bay in Gisborne two weeks ago, then scored at almost a point a minute to beat Wairarapa-Bush 69-10 in Napier on September 10.
With the three wins, the Bay topped their pool, as they did last year, when the Covid-19 crisis prevented a final from happening. This year’s final will be against Wellington Samoans in Napier on Saturday.