THERE ARE two things you need to know about Toa. Understand them like you do your family and you’ll soon get a clear picture about what this club is about.
The first thing you need to know is that there is strong Maori blood running through its veins. That’s not to say other players aren’t welcome here, but Maoritanga (culture) defines Toa’s identity.
It’s also an important part of its history. Toa – which means ‘brave man’ or ‘champion’ in Maori – derives its name from the Ngati Toa tribe to which it is affiliated. The Elsdon Park clubhouse it calls home is just a spiral punt down the road from the Takapuwahia marae. It is essentially a pa-based club.
The second thing you need to understand is that Toa is very much part of the Horowhenua Kapiti rugby landscape, despite being located 20 minutes north of Wellington in Porirua.
Things have been like that for the past 17 years and Toa wouldn’t have it any other way. Any possible move back to the Wellington province is seen as a backwards step – throwing away the good thing it has going for itself further up State Highway 1.
It is two people who know the ins and outs of Toa better than anyone else who share these facts with Rugby News during our visit to the club. Life members Mathew Solomon, who will coach the senior B side this season, and William Kohe are stalwarts of the club and are more than prepared to share the good oil from their experiences.
“It is very much a whanau- and iwi-orientated club,” says Solomon.
That means Toa does some things differently to others around the traps.
It places a big emphasis on its cultural values. Haka practice is important, with players taught how to perform Ka Mate – which was penned by Ngati Toa’s chief Te Rauparaha after he escaped death on the battle field during the Musket Wars – properly and with the respect it deserves. That haka is only done when it takes on historical rivals Rahui or in playoff games.
Maori protocol is also adhered to in the clubhouse.
“It’s just like coming onto a marae. You can’t just stroll in, as there are things you’ve got to do first. It’s instilled in all our players,” says Solomon.
So too is the importance of being a good host. Visitors are looked after when they come here. They can expect a generous helping of kai and a drink or two. It’s not uncommon to hear the strumming of guitars during the ‘third half’ either.
Things have been that way since 1890, when Toa blew out the first candle on its birthday cake.
Since 1995, Toa has been a player on the Horowhenua Kapiti scene. Its home games used to be played at the Paraparaumu and Waikanae domains, but now take place at Te Atiawa Park. The Kapiti Softball Club’s facilities are leased during the season.
Toa has not regretted the decision to head north. Doing the rugby thing up the line has allowed it to keep its mana and given more players based in the Porirua region a chance of playing provincial footy, albeit at Heartland Championship level.
“It was our choice to go up there. The players don’t mind the travelling and really enjoy playing and mixing with the clubs up that way,” says Kohe.
Solomon agrees. He says it makes sense for Toa to remain part of the Horowhenua Kapiti scene.
“If we came back here, then it would be Norths versus Toa and we’d get swallowed up. It would take years and years for us to get up to that level.”
Toa will field just a senior B team this year. That is down on the two adult teams it fielded in 2011.
But you can guarantee one thing: that side won’t lack the warrior-like passion Toa has been renowned for during its time taking on the top tribes in the Horowhenua Kapiti competition.
Kia kaha, boys. Kia kaha.
TOA HAS tasted Ramsbottom Cup success on four occasions during its time playing in the Horowhenua Kapiti competition, with a hat-trick of championship banners among them.
That three-peat during what was a golden on-field period occurred between 2003 and 2005. Toa, laden full of rep players, was in its playing pomp and produced an open style of rugby that was too hot to handle for opposition teams as it ruled the roost during three highly successful seasons.
“For a few years, no-one could touch us. We had a strong team,” says life member William Kohe.
That hat-trick of titles followed Toa’s first Ramsbottom Cup victory in 1999 – a season it went unbeaten. The senior B side also won its grade that year and the club’s double success helped Toa establish itself as a credible force.
Toa’s top side was also unbeaten in 1998, but lost the championship decider at the Levin Domain to Athletic.
It has been unable to win a title since 2005, though did claim Nash Cup (first round) honours after ending Waikanae’s two-year, 26-match unbeaten streak in 2010.
2003-05 SENIOR A SIDE
THIS SIDE was feared by opposing teams, but were seen as heroes by Toa’s faithful and fiercely passionate supporters.
For three years, this group of players steamrolled over the other clubs in the Horowhenua Kapiti region, running up on occasion scores you would associate with cricket rather than rugby. They were skilled, clinical and seldom bettered.
What’s more, they had all the Nash Cup and Ramsbottom Cup silverware in the trophy cabinet to show for it. It was truly impressive stuff.
A number of Horowhenua Kapiti NPC reps – Malakai Lokeni, Shane Pihema, Eldon Paea, Dan Tiriha, Thomas Ati Ilaoa, Sonny McBride and Sefo Tavita, among others –at various times formed the spine of Toa’s premier team during its playing heyday.
“When Toa goes well, Horowhenua Kapiti goes well,” says life member William Kohe.
It’s not hard to argue with that statement. A quick browse through the Rugby Almanacks shows Horowhenua Kapiti contested an NPC third division final and a semifinal when Toa was at the peak of its playing powers and bossing the local club competition!« Back to Club of the Week
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