It's time you found out about new mayor's rugby connections

00:00, Jun 04 2012

It's not widely known that the new Manawatu district mayor, Margaret Kouvelis, has esteemed rugby connections.

She is the mother of Mark Ranby, All Black No 1001 in 2001, who sprouted from Freyberg High School and Varsity and played 14 games for Manawatu in 1996.

He also played for the Hurricanes, Waikato and the Chiefs.

Ranby returned from Cambridge University with a Diploma in Theology and Religious Studies and is now the professional development manager at the Crusaders and Canterbury Rugby.

Last year he coached the Canterbury University team.

A call came in last week from Nick Cowan, who was one of the best sprinters Manawatu has produced in recent times.


He has lived in Auckland for some time and was working for Adidas.

Now he is into athletes' management and his most high-profile client is shot-putter Valerie Adams.

Cowan is also Softball NZ's high-performance manager.

As a runner, Cowan was ranked 10th in the New Zealand all-time 100m list, with a best of 10.48sec.

Netball Manawatu's administration manager is former New Zealand breaststroke champion Sara-Jane Sheehy.

Between the ages of 14 and 18 she had been the national age-group and open champion before retiring initially in 2001 and having almost three years away from swimming. She retired in 2004.

Big All Whites soccer goalkeeper Jake Gleeson has Manawatu connections.

He was not only born in Palmerston North in 1990 but his mother, Anna, is the sister of Josef Schmidt, the Woodville man now an illustrious rugby coach at Heineken Cup champions Leinster.

Manawatu rugby player Johnny Leota is back from playing for the Sale Sharks and has aligned himself with the Manchester City Football Club.

They train next door to the Sharks and one night Johnny met the controversial City and Italian striker Mario Balotelli, and shrugged it off. Leota didn't have a clue he was one of the game's superstars.

It's great to see Manawatu devotees like Noel Foote putting more than 100 hours of research into recording the history of speedway in Palmerston North.

Foote has been a speedway identity forever, and still helps out.

He provided a huge amount of material for the book, The Big Thrill, to be launched at the Palmerston North Library at 5.30pm on Wednesday.

He delved through the microfilm records of the Manawatu Standard for every day from the 1930s to the 1990s.

It was a sheer fluke that we interviewed Manawatu Turbos rugby wing Asaeli Tikoirotuma last week on the eve of his great feat against the Blues on Saturday night. His four tries included burning off former All Black Rudi Wulf.

This from a guy who feared he wouldn't measure up when he shifted from Wanganui to Te Kawau. Now the Fijian selectors might be interested.

The Turbos might also show interest in two other big Fijians in hot form. Te Kawau's Vili Dakunimata also scored four tries on Saturday and Kia Toa's Simeli Vana has scored 11 this year.

Manawatu Standard