Yogi Rogers returns to rugby fray - at 42

Last updated 01:47 19/04/2008

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Twenty years after he first pulled on the Wainuiomata premier jersey Yogi Rogers hopes he can help the current team repeat the feats of 1988.

At 42, Rogers will start at first-five for Wainuiomata against Poneke today in round three of the Swindale Shield.

It is the unexpected result of a comeback season that started with the humble intention of having "one last run" with his son Jason Love in the senior third grade.

"My oldest son just had his 21st and was ineligible to play colts, so I thought this is an opportunity to play a season with him," Rogers said yesterday.

"I just intended to play some games with Wainui's second team ... but then last week they said Tu [Umaga-Marshall] was going to be away and could I help out the prems."

Helping out turned out to be starting at fullback against defending Jubilee Cup champions Hutt Old Boys.

Suddenly Rogers is back where he started two decades ago as a 22-year-old.

"I sat down after the game last Saturday and realised the last time I wore the No15 jersey for Wainui at premier level was in 1988," he said.

"That was the last time they were in premier rugby [before last year] and we made the top eight that year."

Rogers concedes many of his former teammates will be shocked, "and probably a bit envious", that he is playing premier rugby after retiring following a season with Oriental Rongotai in 2002.

His name is most widely associated with his rugby league days. He switched codes in 1989 after being stuck behind then-Wellington fullback John Gallagher and became a key member of the national championship-winning Wainuiomata sides of 1990 and 1992 before playing a season for Manly in the NRL in 1994.

Aside from staying incredibly fit - he played in the touch nationals last March - Rogers said his motivation to keep playing had been spurred by his observations of young players.

"I coached the Wainui colts last year and we lost the final to Petone and I was a bit bewildered by the attitude of the players these days," he said.

"Back in the day, everyone made sure they were at training whether they were on the bench or what, it didn't matter because you showed up and everyone competed for positions.

"These days guys just take it for granted they will play because there's nobody else. I found it really disheartening ... the biggest disappointment was the commitment of the players to turning up to training and being on time.

"I suppose it's a sign of the times with so many more options available to them."

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Rogers said he hoped he could instill some good values in players coming through. "If I didn't think I was helping or had something to offer, I wouldn't be playing."

Wainui will be glad he is today against winless Poneke in what shapes as a big test of their top-eight aspirations after wins over Ories and Avalon.

Marist St Pats and Norths will both be keen to stay with the top four at Evans Bay, while Wests Roosters and Avalon will be desperate for first wins at Ian Galloway.

Old Boys University face a tricky test against Upper Hutt at the Basin Reserve, while joint leaders Hutt Old Boys Marist will be fancied against Tawa at the Hutt Rec and Petone likewise on their home ground against Ories.

 

- The Dominion Post

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