Sporting family chase Aussie dream

DIANNE KOPAE
Last updated 05:00 07/12/2013

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Longtime New Plymouth policeman Rangi Hiroti and his family will next week tread a new path across the Tasman where his teenage sons have been lured by the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

Last December, Mr Hiroti's eldest son Haimona, 17, commenced a three-year contract with the Sydney rugby league club.

In July, Mr Hiroti, his wife Kimi and their youngest son, Mawene, 14, visited Haimona in Australia. While there Mawene was invited to play a match for the South Sydney club's representative grade.

The Spotswood College student showcased more family talent and just recently accepted a four-year contract of his own with the Rabbitohs.

According to Mrs Hiroti, the offer settled the family decision to leave the Taranaki district where they have spent all their lives.

"I only went [to Sydney] to help Haimona but part of me knew his brother would eventually follow him. With both of them there it made sense for Rangi and me to go too."

Another attraction resulted from a chance encounter with former Wellington police youth officer, Annie Rogers-Marshall.

Today, Mrs Rogers-Marshall works alongside the NRL in Sydney providing residential lodgings for young league players on contract from New Zealand.

The Hirotis will take on the role of "house parents" under her Valued Athletes incentive. "Their experience and passion for young people plus their wealth of knowledge makes Rangi and Kimi an ideal fit," Mrs Rogers-Marshall said.

With strong ties to New Plymouth and the wider Taranaki community, the move has been an emotional one for the entire family but especially for Mr Hiroti.

The policeman of 26 years, who is known in schools as Matua Rangi, is saying goodbye to a lifetime of community involvement, ranging from youth and sporting activities to police, council, and Maori trust board affairs. He has received numerous accolades, the Taranaki Maori Sports Coach of the Year and Taranaki Rugby League Coach of the Year to name just two.

"He's an advocate for so many things but especially for youth and that's why we're going with the boys. He wants to be there to mentor them as they develop, not only in their talent but their character," Mrs Hiroti said.

The family leave behind a legacy in the sports community. The boys have represented Taranaki and Central Districts for many years and have been selected for New Zealand league age-grade squads.

Mrs Hiroti has represented Taranaki in touch for more than 20 years including five as a national representative while her husband is a former Wellington league representative, has coached national touch teams and has been involved with three World Cup-winning touch campaigns.

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Mrs Hiroti attributes their boys' promising future to her husband's commitment to involve them in constructive pastimes from when they were young.

"From the time they could run and catch a ball, he had them playing league or union.

"They've always come as a unit."

She returned home to New Plymouth last week to help her husband finish packing up the house and to bid a proper farewell to friends and extended family.

In Sydney, Haimona and Mawene will continue schooling at Matraville Sports High School where they will also be joined by younger sister Amohia, 13, a junior netball rep. The siblings' older sisters will remain in New Zealand.

- Taranaki Daily News

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