League match in memory of player
An emotionally-charged rugby league match played in Bell Block on Saturday came with the simple but important message that it was OK to talk.
The unofficial under-17s North Taranaki versus South Taranaki clash at Hickford Park was played in memory of former Marist Dragons and Western Suburbs player Ropata Rangi and to raise awareness about suicide.
Ropata was an enthusiastic 15-year-old who loved rugby league and played representative footie from the age of seven until last year, when he took his own life.
His parents Shannen Robinson and Haki Ropata, embraced each player at the game's conclusion.
"There is always someone out there you can talk to," Robinson said. "It's OK to have issues. Just because you have an issue doesn't mean it can't be overcome."
She said the game was not just about Ropata but about all children and families in the community and to raise awareness that help was out there.
"It was a subject that no one wanted to talk about but needed to be addressed."
Feterika Fidow, 16, a team-mate of Ropata at Bell Block Marist, described him as outgoing and sporty. "I did not know he was in that kind of state of mind. I wish he could've talked to me."
He said he hoped the commemorative game made people think about suicide and to realise it was OK to reach out for help.
The event was supported by the Western Institute of Technology (Witt), New Waves and Taranaki Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Witt student support manager Zanetta Hinton said it was important for the institute to be there to get behind the cause. "People don't need to be alone, we are here to encourage the kids to use the services available."
Event organisers Allana Prestney and BJ Hetet said they hoped it would help whanau identify where they could get support which could help them detect early signs of depression and mental health issues with their children.
"We want to get the message out there and raise better awareness for our whanau," Prestney said.
She hopes next year the commemorative game could launch the season for all junior grades, as depression and mental health affects all ages.
South Taranaki were too strong for North Taranaki in the end and won the match 60-24.
Faleatua Malili is a Witt journalism student.
Taranaki Daily News