WAKA PACKS A FINALS PUNCH
Burleigh favourite set for stunning switch to boxing after local rugby league decider
ON the cusp of a rare threepeat, Waka Wanahi is about to give league away to pursue his long-held boxing dream.
After helping Burleigh to a Gold Coast Rugby League premiership in 2015, Wanahi called it a day. It was then that he was going to begin his boxing journey, only to eventually be talked into another season of footy by Bears Queensland Cup coach Jimmy Lenihan.
The diminutive winger had played just five state league matches at that point across his long Bears association.
But as fate would have it, he went on to become a mainstay – even a cult hero – of Lenihan’s side that charged to the title, breaking the club’s 12year drought at that level.
Wanahi re-signed with Burleigh for 2017 but has failed to add to his QCup appearances.
But while the Cup side had a mixed season to finish ninth, the 27-year-old has for the third straight year found himself in a decider, lining up at 3pm tomorrow at Pizzey Park against resurgent Runaway Bay in the GCRL title match.
“I don’t believe I’m a lucky charm; I’m just blessed to be in those spots at the right time,” he reflected, modestly.
Wanahi has played 15 games this season but has only hit his straps in recent weeks, delivering arguably his best showing of the year in the 24-4 win over Tugun that propelled them into the finale.
He revealed much of his 2017 has been hurt by a knee injury suffered in an exhibition match playing for Queensland Maori against Queensland Samoa late last year.
“I tore my PCL and my leg gives away every time I run or take off so it has given me a lot of grief,” he said.
“It is just coming right and I can barely feel it now.”
Wanahi had hoped to retain his QCup place but admitted he simply didn’t deserve to.
“A lot of boys trained a lot better and played a lot better and I can’t just say it was because of my injury. No, it was because of my form,” he said.
The big Seagulls side enter a first decider in 12 years after stunning defending champions Tugun in the preliminary final.
Regardless of the result, Wanahi is committed to his “new journey” that involves trading boots for gloves.
“I have always, always wanted to do boxing,” he said.
“I have just always wanted to give it a go. I am 27 now. If it’s not for me, I can always come back to footy.
“I need to learn the basics, where I am at in my level of fighting and if I am actually good enough. Everyone wants to be world champion.”
Burleigh Bears favourite Waka Wanahi is ready to finish up rugby league and chase his boxing dream.
Bears winger Waka Wanahi will trade footy for fighting next year.