Commute no hassle for duo
If you want commitment at grass-roots level in rugby league, there’s no going past these two.
Waiheke-based players Luke Maoate and Ryan Walton are doing whatever it takes to play for the Ponies premier side, including making the ferry crossing every week.
Since the Waiheke Rams folded in 2012 they had a serious decision to make about what was next in rugby league.
The closest club was Ponsonby, based at Victoria Park, who now play in the Sharman Cup.
Maoate, 25, and Walton, 21, have known each other for almost a decade after Walton made an early start on the Waiheke sporting scene.
‘‘I made the Waiheke High School first XI cricket team when I was 12,’’ he says. ‘‘Luke was a few years older than me.’’
The path into rugby league began much earlier for both players.
Walton picked up league when he was just 4 years old and Maoate played under-12s and switched to rugby union shortly after.
Sadly for Waiheke rugby league, that problem came around again and the Rams were unsustainable.
‘‘There’s just not enough players on Waiheke,’’ Maoate says.
Maoate played in the 2009 and 2012 Waiheke premier sides while Walton worked through the open-age restricted teams.
They then decided to cross the water to pledge their allegiance to Ponsonby.
Maoate, 26, lives on Waiheke and is a builder by trade.
He spends at least $60 a week in ferries just to make at least one training and the matches.
‘‘I just like playing,’’ he says. ‘‘Injuries haven’t helped us at all.’’
The towering 1.93-metre prop has just returned to footy after suffering a shoulder injury earlier in the season.
Walton had a strained AC joint which set him back five weeks.
When the halfback-standoff isn’t guiding his team around the park, he’s studying hard for his business and finance degrees at Auckland University.
Walton also clocks up the miles, spending half his time with his dad in Papatoetoe and the other with his mum on Waiheke.
But come Saturday afternoon there’s only one place you’ll find these two players.