Com­mute no has­sle for duo

Auckland City Harbour News - - SPORT - By JU­LIAN RAETHEL

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.

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