Retired but no plans to relax
Retired teacher and long-time Papakowhai resident Denys Latham says retirement isn’t about relaxing, it’s about making better choices on how to spend your time. The Porirua City councillor and newly-elected president of the Wellington Rugby Union has a cu
How was the feeling when you were elevated to the WRFU president’s role?
It was overwhelming, something that came out of the blue. I’d been a vice-president for a time, nominated by ParemataPlimmerton, but this is a step up. It’s very humbling and there are some illustrious names who’ve come before me, so I’ve got my fingers crossed that I can carry on that legacy.
Along with coaching Porirua College, you played and coached at Porirua (before the amalgamation with Titahi Bay), played at Tawa and were the coaching co-ordinator at Paremata-Plimmerton. Where do your allegiances lie once the club season starts?
I’m all over the place, truth be told, and I spread myself around. I love spending time at the Old Timers’ Day at each club, that’s where you see all the old faces. Norths are great, I love what’s happening at Tawa and ParePlim’s senior side had a wonderful season last year. Geez, I wish they’d won that final [Senior 1, against Wellington]. I love club rugby, think it’s very strong in Wellington right now.
What was the highest level of rugby you played?
I got to Manawatu Senior B, as a prop would you believe. I came to Wellington [from Taranaki] in 1968, to teach at Porirua College and played for Tawa’s senior side.
Why did you get into coaching?
Just the thrill of helping people move from where they are to get somewhere. It was the same reason I became a coaching coordinator – to help the ‘dad’ coaches do the right things by their players. I’ve been a selector in the Hurricanes region for NZ Secondary Schools for a while and it’s great to see these young guys coming through.
Who’s the best player you’ve seen on a rugby field and ever coached?
Ever seen? Christian Cullen, every time he touched the ball something was going to happen. Coached? There was a lad at Porirua in 1980/81 called Maa Koko, he was a No 8. We played Petone and they had All Black winger Mike Clamp – he picked the ball up on the halfway line and went for the tryline but Maa chased him down and took him out. He was an 80-minute player, with relentless speed, but he didn’t get selected [for Wellington] because in those days they never looked north of Ngaruanga Gorge.
How will the Hurricanes go this season?
They should improve on last year. [Prop] Jeff Toomaga-Allen could be an All Black and the Canes have plenty of talent, they’re always exciting to watch. I’ve been a season ticketholder since 2000, I’m not a fairweather fan, so I’ll be at all the home games. I’ve been in Wellington 45 years so that makes me a Lions and Canes fan.
To politics – will you be standing for Porirua City Council again?
I said I wanted three terms and, if I get back in, this will be my third. We have our ducks in a row in terms of our long term plan, rates, infrastructure and the city centre revitalisation, so the next three years will be key. The harbour is such a big issue and Grant Baker and Keith Calder are doing great things there.
Do you want Porirua to be part of a super-city?
Local government can be both exciting and frustrating, but I think there is a lot of water to go under the bridge yet.
Ratepayers will have a say, absolutely.
I’m not against amalgamation or re- organisation but I want more evidence on why change is better.
You don’t mind the meetings, all the reading and potential phone calls at all hours from Porirua ratepayers?
Not a bit, I’m really enjoying it all, it’s giving me an amazing insight into what is going on in the community.
Although I’m an eastern ward councillor, we have a city-wide focus and you get a great understanding of where our responsibilities lie and what the council can do to make it a better place to live, work and play. I enjoy going to public meetings, talking to people and working with my council colleagues. What else keeps you busy? Along with my rugby obligations, I’m a volunteer at the Whitby police base, a volunteer at the New Zealand Cricket Museum and on the Derek Wootton Memorial and Mana Education Centre trusts.
I don’t see it as retirement but a change in direction, I’m in charge of my time.
I’m going to Lords [ Cricket Ground] in May for a test match and just got back from doing the Otago Central Rail Trail, which was just magnificent.
DENYS LATHAM: I’m not against amalgamation or re-organisation but I want more evidence on why change is better.