Senior Vikings like a good wine
Anton Wereta and Greig Dean joined a handful of players who have reached a major milestone for Porirua Vikings premiers rugby league side this past season – and hope they can keep going for a while yet.
The pair played their 250th games for the Ascot Park-based club, joining the likes of Zac Walsh, Frank Rameka and Jay Bolstad in the exclusive club.
Wereta, the premier halfback, said he was buzzing when he learned he’d reached the mark.
‘‘I was stoked to hear that. It was a pretty special moment,’’ he said. ‘‘I started off as a junior with Porirua City, so it was cool to be here as a senior player, too.’’
Dean, meanwhile, said the 250th was ‘‘just another game’’, but he was grateful to be recognised with a New Zealand Warriors jersey, polo shirt and plaque.
He has played in several positions in the Vikings’ backline since he and Wereta pitched up to the club in 2004, from the Kapiti Bears. He favours the freedom of fullback.
‘‘I like having the space to run the ball – it’s what I’ve always loved.’’
Wereta and Dean should hardly be considered ‘‘senior’’ at 30 and 33, but are now considered elder statesmen in the Vikings.
‘‘There is responsibility, definitely,’’ Wereta said. ‘‘ We know how the young guys felt as newbies and it’s up to us to set the example.
‘‘We offer guidance and if we go hard at training, they will follow.’’
‘‘When I started, the senior guys were saying, ‘ Look after your injuries, train smart’, and now I’m saying those things,’’ Dean said.
In 2005, Porirua – called North City at the time – beat great rivals Wainuiomata in the grand final and a golden era in Vikings rugby league began.
The pinnacle was the 2008-10 period, with three consecutive premierships, but losing by a drop goal in the dying stages of the 2011 grand final to Te Aroha denied a record-breaking four in a row.
Since then, it has been tough times for the premiers, but Dean and Wereta are hopeful the future is bright. They have no plans to retire any time soon.
‘‘We have been going through some rebuilding, but we’re nearly there,’’ Wereta said. ‘‘Everyone knows what has to be done.’’
He said the likes of Chosen Rameka and Sheldon Akavi were among the next breed making their mark, and it bode well for a push for another premiership in 2015.
Asked to name their favourite moments among the 250 games, Dean said his five tries in one match in 2008 was a highlight and Wereta nominated hoisting his young son on his shoulders after winning the 2010 grand final, in which he captained the side.
Both players have turned out for Wellington Orcas and hope the door isn’t closed on representative football.
Runaway: Greig Dean streaks away for a try in the 2011 grand final.
Big day: Anton Wereta celebrates winning the 2011 grand final.