Porirua says a sad farewell to two sports he­roes

Kapi-Mana News - - CONVERSATIONS -

Two big names in Porirua sport – Chris Kenny and Nene Va’alepu – died last week, both leav­ing last­ing im­prints on the land­scape.

Box­ing trainer Kenny used to drop into Kapi-Mana News reg­u­larly to chat about the is­sues of the day. There was al­ways a smile on his face and a spring in his step.

We at­tended a few of the club nights at his box­ing gym, tucked away be­hind Marines Hall in White­house Rd.

Al­though Kenny said he’d some­times open up and no-one would come, the evenings we were there were loud and busy, with box­ers clam­our­ing for room in the tiny build­ing.

Kenny never had a ma­jor spon­sor or big money be­hind him. He never had an of­fi­cial ti­tle of youth worker, but he might as well have.

He coached a host of na­tional cham­pi­ons and helped turn around the lives of many young box­ers. The out­pour­ing of mes­sages on so­cial me­dia last week af­ter his death was a tes­ta­ment to his legacy.

Kenny went about his coach­ing in an un­com­pro­mis­ing man­ner that ig­nored any PC niceties. ‘‘Work hard and fol­low my rules,’’ he would say, ‘‘or you’re out the door.’’

He lived by – and taught – philoso­phies such as in­tegrity, re­spect, ded­i­ca­tion and dis­ci­pline. But, as world cham­pion kick­boxer Rex Red­den told us, once the pads were down and gloves were off, he was cheer­ful and bril­liant to talk to.

Va’alepu, mean­while, achieved huge suc­cess in rugby and rugby league for Porirua teams and was in­cred­i­bly pop­u­lar.

With North­ern United he won the Swin­dale Shield sev­eral times and the Ju­bilee Cup once. He was part of a golden era for the club.

In the much-vaunted Porirua Vik­ings rug­byleague back­line in 2008 and 2009, he was out­stand­ing.

In both codes, his twin­kle toes, speed and fear­less de­fence were mem­o­rable.

Footage sur­fac­ing on Face­book last week of the 2009 rugby league grand fi­nal, in which he dec­i­mated Wainui’s de­fence, showed off his mer­cu­rial tal­ent.

Norths have had a rot­ten time – club mem­bers are still mourn­ing the deaths of Jerry Collins and stal­wart ad­min­is­tra­tor Ivan Hard­grave.

Kenny’s life was well lived, but Va’alepu’s death at 28 is a tragic loss, with young chil­dren left with­out a father.

Both men will be sorely missed. Towns need their sports he­roes – they’re of­ten the glue that holds peo­ple to­gether and in­spires oth­ers.

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