Patelesio reaches magic 300
Dawn Patelesio can’t remember exactly what year it was, but her first game for Northern United is clear in her mind.
‘‘It was 1990 or 1991, on Porirua Park and we were playing Petone,’’ she said. ‘‘I was 13 years old and just this little tiny winger. The first time I touched the ball, I looked up and saw these Petone girls coming at me, so I booted the thing as far as I could.
‘‘I think that’s when my coach realised maybe I could kick, and my days as a first-five began.’’
Two weeks ago, 39-year-old Patelesio reached an incredible milestone for her beloved Norths, taking to Porirua Park again for her 300th game.
She walked out with her daughter through a guard of honour provided by the premier men’s team, and to a rousing reception from the grandstand.
Patelesio said she was overwhelmed by the occasion and fought back tears.
Not a full playing member these days, she is earning her coaching stripes with the team. But being told late last year by Norths stalwart Matt Rountree she was on 297 matches, Patelesio decided to go for it.
‘‘I’m not into numbers and accolades and I’m nowhere near an 80-minute player any more, but it was special to hit 300. The club has given me so much and I’m lucky.’’
Patelesio may have even played more than 300, but the records are spotty the further you go back.
She had one year off when her daughter was born seven years ago, but few injuries meant she has been a constant on the Norths teamsheet.
Patelesio represented Tokelau at volleyball and touch rugby, Wellington and Samoa at rugby and New Zealand at rugby league. But the former Holy Family School pupil and Bishop Viard College student said club rugby was, and still is, her first love.
She counts Vivian Rees, Riki Heimer and Tali Lilo as crucial influences, but said she has learnt something from every player and coach since she took the field in her teens.
‘‘The game itself has changed so much since I started – more technical and you don’t end up with as many ruck marks. But things like working together and having pride in the jersey – that never changes.’’
Dawn Patelesio has played so many games for Norths, she can’t recall how many club titles the team has won.