New cap­tain hum­bled by haka

Marlborough Express - - FRONT PAGE -

New Ki­wis cap­tain Dallin Watene-zelez­niak was hum­bled by a haka from wha¯ nau and friends, af­ter lead­ing his team to an up­set rugby league test win over Aus­tralia.

The Pen­rith Pan­thers star went to the side­line at Mt Smart Sta­dium on Satur­day night to ap­plaud his sup­port­ers and was treated to a spon­ta­neous haka, as spir­ited as the Ki­wis’ pre-match ren­di­tion.

The Ki­wis’ 26-24 vic­tory came 81 years af­ter Watene-zelez­niak’s great­grand­fa­ther, Puti Tipene (Steve) Watene, led the Ki­wis to a 16-15 win over Aus­tralia in Auck­land in 1937.

Like his great grand­son, Watene – usu­ally a loose for­ward – played full­back that day.

Tipene Watene was the first Ma¯ ori to cap­tain the Ki­wis and his great grand­son was proud to be fol­low­ing in his foot­steps.

‘‘I think he [great grand­fa­ther] is smil­ing down at me at the mo­ment. I think he had a part in this,’’ Watenezelez­niak said in the lead-up to Satur­day’s test.

‘‘So I am very priv­i­leged to carry his blood in­side me and I guess rep­re­sent him.’’

Watene-zelez­niak led by ex­am­ple as the Ki­wis held off a fast-fin­ish­ing Aus­tralia for their first win since 2016.

The 23-year-old said af­ter the fi­nal whis­tle that the vic­tory was ‘‘def­i­nitely some­thing I’ll re­mem­ber for the rest of my life and be able to tell my kids, and maybe my grand­kids one day.’’

Watene-zelez­niak is is one of the Ki­wis’ more youth­ful cap­tains, al­though the youngest re­mains cur­rent War­riors coach Stephen Kear­ney, who was 21 years, 148 days, when he led the Ki­wis in the third test against Great Bri­tain in 1993.

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