New captain humbled by haka
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.