I only really got into rugby when I lived in New Zealand. Yeah, sure I played it as a gangly schoolboy, but I never really appreciated the finer details of the sport until I saw it played by the All Blacks in the flesh. I remember watching Jonah Lomu one rainy night in 1999 at North Harbour as the All Blacks trounced Manu Samoa, and from that point onwards I was hooked. By the way, despite Manu Samoa's 71 - 13 loss, that was the night Manu Samoa became a favourite of mine. They played with determination and conviction despite the circumstances and the fans were fantastic. Everyone was there to enjoy themselves. Every try was cheered by both sets of supporters.
I've had a number of “favourite” players over the years and Piri Awahou Tihou Weepu is definitely one of them. I love his maverick approach to life. He's only a young lad, but he seems well grounded and in charge of his destiny. I was surprised to learn that Piri doesn't read books. He talks about having a short attention-span, but I get that he'd rather be out there doing it rather than reading about it. Our Piri is what you might call a doer!
|The Mystery of Piri Weepu|
As you'd imagine, there is a lot said about the 2011 Rugby World Cup and the part that Piri played in helping the All Blacks to lift the Webb Ellis Cup. I think it was that tournament that most cemented Piri's place in the hearts of the NZ public. He embodied that magic spark that was missing from earlier campaigns. For me he single-handedly lifted a technically brilliant team and made them epic! That's not to belittle any of the the other outstanding performances (of which there were many). As anyone who watches football (soccer) knows, it is often the free spirits like the Gazzas and Maradonas of the world that are needed to elevate a team.
|NZ Maori - Inside Backs|
Piri Weepu & David Hill
I think the first time that I really took notice of Piri was in the 2005 defeat of the Lions by NZ Maori. He didn't get on the score-sheet that day, but he battled like a trooper in what turned out to be a real arm-wrestle of a match. Reading Piri's recollections of the game inspired me to go back and re-watch the match. Fantastic stuff! That whole tour will be one Lions fans will be wanting to forget. For Piri this particular match was a chance to honour his Maori heritage and what a way to do it with the first ever victory by the NZ Maori over the Lions. I hadn't realised that the rule stipulating that NZ Maori players had to be bona fide Maori is a fairly new one. Or at least it wasn't enforced historically.
Piri talks about his childhood and life growing up in the shadows of greats like Tana Umaga, another Wainuiomata god. And like Tana it was League he really wanted to play. Union got its claws into both of them and well, the rest is history.
Family is a big theme of the book. It is obvious that Piri relies a lot on his mum and dad, and brother Billy as much as he relies upon his adopted family of team mates. I love that he shared his moment of success in the World Cup with his daughters, carrying them about the pitch. It's a fantastic reminder to all of us of the important things in life.
|Remember this? I tried to start a campaign of "Where's Dan Carter"|
following the theft of the Daniel Carter doll from a yarn bombing"exhibit"
in Devonport in 2011. My idea never took off, but the whole incident proved
to be prophetic in as much as it was the real Dan Carter's disappearance
(through injury) that allowed Piri the chance to shine in the World Cup.
There's mention of the the broken leg and the falling out at Piris beloved Hurricanes which sent him to the Blues. And at the end Piri speculates on what the future might hold for him. Knowing Piri as I do having read this book, I reckon the future is bright. He can do whatever he wants and whatever he does is going to be okay... with everyone.
One last thing. I chuckled at a chapter where Piri talks about meeting the Queen. As he's nervously waiting for his moment, he's racking his brains wondering what to do. Here's what you should have done mate!
|"Pucker up Liz!"|