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The Haka is a common fixture in the International sporting arena today. Interpreted as a war dance, the Haka (Ha = breath, Ka = to ignite) is a way to “ignite the breath, energise the body and inspire the spirit”�, to prepare the body, mind and soul for the upcoming battle. Many have had the prestigious honour of leading the Kiwis Haka but none more awe-inspiring and somewhat fearsome, than Tawera Nikau. ‘T', in full cry, with his mullet flying, eyes bulging and tongue protruding, could make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end and this was before the ensuing battle had even begun. Unfortunately, due to a feud with Richie Blackmore stemming from a dispute between their wives, Nikau's career with the Kiwis came to an abrupt end in 1997 after donning the black jersey on 19 occasions between 1989-97 and, apart from an impromptu Haka in the shed after Melbourne's 1999 Grand Final win, we were only to see Nikau lead the Haka in the sporting arena again, during the World Cup (2000) as Captain of the Aotearoa Maori side.
Nikau came from humble beginnings, playing senior league in the Waikato and for Otahuhu before heading to York, Sheffield and then signing with Castleford. Earmarked early on as a player with talent and somewhat brutal in his attitude on the field, he was soon signed by Cronulla and then Melbourne before finishing his career at Warrington. The rumblings of problems with his manager, a harsh negotiator and sometimes demanding individual plagued his career but Nikau stood by his manager and attributes his success to her tough, no nonsense attitude. A hard-nosed negotiator in the boardroom, a loving wife and mother in the home, he once described her during a documentary. Nikau's manager was his wife, Letitia. On the outside, a semblance of toughness, on the inside a somewhat different picture emerged, for Letitia Nikau was brought home, to be laid to rest with her Whanau after committing suicide in April 2001. The news rocked the League community as pictures of Tawera, flanked by his children Heaven-Leigh and Tyme-Kane, grieving by their wife and Mothers graveside, were beamed around the world.
While this tragedy would have broken the spirit of some Men, Nikau forged on, returning home at the end of 2001 and settling in his hometown of Huntly, a small town characterised by high unemployment, low education and income levels and a rising problem with the local youth brought about by the lack of opportunities available to them in the small community. Nikau set about forming a Youth Academy, a place where youth could be taught life skills and job training, he gives his time to many youth sporting events, has became a motivational speaker, completed a Diploma in Tertiary teaching and began studying towards a Bachelor of Education, coached league and opened a bakery in Huntly. He is also in the process of setting up a boxing academy in his hometown, a result of his involvement in the Yellow Ribbon ‘Fight for Life' a charity for which he has recently become patron of�.
Nikau had been recruited to fight one of AFL's hard men in this year's Trans-Tasman ‘Fight for Life' after convincingly beating Peter Fatialofa in last year's Union v League match ups for the charity, when he collided with an oncoming car riding his Harley on July 1st. Word filtered through that he had fractured his femur and wouldn't be able to fight. Ensuing complications initiated by a blood clot meant that Nikau lost his leg below the knee on July 30th. Once again, the league community has been rocked and Nikau could be forgiven for lying down but, in an exclusive interview only 2 days later, he stated that he didn't want sympathy, just some time with his family to get on with things and was already talking about competing at the Para Olympics once his prosthesis is fitted and his intensive therapy is complete. That fighting spirit, shown on the league field and following the loss of his wife is evident. He now has a personal Haka to perform, to prepare his mind, body and spirit for this new battle and there's no doubting that Nikau will rise above this injustice with the same strong-willed determination that he has shown throughout his life. Kia Kaha Tawera. References: 1)http://www.tu.co.nz/haka.htm 2)http://www.teamone.co.nz/scripts/07_Team_One_Facilitators.htm
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