Ninety-year-old the oldest Coast player
Some people may know him as “the old fella who rides his bike around town in high-vis”, but 90-year-old Tuwhakairiora Kono Waihi is also Ngati Porou East Coast's oldest living player.
Kono was born in Waipiro Bay in 1931, the only son in 12 children. He made 12 first-class appearances between 1951 and 1957 as East Coast player #234.
He played wing for East Coast and the Rangitukia Rangers but said he stopped playing after he was given an ultimatum: his job working on the roads or playing rugby.
Kono was a machine operator and helped improve the Coast road. It was the only job he ever had before retiring in 1991.
“It was good pay in those days . . . they (the Government) wanted the road widened and straightened. The seal only went as far as Tolaga Bay.”
Kono said he was more of a defensive player than an attacking one, but the game was a lot different back then.
“Rugby in those days, if they were to carry on today, they'd all be red-carded . . . the rules have been made simpler.”
He still follows rugby — the local club competition and matches on TV. He says he supported Horouta but now that they have stopped playing in the Poverty Bay premier competition, he supports all the teams.
East Coast rugby is in the Waihi family's blood. Kono's father, Wallace Waihi, was a member of the original 1921 team that beat Poverty Bay 8-6, playing alongside other famous East Coast players of old such as Len Moeke.
Kono still travels up the Coast regularly and is attending the centenary celebrations this weekend.
He said that while he was proud to hold the record of the oldest living NPEC player, it is not the record he's really chasing.
“I'm more interested in being the oldest widower. It's the record I'm chasing.”
He still holds on to a news clipping that says the record for not remarrying as a widower is 54 years. His wife, Heni Mataroa Waihi, passed away 51 years ago.
He said the record is why he wears his “iconic” red socks, which symbolise the America's Cup.
“If I'm around for the next one (America's Cup), I can remove his record.”
For the time being, Kono is happiest on his bike, which he rides every day, rain, hail or shine.
“It keeps my balance and fitness. I've been riding my bike since I was in high school.”