Stallions win the Dave Ahu Memorial
For the first time in 10 years, the Waengapu Stallions have won Gisborne Tairawhiti Rugby League's Dave Ahu Memorial Trophy.
After forming the team 10 years ago with his brother-in-law Charlie Kepa and his sister Daphne Kepa-Casey, Jay Casey said it was an emotional way to end a fantastic season for the team.
Having coming close several times before but falling short at the final hurdle, he said they weren't going to be denied this year.
The team this year had added motivation, playing in memory of their late captain Nesta Turnbull and former players Steven Maynard and Sione Halafihi, Casey said.
“We put it on the line for him, the win was dedicated to Nesta.”
With the team having captain Blake Beard named the competition's forward of the year, Henry Kepa named back of the year and Xavier Bartlett named player of the year, this would be their season.
However, it wasn't without drama. The Stallions nearly gave away an 18-point lead in the final 15 minutes of the game as the Paikea Whalers ran in three late tries.
Paikea were able to convert only one of their tries, and the Stallions held a four-point lead with minutes to play.
An unconventional short kick-off caught the Whalers off-guard and the Stallions stole possession, held on for their final set of six tackles and scored on the hooter to win 34-24.
Casey said it was special to see such a great group of guys walk away from their season successful.
After losing their last two regular-season games, he said the team had to dig deep and show their passion for the club to come out with their first victorious season.
“It was as hard as we thought it would be.”
The Gisborne Tairawhiti Rugby League season started with its annual Nate Miller Memorial Tournament.
Miller, a talented and passionate league player with a promising future in the game, passed away in 2019 in a forestry accident near Tolaga Bay.
This year New Zealand Rugby League representatives helped upskill local coaches, while local referees completed a course in conjunction with Auckland Rugby League members.