Community heroes Alex Phillips and Selina Heke have kept the Kihikihi Rugby Sports Club alive, says junior delegate Tawhiri Gavin.
Alex became the club’s chair more than a decade ago, but he returned to his position in late 2020 to revitalise it, after standing down for some years.
In the time Alex wasn’t chair, the club lost its liquor licence and it “fell into a real bad shape,” Tawhiri said.
Alex’s position is interim. “I don’t want to be at the helm, it’s not about that, I just want to make our club better,” he said
In 2020, the club was only running one team, which was Tawhiri’s 11s. Following Alex’s return, the club now operates seven teams. They have also reacquired their liquor license, thanks to some hard work put in by Selina.
Tawhiri says Alex and Selina have spearheaded most of the club’s development. Undertaking maintenance, community engagement, and remedial work. He says that a lot of their work has been unseen and unrecognised.
Alex says the club’s to-do list is long and ongoing. Currently they’re replacing the ceiling, and then they will be updating the club room and kitchen, as well as re-framing photos. Purchasing a ride on lawnmower is somewhere on the list too.
“I’m trying my best to keep our club going, not only for me, but for the people who have been and gone. I don’t want it to close down, it doesn’t need to,” Alex said.
One of Alex’s most memorable moments at the club was in 2016, when the club held its 130th jubilee. Past and present members came together to celebrate it and played rugby with and against each other.
Alex was first acquainted with the club in 1994, when the late Eddie Ratima “gums” was chair. He was just a “young fella” at the time playing rugby for the men’s team. When he joined, Selina was playing for the woman’s team and her father, Owen, played and coached for the club.
It is where Selina and Alex first met. The pair are now married and their children, Tiara 19, and Dylan 23, have played for the club as well.
The Chiefs’ Chyna and Carla Hohepa have also played for and still support the club, as well as their parents, Selwyn and Debbie. Chyna coaches the women’s team alongside Alex.
Alex says the support from Selina and their community has been amazing, and the goal now is to increase the club’s activity, and to maintain the support that they’ve been getting.