Former All Black Pita Alatini “can’t wait” to compete in the rugby tournament at the World Masters Games 2017 and has made the rallying cry for players to join him.
The nimble-footed 17-times capped New Zealand international, who also plied his trade with four Super Rugby clubs during a distinguished career, retired from the professional games in 2012.
However, the following year he could not resist the attraction of putting his boots back on shortly after taking up his current role as director of rugby at the Pakuranga club in East Auckland and started to regularly turn out for the over 35s in the Presidents Grade.
“I was getting older and looking for something to compete at when I saw a bunch of ex-players in their 40s and 50s playing age-grade rugby, so as I still enjoy the game I decided to get involved,” explains Alatini, 39.
The midfield back admits he enjoys the variety of being involved in both competitive and more social games depending on the opposition, but admits as an ex-All Black he always has a target on his forehead.
“If they get a chance to smash you, they will but that is all part of it and I really don’t mind,” he adds.
As a regular age-group player he has fully embraced the grassroots nature of masters rugby and he fully intends to make the most of the World Masters Games 2017, which will coincidentally be staged at Lloyd Elsmore Park, the home ground of Pakuranga United Rugby Club. The club also played host earlier this year to an Auckland Rugby Union Presidents Grade team day as part of the World Masters Games 2017 rugby promotion with special guest, Games rugby ambassador Bryan BeeGee Williams on hand as a spectator and after match speaker.
Alatini plans to compete in the 40+ age division at the multi-sports extravaganza and the Tongan-born South Auckland raised player is relishing the prospect of featuring in a Games, which is expected to attract 25,000 athletes.
“I’ve heard about how big the event is going to be and I’m very excited to be a part of it,” he adds. “I can’t wait to see some new faces and meet people from teams from all around the world. Having it held right here in Pakuranga will be fantastic.”
Once the tournament starts he expects the old competitive juices to start flowing and he will be going all out for victory and has he not ruled out recruiting one or two former All Blacks which could form the backbone of a formidable team.
“I have a funny feeling that when we get closer to the event I’ll be sending the odd text message to rumble up the odd star name,” he adds. “We’ll just have to wait and see.”
Yet why would the former All Black encourage any other players to get involved in the event?
“For many guys rugby has been a massive part of their life and I just think to let it go when you are still capable of running around is such a waste,” he explains. “To play at World Masters Games is a great way to stay fit and there is also a great social side which allows you to stay in touch with friends.”