AWARD-WINNING KNIGHT KEEPS EYES ON THE TEAM PRIZE
Riccarton Knights legend Shane Tamatea carried off Canterbury Rugby League’s highest individual honour at the annual Senior Prize-giving held at Hornby Workingmen’s Club on Friday night, but it’s the desire for another premiership that is set to extend his senior career to two decades.
Nevertheless, the 37-year-old was humbled to named the 2018 CRL Sportsperson of the Year.
“Obviously there’s a lot of really good players and sportspeople within our sport that could get this award,” Tamatea said.
“But it’s a real honour for me having played the game for a while and to be recognised like that.”
Tamatea believes the award was partly an acknowledgement of the work he does around his club, as well as his outstanding efforts on the field.
“We’re only a small club so I try and get our club out there, I suppose, and make people feel welcome. Just do what I can to help really.”
The front-rower entered rarefied air in 2016 when he brought up 250 appearances for Riccarton. But in 2017 it appeared his time at Massetti Cup level had come to an end – though his semi-retirement didn’t last long, eventually playing a handful of games for the Knights premiers.
“Last year I stepped back and player-coached the ‘Bs’ – I enjoyed it, but I still felt I had that passion to play at premier level,” he explained.
“During (the 2018) pre-season I was up in the air but I decided to just have a go and keep going.”
Only fellow club stalwart Justin Lynch played more games for the Knights premiers than Tamatea this year as the injury-hit side finished last in the Massetti Cup.
So will the ironman go around again in 2019?
“Most definitely. After the season we had this year, I couldn’t leave on that,” Tamatea enthused.
“I’ll try and give it another dig next year and see what happens.”
Debuting in 2000, Tamatea will line up for his 20th CRL premiership season next year. To put that achievement in perspective, Cronulla icon Paul Gallen will play a record-breaking 19th season in the NRL in 2019.
There’s also the looming landmark of 300 games for the Knights on the horizon for Tamatea.
“I’ve got a few games to go, I might get them in next year. That would be a pretty cool milestone to have – but I’d rather win a premiership than anything else.”
Tamatea’s career was in its relative infancy when he starred in Riccarton’s watershed 54-14 grand final triumph over Linwood in 2002 – the club’s maiden premier title – and the Knights’ 33-14 defeat of the Keas in the ’04 decider.
While bringing more silverware back to Riccarton remains the ultimate goal, Tamatea embodies the Knights’ ethos of being guided by an overall principle of acceptance and understanding that helps them create a culture of respect, equality and inclusiveness, both on and off the field.
“We all like to win, but not everyone gets that opportunity sometimes,” he said.
“The best you can do is make your environment around your clubrooms nice to be around with some good people, so you can actually enjoy playing.”