Tana UmagaThe Wellington Lions beat Manawatu 37 to 7 at the Cake Tin tonight – but I wasn’t there for the game – I was there to farewell Tana Umaga, playing his 100th game for Wellington.

In a lack lustre game that Wellington should have won by a bigger margin Tana played with his usual flair, showing signs of brilliance, never the try maker but always in support.

Less than 20,000 people turned up to see this game…a disappointing turnout but perhaps kept at home by the cold blustery wind and rain.

Tana has been incredibly important to rugby in New Zealand. My boys think he’s amazing, Sugar thinks he’s amazing, I think he’s amazing – and we aren’t a typical rugby loving family. To my mind he has so much more dignity and humility than any other All Black Captain.

While we were there to see him off I do have to say to Wellington Rugby – “Get your bloody act together!” The after match celebration was abysmally organised.

  • The press hounded Tana obstructing all views of the man from the crowd. Where were the minders to move the press back?
  • Half of the 20,000 crowd left without being told the presentations would be happening at the southend of the stadium. Why didn’t they give us warning that it was going to happen then, and why didn’t they do it straight away when the rest of the crowd were still there?

We caught Tana’s speech on the TV’s in the concourse on our way out of the grounds. He choked up when he talked of the crowd support he has always received in Wellington and how he loved the stadium – and then he said something I could not imagine any other ex-All Black Captain saying – it went something like this:

“I have always played hard on the rugby field, but I have always returned home to love my children and my wife…”

In the current climate they were heartfelt, and genuine words. They weren’t said because someone had told him to say it – they weren’t said because he had an obligation to sponsors – they were said by a man who is for all people.

Tana, we’ll miss you. Come back and coach the All Blacks – would you?

2 thoughts on “So long Tana”

  1. A truly great player. And a man who will tell you of the great welcome he received not to long ago in Ireland. What a pity he left a stain on his career with his part in the deadly spear tackle on Brian O’Driscoll which might not only have ended his career, but might have put him in a wheelchair. And what a pity too, he wasn’t man enough to admit what he did. Forever a stain on an otherwise magnificent career.

  2. Thanks for your comments. You’re obviously an Irishman – New Zealander’s see the spear tackle incident differently. We ‘choose’ only to remember the good. This from Wikipedia:

    “In a test match against Wales on June 21, 2003, Welsh captain Colin Charvis was knocked out in a tackle from All Blacks forward Jerry Collins. Umaga stopped playing despite his team being in an attacking position; to check that Charvis had not swallowed his mouthguard. He placed him in the recovery position and for this act, the Council of the International Fair Play Committee awarded Umaga the International Pierre de Coubertin Trophy. A prestigious award for outstanding sportsmanship (named for Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Games),[22] the first New Zealander ever to receive the award.[23] The Welsh Rugby Union also presented him with a figurine to honour the display of sportsmanship.”

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