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42 is the perfect number for in-form No.8 Issac

“I thought he might have had the wrong number.”

That was the reaction from Tana Isaac when Wairarapa-Bush coach Reece Robinson rang to give him the good news of his selection in the Heartland
squad at the young age of 42.

“I was really, really surprised. I did not expect to be getting a call from the Wai-Bush coach, so yeah, I had a big grin on my face just because, like last year, I thought, hey, who knows if I get myself really fit and play some good rugby, maybe I’ll give myself a shot of being in the squad, but I did my Achilles in June, and that wrote off my season,” Isaac said.

“I thought that it might have been my last shot and didn’t think I would play rugby this year, but I set my sights on being fit enough and my leg strong enough to play rugby, but I thought maybe it’s time to retire then I thought
I may as well keep going and
play and I really enjoyed the season with the boys and to turn it around a bit from last year.”

Twenty-two years after Isaac played his last first-class game as a winger for Manawatu, a game in which he hobbled off with a grade three hamstring strain, and Robinson played for their opponents Hawke’s Bay, the now bruising Greytown No. 8 looks almost certain to become the oldest debutant for Wai-Bush since amalgamation in 1971.

However, it could be a hamstring injury once again that hobbles Isaac’s first-class dreams after he succumbed to a minor strain in the first half of the Chris ‘Moose’ Kapene Memorial Cup final between Greytown and Carterton, although he is “There are a few more steps before I become a debutant, but it’s just a privilege to be part of the squad, and there are a bunch of great players that I really respect, and there are some great players who didn’t make it in as well, but it’s just a privilege to have the opportunity to try and earn a spot once I get my body healthy.”

Motivation is not a problem for Isaac; although he says he gets injured a lot, holistically, rugby is good for his health.

“I work in IT, and this gets me up and gets me motivated to be active and get fit for when you go into battle and go chasing a championship.

“I just really enjoy playing alongside some great guys and doing the mahi, and I’ve learnt to enjoy training even if it’s cold and muddy, and it takes me away from day-to-day problems, and you just focus on the job in the front of you.”

Although Isaac has an extensive playing background, he pretty much gave rugby away and didn’t play seriously through much of his 20s, and it was younger brother Tavita, who got him back interested in the game after he returned from his OE in London, so he fronted for the club’s reserve side. It didn’t take long, though, before he got the call-up to the premier side and a move into the forwards in 2012.

“We were having a poor season, and we were struggling for numbers in the forwards, and I had been playing in the centres, so I told the coach at the time, Alby Matthews, I will jump into the forwards if you like and he chucked me into No. 8, and we went on to win the championship after having a really poor start to the season.”

This season was a similar scenario for Greytown, who, after a slow start, made the premier final only to fall short to Carterton 29-26 through a last-gasp penalty.

“Last year, we went from 10 years as semifinalists to near the bottom of the table, and I’m really stoked for our boys that we got stuck in, and by the end of it, we made the final, which was a big surprise to most people, and I thought the final was a game that fans would love to watch and it was an exciting way to end the season.”

Isaac is also thrilled that Robinson has been true to his word and rewarded players for their good club form for the Heartland campaign.

“It’s a massive call to make to put an old fella like me in the squad, but there’s a real good mix of experience, with guys who have played over 100 games, and some real great young talent coming through as well.

“It’s a squad I’m really excited to be part of, and there are a lot of players in there I’ve played against and have a lot of respect for, and it’s a privilege to be among them.”

The Wai-Bush squad are at a training camp at Castlepoint over the weekend. the team will play their first Heartland warm-up game against Manawatu Evegreens next Saturday. confident of playing a part.

“There are a few more steps before I become a debutant, but it’s just a privilege to be part of the squad, and there are a bunch of great players that I really respect, and there are some great players who didn’t make it in as well, but it’s just a privilege to have the opportunity to try and earn a spot once I get my body healthy.”

Motivation is not a problem for Isaac; although he says he gets injured a lot, holistically, rugby is good for his health.

“I work in IT, and this gets me up and gets me properly motivated to be active and get fit for when you go into battle and
go chasing a championship.

“I just really enjoy playing alongside some great guys and doing the mahi, and I’ve learnt to enjoy training even if it’s cold and muddy, and it takes me away from day-to-day problems, and you just focus on the job in the front of you.”

Although Isaac has an extensive playing background, he pretty much gave rugby away and didn’t play seriously through much of his 20s, and it was younger brother Tavita, who got him back interested in the game after he returned from his OE in London, so he fronted for the club’s reserve side. It didn’t take long, though, before he got the call-up to the premier side and a move into the forwards in 2012.

“We were having a poor season, and we were struggling for numbers in the forwards, and I had been playing in the centres, so I told the coach at the time, Alby Matthews, I will jump into the forwards if you like and he chucked me into No. 8, and we went on to win the championship after having a really poor start to the season.”

This season was a similar scenario for Greytown, who, after a slow start, made the premier final only to fall short to Carterton 29-26 through a last-gasp penalty.

“Last year, we went from 10 years as semifinalists to near the bottom of the table, and I’m really stoked for our boys that we got stuck in, and by the end of it, we made the final, which was a big surprise to most people.

“I thought the final was a game that fans would love to watch and it was an exciting way to end the season.”

Isaac is also thrilled that Robinson has been true to his word and rewarded players for their good club form for the Heartland campaign.

“It’s a massive call to make to put an old fella like me in the squad, but there’s a real good mix of experience, with guys who have played over 100 games, and some real great young talent coming through as well.

“It’s a squad I’m really excited to be part of, and there are a lot of players in there I’ve played against and have a lot of respect for, and it’s a privilege to be among them.”

The Wai-Bush squad are at a training camp at Castlepoint over the weekend. the team will play their first Heartland warm-up game against Manawatu Evegreens next Saturday.

Chris Cogdale
Chris Cogdale
Chris “Coggie” Cogdale has extensive knowledge of sport in Wairarapa having covered it for more than 30 years, including radio for 28 years. He has been the sports guru at the Wairarapa Times-Age since 2019.

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