Ken ‘Mutton’ Aburn first pulled on a senior Tuhirangi rugby jersey in 1983.
On Saturday, the 59-year-old farmer played his 500th game for the North Island’s southernmost club when he took the field at Pirinoa against close rivals Martinborough in a Whataboutu Senior Reserve game.
Aburn’s connection with Tuhirangi began on a preseason trip to Marlborough, and it was on one of those South Island trips when he picked up his nickname.
“We went on a preseason trip down to Nelson about 1986 and went around the Sounds, and we stopped at one of those chateaus. I was a bit hungry, and they brought
some mutton around, and I must have grabbed a plate and got the name then,” Aburn said.
“I managed to lose it for quite a while, but Iain Durry came back to the club, and he started it up again, and it’s stuck ever since.”
Initially a loose forward, Aburn said he gave that up about 20 years ago and now plays lock, although he doesn’t get as much playing time as he used to.
“I’m not playing too much. I normally get about 10 minutes, but me and ‘Tora’ [prop Alastair Boyne who he reckons is a bit older] had to play 80 minutes in the first game of the year against Gladstone, and that
was quite cool because a lot of our guys were at a wedding and we only had the bare 15 players.”
Tuhirangi easily won Saturday’s game over Martinborough 69-0 and finished at the head of table to set up a home quarterfinal against the same opponents this Saturday.
Aburn was cautious about the “sky blue and white’s” chances of winning their second straight championship, although he rates the team among the best he has played in.
“Our top team is pretty good, and when we played [Masterton] Red Star, we were real good, but we have to wait and see.
“We’ve stuffed up quite a few times at the last hurdle, and it took us quite a while to get to the final. We’d be winning
it for the year and then lose
it in the semifinal.”
Aburn, who is also a life member, has many fond memories of playing for his beloved Tuihirangi for over 40 years, but one, in particular, stands out.
“Playing with my son Daniel a few years ago. He left about three years ago, but I played a few games with him, and that was pretty special. In one game, we had three fathers and sons playing for the last 10 minutes.”
Aburn has no intention of hanging up his boots, saying he will continue playing as long as his health stays fine.