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Premier ton up this weekend for Tane McMillan-Parata

Tane McMillan-Parata playing against Wainuiomata in their 2022 Swindale Shield match at William Jones Park. PHOTO: T-Paul Gale.

  • By Steven White

Paremata-Plimmerton captain Tane McMillan-Parata has been playing for his home club for almost a decade and a half and is loving his rugby as much as ever.

“Definitely last year and this season have been my most enjoyable rugby with the club, getting a taste of winning at the top end,” he said. “You want to be at the pinnacle and say you have been there and done it.”

“It’s good to have an all-round team. We haven’t always had that luxury in the past or been consistent, and the balance and culture is just right at the moment.”

This Saturday, McMillan-Parata, one of four rugby playing brothers, brings up his 100th Premier grade cap for the Hammerheads, the team he has been part of continuously throughout his Wellington club rugby career aside from a couple of spells off with injury.

The first of the loose forward’s 99 Premier matches to date was in round one of the 2014 Hardham Cup, a 13-31 loss to the Wellington Axemen. But he had been playing for the club’s top team in the old Senior 1 grade for a few seasons prior to that.

“My first game for the Senior 1s was against Rimutaka at Trentham when they were doing quite well.”

That was in 2011 and he subsequently had a couple of spells out with injury, most notably in 2019. “I had a herniated disc, which happened whilst playing for Wellington Maori in 2018 and I had back surgery and had the following year off.”

A check with the club’s statistician has him sitting on 167 total appearances for the side. Recently retired flanker Shane Hedges has the official club record 236 caps (not counting Ryan McLean whose record is inconclusive), while Tane’s current teammate and wing Blake Neve has played 212 games and counting.

In the current squad, Tane is joined by fellow forward Alex Hinchliffe and Neve as players who have been there since the start of their Premier journey in 2014.

“Blake is a little bit older than me, we have been through our little highs and our big lows together, which is cool. Alex has come through from Colts and dibbled and dabbled a bit but has come through again and is enjoying his rugby as well.”

Tane with ball in hand and Blake Neve in support in their recent match against Poneke at Ngati Toa Domain. Paremata-Plimmerton won 39-3.

Tane is back captaining Paremata-Plimmerton this year, a role he enjoys, and was doing in 2014 when the team was first back in the Hardham Cup.

“I have been asked to take the reins this year, but in saying that we have got a good culture, it is not really one person in charge, we have got good depth around us.”

Last year’s captain James Corcoran stepped down for family reasons but is also out with injury after breaking his wrist at training after the first game.

“At pre-season this past summer coach Gerrard Fasavalu assembled a new captaincy team, which includes [No. 8] Luke Omeri and [five-eighths] Dale Sabbagh. We are not all very vocal, some of us just like to go out there and work hard.”

McMillan-Parata is just that type of player that garners respect as a leader on the field with his head-down, follow-me attitude. He has also played variously in the 6, 7 or 8 jerseys, depending where it suits the needs of the team.

Paremata-Plimmerton sit third on the Swindale Shield table through the first five rounds of 2023, ahead of their trip through the Haywards roadworks to face Avalon on Saturday.

As well as assembling a super-competitive team, Paremata-Plimmerton also has fantastic support when playing at home.

“Ronnie’s corner is slowly growing, our boys loving being down there but I don’t know about the touchies and the refs and the opposition players! It’s all good humour and I hope we are pretty respectful. It’s the general atmosphere right around the ground, it is not like when the opposition used to come and fill our field, it is pretty full already.”

Ronnie’s Corner in the southwestern section of Ngati Toa is so named after Ronnie Cooper, a former legendary Senior 1 and 2 player. In recent years he has run the second team.

All four McMillan-Parata brothers have played Premier rugby for the club.

Taiaroa is the oldest, then there’s Api two years his junior, then another two years to the twins Tane and Kewa.

Taiaroa is currently away a lot working in Taranaki but has still been playing when he is back, and Kewa has been playing for the Paremata-Plimmerton Punters Reserve Grade team – alongside other recent Premier players such as Jonathan Sabo, Michael Martinez and Ryan Petersen – while Api is currently not playing.

“Everyone is taking the social life; they could probably still play with us but have just picked other life priorities at the moment with work and family. Some of us are still getting an ear-full at home and carrying on.

“Api has yet to be seen this year, but he manages to always come through at the end, when bodies are sore and we need some energy! He’s an instant club favourite.”

All four brothers are tradesmen. Tane and Taiaroa are electricians, Api is a builder and Kewa is a plumber.

The brothers are from the Poirua Basin, but the youngest three attended Kapiti College where their father had attended.

“Kewa and I, along with a couple of other noted club players such as HOBM’s Brandyn Laursen took Kapiti College to the First XV Premiership in 2009.”

The four brothers, as pictured in a previous story with them in 2014.

Some other younger current members of the Hammerheads club also attended Kapiti College, such as the Northcott brothers, Stanley (currently overseas), Ted and Louis.

Api also played for Poneke between 2017-19, a club Tane says they always have tough battles against and much in common with in terms of culture.

“Poneke were our first Premier scalp, when they came down to Hardham in 2015 [12-8]. They have always been a fun team to play because you can be leading heading into the final few minutes but they don’t stop until the final whistle so they can take it from you at the end.”

Api joining Poneke helped ignite the rivalry.

“There’s a good mix with the culture and mindset with us and the town boys. Some of our guys also play with John Jackson in the Eastern Suburbs Bulldogs Australian Rules team in the summer.”

Nick Roberston, who made his 100th Premier start for Poneke on Saturday, also works as a builder with Api.

What about other highlights? “Every game is a highlight when you can play next week, especially when you are getting to the twilight of your career!”

Swindale Shield Round 6, Avalon Wolves v Paremata-Plimmerton, Fraser Park 2.45pm.

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