Hutt Old Boys Marist No. 8 Lise Soloa helps set up a try in his team’s recent win over Marist St Pat’s. On Saturday he played his 100th Premier club rugby match for the Eagles.
- By Steven White
With a young family and busy life, Lise Soloa wasn’t sure whether he would play club rugby in 2023, after returning to Wellington from a year living in Auckland and playing for the famous Ponsonby club.
But after a chat with a couple of other more experienced Hutt Old Boys Marist Eagles players in similar positions, it didn’t take much to re-connect with his former club.
“It was apparent in the off-season that the Eagles had lost some players,” HOBM’s talisman No. 8 told Club Rugby this week, “so a few of us such as myself and Brandyn Laursen got together and said we will come back and help the new players and give it our best crack and see how it goes from there.”
Up until three weeks ago, it wasn’t going well. But since round six the Eagles have won three matches in succession including two in contrasting fashion in the eastern suburbs.
This past Saturday Soloa played his 100th Premier match for his home club and celebrated on the field by scoring two tries in their 24-14 win over Poneke on the Kilbirnie Park club’s Old Timers’ Day.
“It was good to score two tries – my halfback said to me if there’s an opportunity to go for it then do so.
“Because it was raining it was a forwards dominated game so I was able to be involved quite a bit from No. 8.”
The previous week in bright sunshine, HOBM ran amok against Marist St Pat’s in a 59-24 win.
“MSP are a very good team and every time we play them it is always close, but it was just one of those things that happens on a good day. Everything just went our way, even the bounce of the ball, and the boys went to a new level.”
“It was needed, because we had a pretty slow start to the season.”
That included three straight defeats to start the campaign: a 16-15 loss to Wainuiomata, a 7-37 defeat to Old Boys University and a 7-42 loss to Johnsonville.
“There were a few injuries, but there are also a lot of young players, and, although we are not alone in this regard, we are going through a re-building phase and a lot of young guys have been exposed to Premier rugby and it takes time to build those connections.”
A handful of players are also playing rugby league this year, such as Lise’s first cousin and strike wing Fereti.
With these two recent wins in Kilbirnie and the 48-35 win over the Upper Hutt Rams the week before, the Eagles head into this weekend’s ninth round sitting ninth.
This weekend, the Eagles return home to the ‘Nest’ to host Oriental-Rongotai for the Bondy Memorial Cup, themselves coming off two losses at home and sitting seventh.
Soloa made his HOBM Premier debut in 2013 and won the Jubilee Cup with them the following year and also played for them in 2015-2019, before moving to Norths in 2020.
Living in Whitby, he also moved to Norths for a change at the invitation of then coach Gerrard Fasavalu (now head coach with competition leaders Paremata-Plimmerton).
The 2020 season was delayed until mid-year because of Covid – then injury struck.
“I snapped my Achilles in my second game for Norths. That was against OBU at Nairnville Park. I didn’t even feel it go, I just got tackled and then I got back up and I thought that feels weird and I played for another few minutes. Our physio came on and I said look I don’t know if I have sprained my ankle, and she said no, you have done your Achilles.”
This sidelined him for almost a year and his next match for Norths was midway through the following year’s Swindale Shield. “My first game back was against Wainuiomata and then we played HOBM at the Nest right after that. We beat them, but regardless of the result that was special as a lot of my best mates were still there and it is my family club.”
He had left HOBM sitting on 95 caps, which he didn’t realise until he left, so his 100th Premier match overall would have been in a 20-10 win for Norths over the Upper Hutt Rams in June 2021.
Soloa and his wife moved to Auckland at the end of 2021, and he joined Ponsonby for last year’s club rugby season. “We made it to the final at Eden Park but lost the decider to Manukau Rovers.”
Soloa says reaching the final with Ponsonby, along with winning the 2014 Jubilee Cup with HOBM and running out for his 100th match this past Saturday rank as highlights in an almost decade-long Premier career.
Returning to HOBM, he is not looking too far beyond this season as far as the future goes, with a young family to focus on outside of the demands of Premier rugby. Particularly as he is also back captaining the side at the moment in the temporary absence of season captain Jordan Gillies who has been out with a head knock in recent weeks.
“As I told my wife upon returning to the Eagles, I just want to hone in and play this year back at HOBM and do the best I can with the group we have this year.”
One gets the feeling that while he might be the near the end of his Premier career, he will be back at the Hutt Rec in future years playing for other teams and always supporting the top side.
Hutt Old Boys Marist v Oriental-Rongotai for the Bondy Memorial Cup, Hutt Recreation Ground, Saturday 2.45pm.