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The ‘JLo Show’ Reaches 200

Jason Love entering William Jones Park with his young family in support to play his 200th match for Wainuiomata this past Saturday against Petone. Photo: Andy McArthur. 

  • By Adam Julian

Jason Love (Te Āti Awa/Ngāti Poro) is an unapologetic original. So, when the veteran Wainuiomata rugby player was asked to describe himself, he invented his own word, “JLo Show.”

“You’ve got to be ready for the JLo Show. I’ll make a play out of anywhere. Why would I stop now? It’s all or nothing. Did I just do that? Snatch that intercept. Make that inspirational tackle. Score a try. Coaches have tried to contain me but without that off-the-cuff stuff, I can’t be me.”

“Who am I? Staunch Māori, loving father, Capital basketball coach, musician, fiery redhead, smart arse. I’m all that and everything else Mum has called me,” Love laughed.

Superior confidence and rapid-fire spontaneity are hallmarks of the “JLo Show” which to the end of 2023 had lasted 16 years, 199 premier games, and 77 tries.

Following strong form in the representative season for Wellington Māori, a 200th game for the Green & Blacks was a forgone conclusion until Love was dropped from the premier squad at the start of 2024.

“I expected to make the team, I’d always made the team,” Love said.

“Am I too old? Aren’t I good enough anymore? When I started thinking like that, I asked myself is it worth feeling like this.”

A 38-24 defeat to Poneke in a Hardham Cup semifinal wouldn’t have been a fitting conclusion for the mercurial outside back. Love had featured in the first Wainuiomata team to make a Jubilee Cup semifinal and final. He’s beaten every club at least once. Eden Monu intervened.

“We played in the Colts together. He asked me, how many times have you proved people wrong? I said, all the time. He said get on with it then,” Love reflected.

“I played a couple of reserve games, and my body was fine. I was humbled. When I knew I could mentally grind, I knew I could get back into the prems.”

On Saturday Love was summoned for Premier duty. His 200th game for Wainuiomata was against fierce rivals Petone on Old Timers’ Day at William Jones Park. He’s only the third player since 1946 to accomplish that feat.

The Villagers won the Darren Larsen Cup by 60-36, but the hosts didn’t disgrace themselves against a Petone side stacked with professional Hurricanes.

“It’s amazing to be 37 and still playing such high-quality rugby. There were Hurricanes, Samoan internationals, and All Blacks Sevens players everywhere you looked. I made some exciting runs and tackles, which was awesome,” Love said.

“On that try Petone got; well, I could see something spectacular but whoever threw that pass could see the same thing as me.

“Bro, the presentation of caps to the 150 gamers afterward is one of the most humbling things I’ve been a part of. It’s always been about the community, honouring those who’ve gone before us and giving back to those to come.”

Love was presented with this poster on Saturday evening after his 200th game.

Love coaches league, basketball, and rugby six days a week.

The son of Wainuiomata centurion Jorgen “Yogi” Rogers, Jason Love was brought up in Otaki for eight years. Mum Jeanine Love overcame drug and alcohol abuse which taught resilience and greater compassion for those struggling. He was later a case officer at Work and Income helping those unemployed secure employment.

Jason Love, with his dad Yogi and mum Jeanine.

Love attended St. Patrick’s College, Silverstream which was a stabilising influence, but his rugby wasn’t noteworthy. He only played one game for the First XV against St. Pat’s Town in 2004.

Love spent his first year out of school with Hutt Old Boys Marist Under-19, following his good mates the Sellers family to the Eagles. However, Dad was building something over the hill.

“Dad asked me to go to Wainui, but I was happy at Hutt. I asked, ‘How do I gain from leaving a place I love?’ Dad replied, ‘Trust me son I am building a real strong team at Wainui.’ One weekend, Wainui had a game and Hutt didn’t, so I played for Wainui. We won by 100 points, and I was sold.”

Glen Angus (Centurian/Wellington B), Tau Mamea (Wellington Lions), and Ben Tupuola (Twice Best & Fairest) were members of the same Colts team that became the first Wainuiomata side in a quarter of a century to make a Division I final.

“We played Petone who had been unbeaten for four years. They had a beast-forward pack, and we had a gun backline. Unfortunately, there was a hurricane on the day of the game. The wind was like 122km per hour. We wanted it to be cancelled, but Petone insisted we play. We lost, but started something bigger at the same time,” Love reflects.

Wainuiomata was whipped by MSP in Love’s premier debut in 2008.

“The first time I touched the ball they sent a high kick in my direction. I caught it just outside the 22 and thought ‘Phew, first job done’. Then I got smashed in a head high and blood pissed out of my nose like a broken gas canister.”

Love recovered to finish top-try scorer in the Hardham Cup. In 2009 Love scored a personal record 24 points in a 44-24 win against Johnsonville and was the second-highest try scorer in the Hardham Cup. In 2010 Wainuiomata won the Hardham Cup for the first time.

When Love was 23 his nose for the try line attracted interest from the Northampton Saints. The chance to play professionally in England was tempting, but his life had taken an unexpected twist.

“My wife Chontel Foley fell pregnant with my first boy Carter Jay-Love. I met Chontel when I was 15, and she is the love of my life. There was no way I was going to ditch her for England. We’ve had two daughters since, Maraea and Remi.”

Jason Love with his wife Chontel and family. 

Wainuiomata came of age in 2012 when they reached the Jubilee Cup semi-finals for the first time and Love was the top try scorer. In 2013, Love was the top try scorer in the Swindale Shield and played his 100th match against Hutt Old Boys Marist. In 2014 Wainuiomata made the Jubilee Cup final and was narrowly beaten by Hutt Old Boys Marist (11-14).

“Dion Waller brought the Jubilee Cup from Tawa and spoke to us in our clubrooms before the game. He told us that, like Tawa, Wainui is a small club that had come from nowhere. He told us that winning the Jubilee matters in the community. I was salivating at the sight of the trophy. That’s when it registered how far we had come as a club.

“We were devastated to lose but partied like we had won it anyway. We thought why not. We had beaten them in the season.”

Wainuiomata returned to the semis in 2016 with Love embarking on a sequence of five consecutive matches with a try. His 150th match was in a 40-42 loss to Marist St Pats in 2017. Māori All Black Billy Procter scored two tries for the Scarlets.

Wainuiomata made another Jubilee Cup final in 2019. Love was injured so he joined the last ever decider broadcast on Newstalk ZB.

“One night I was on the town and Dane Coles (All Black) approached me and asked, ‘Do you remember me?’ I hesitated not entirely sure what he was on about. He then told me he was the fullback in the Under-13 Otaki reps. I replied, ‘No way I thought I made it the furthest out of Otaki,'” Love laughed.

Love rated a 28-23 victory over Petone in 2020 where Trei Mu scored a try improbably chasing the last kick of the game before it went dead as one of his favourite wins. In the same game, he terrorised debutant touch judge Jack Trevella with his quick wit when he got a whiff of Jack’s Wellington College dux education and fully paid law scholarship to Otago University.

Love scored his favourite try against Norths, but he can’t remember the year.

“We were down by six points and behind our goalposts when the hooter sounded. John Monu got the ball and dummied four times, including an overhead Michael Jordon pump fake. Lima who used to play for us received it after 30 metres. I am unmarked on the outside screaming, ‘bro give me the ball.’ Lima was greedy and took it to halfway by which point the cover defence had drifted across.

“I eventually got the ball, stepped the blindside winger, and raced away, but I knew I had to score close to the posts to make the conversion easier. I got into the goal box stepped another defender, hurdled past the last one, and got it under the posts. It’s on YouTube if you don’t believe me. I felt so vain making a highlights package,” Love laughed.

But those highlights were created after hundreds of hours of practice and pain. On Saturday, alongside 16 other players, Love received a cap for reaching 150 games.

For the milestone of 200 games, Love was presented with a portrait by local artist Noel Hauwaho and a tewhatewha representing leadership, direction, working together, and strength designed by master carver Tiaki Puketapu who did the Welcome to Wainui carving.

Wainuiomata: 150 Caps

The caps were presented by former premier player and Samoan league and union international Earl Va’a (28 Tests, 174 points, 12 wins). Earl played in the 2003 Rugby World Cup. Educated at St Bernard’s College, Va’a won Wellington Secondary Schools Premierships with the First XV in 1988 and 1989. While with Petone, Va’a won the Jim Brown Memorial Medal as player of the final in the 2005 Jubilee Cup decider won by Petone 21-20 over Norths. In 2014 he coached Scots College First XV to their Wellington and only National Top Four title before becoming Wellington Lions head coach. His son TJ Va’a was the captain of Scots and played for the Wellington Lions. Current Wainuiomata women’s fullback Bille Va’a is Earl’s daughter. Earl is a Recreation, Sport and Play Manager for the Hutt City Council. The recipients of 150 caps were:

  • Gavin Halkett – 210
  • Justin Va’a – 171
  • Richard Foster – 154
  • Daniel Cherry – 152
  • Dion Lealofi – 158*
  • Gregory Lealofi – 183*
  • Steven Crilly – 173
  • Isaiah Mamea – 176
  • John Monu – 187
  • Mike Lealava’a – 151*
  • Teru Time – 193*
  • Jason Love – 200*

*Denotes, Active Player

Absent from Photo above:

  • Allan Parker – 220
  • Norm Fa’aliga – 152
  • Corey Draper – 153
  • Dave Skipper – 164 – Skipper’s cap was presented to his daughter and Melbourne Rebels player Chanelle Kohika-Skipper.

A Jason Love highlights video from 2011:

 

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