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They’re Legends and they have the medals to prove it

June 2021

What started nearly 30 years ago as a way to help Flaxmere rugby players get fit has just kept on growing.

Basketball is becoming increasingly popular across the globe, not least in Flaxmere, but for some locals blasting around the court has been going on for decades.

At a celebration of the FlaxRock Basketball Legends’ 27 years at the Flaxmere Community Centre this month [June 19], today’s players remembered their court mates who had passed, shared laughs and stories, and unveiled a permanent reminder in the centre’s foyer, before heading onto the court.

‘Original’ Raana Walker said it started from a need to get MAC club rugby players moving.

“In the gym they were always on the weights but they didn’t like the cardio or fitness characteristic, so we started basketball games to get them running around. It looked like a rugby game but on a basketball court . . . A lot of fun and laughter.”

Thirty years on, while the originals have given up rugby, very many of them are still on court, joined by the next generation following in their dads’ footsteps, and a contingent of other locals keen to take part.

Three mornings a week between 12 and 30 men, women and teens, rock up to the community centre at 6am for a session before they head off to school or work.

The youngest player is 15, and a 70-plus year old has just joined the ranks.

The club is all about whakawhanaungatanga; looking after one another and the community.

A big part of that is encouraging people to keep healthy by being physically active, doing something they enjoy.

Court culture is ‘pretty fast physical and intense,” says Raana. “We put ourselves through the wringer, definitely,. We have created a rule - first team to score five baskets stays on the court. The defence player calls the fouls, not the offensive player.

If you are fortunate to walk away with your shirt still in one piece, you have certainly held your ground. This culture has created stronger leadership on the court and off.

“As for the younger members, our Flaxmere original members ensure they embrace the culture, and create and develop their skills as team players.”

Many past and present players had gone on to represent Hawke’s Bay and New Zealand in their chosen sports, including rugby, touch, netball, or rugby league, as well as being selected for New Zealand age group representative basketball teams, the Hawks, and the Tall Blacks and Tall Ferns.

And the older ones are no slouches on the competitive court either. Since 2015 they have entered a mixed masters’ team in the National Maori Basketball Tournament, and out of those six years have brought home five gold medals. Now, that’s worth all those early mornings!

Roll call

The Originals:

Raana Walker

Winiata Smiler

Elliot Hawea

Traci Tuimaseve

Junior Mitchell

Paora Winitana

Shane Nikora

Rikki Te Kira

Jared Gallagher

Albert Ellis

Noel Morris

Taina Rarere

Phillip Smiler

Wati Smiler

Wally Archer

In Memory of:

Augie Kohu

Moapi Uelese

Robin Hereaka

Thomas Coromandel

Warren (Porky) Mareikura

Paul Gemmell


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