Rugby volunteer with legend status dies

Monday, Aug 30 2021

Rugby volunteer with legend status dies

Will Johnston

Rugby’s sidelines around Taranaki will never be the same again, especially at Tukapa.

Described as a legend by many in the rugby fraternity, Tukapa’s long serving volunteer Rangi Komene died on Sunday morning after a battle with cancer. He was 66.

Primarily known for his water carrying duties for the premier team – among many roles – he was also a member of the West End Bowling Club and involved in softball.

Komene was born into a large family on April 3, 1955, to George Komene and Rachel Okeroa. He was adopted into the Rangipunga whanau.

He attended Van Asch Deaf Education Centre in Christchurch until 1971. He worked at the Royal Hotel for 20 years amongst being a scaffolder, farmer, newspaper deliverer, painter school caretaker, cleaner and process worker.

He took a keen interest in Maori crafts and riding with the disabled.  

Komene had a son, Jarrod, born in January 2000.

He was a man of few words because of his hearing impairment but had an infectious smile.  

Komene played for Tukapa’s senior fourth teams in 1986 and won a title that year. He switched sides and carried the water for the premiers a year later.

During his 34 consecutive seasons, he saw seven premier club championships and many semi-finals from the sideline.

You can guarantee whenever Tukapa had an event on, Komene was there wearing his old tracksuit he always wore with pride.  

He helped at working bees, assisted at the annual Queen’s Birthday sevens tournament, set up fields in the morning, cleared tables after matches and, up until recently, was a parking attendant for home games.

He was probably one of the club’s longest serving volunteers.

Tukapa chairman Scott Siffleet said Komene did those jobs that nobody else wanted to do and loved rugby and socialising.

“The rugby club gave him that.”

He said he wasn’t at the last three games of the season and there were cars parked “in all sorts of funny places.”

“That wouldn’t have happened on Rangi’s watch.”

Siffleet said he didn’t realise Komene’s contribution until he became club captain. He recalled building a trailer to assist Komene with the field set up.

“Rangi thought that was pretty good, but I do think he looked at us like ‘you lazy buggers, I’ve done it by hand for 25 years.’”

Siffleet confirmed he would have received life membership in November. He was going to be presented with a badge in hospital before lockdown.

On the bowling green, Komene was part of Aotearoa Maori Bowls, represented New Zealand at deaf bowls and became a national champion winning the mixed pairs in 2016.

West End president John Garrud said Komene joined the bowling club in 2012 and his devotion was extraordinary.

“[He was] a very valued volunteer around the club, whether it be the greens or assisting with the bar – a tireless worker and more often than not, did it willingly without being asked,” he said.

Garrud recalls Komene beating Tony Penn in the club championship pairs.

“All the members that day cheered and applauded Rangi for such an achievement. He then got down on his knees and kissed the green. That was special for him as his successes were few – a great bowler all the same.”

He said Friday night socialising will not be the same without Komene’s “beaming smile.”

“A pleasure to all who knew him within the club. He will be missed but never forgotten,” he said.

He was also the manager of the New Plymouth United softball club in the 1990s.

Komene’s service will be live streamed on the Hardings Funerals’ website on Thursday, followed by a burial at Parihaka.

A memorial service will be arranged once Covid levels allow.  

Live stream link: