Ōtaki’s hugely successful Whiti te Rā league team won the Wellington premier 1 rugby league title yet again on July 31.
Contesting the grand final against Porirua’s much fancied St George Dragons, the Kimo Winiata-coached Whiti te Rā triumphed with an emphatic 14-6 win at the Petone Recreation Ground.
St George were the favourites going into the grand final, having lost only one game in the season that began in March. They had a comfortable 36-6 win at Cannons Creek Park in the semi-finals against competion newcomer Toa Rugby League.
Whiti te Rā had a closer encounter in their semi, just beating the Te Aroha Eels 28–22 at Ōtaki Domain. But on the day that mattered, Whiti threw everything they had at the Dragons, wearing them down in the low-scoring match.
The win put Whiti in the history books as the only team playing in the Wellington competition to be in six consecutive grand finals, winning five of them (they didn’t win it last year). Before moving to the more competitive Wellington league, Whiti te Rā had four straight grand final wins in Manawatū. Before that, they joined with the Dannevirke Tigers to win in Manawatū. To date, Whiti has thus won 10 grand finals in 11 years.
Whiti te Rā Ōtaki Sports Club chair Kelly-Anne Ngatai says the latest win is a huge achievement for the club and the Ōtaki community.
“The loyalty and dedication our boys put in have allowed them to continuously punch above their weight,” Kelly-Anne says. “Lots of people would like to see our boys not do well, but they went out there and did our town so proud.”
Commenting on why the club has had such history-making success, she says being a whānau, hapū and iwi-based club has given it purpose and strength.
“There’s a strong sense of brotherhood and commitment in the club, and a competitive desire to do well every time they take the field.”
Whiti te Rā were pitted against eight other teams in the 2021 Wellington Premier 1 competition.