This Saturday at Murray Halberg Park the Marist Saints will farewell two players who between them boast over 200 Fox Memorial Premiership games for the central Auckland club.
Simon Ieremia will line up in his No.6 jersey for one last time against Mangere East, while for second-rower Sialii Tufeao an ankle injury will prevent him from taking the field in his swansong.
Kiwileaguecentral.com caught up with both players ahead of their farewell. You can also watch the match live by clicking here from 2pm on Saturday.
KLC: Retirement is always a tough decision to make, so what’s been the big factor in you hanging up the boots after this weekend?
Simon Ieremia: It’s really come down to the team I coach. Now that they are getting older they need more coaching, more of my time, so it’s time to give back to them.
Sialii Tufeao: I have enjoyed my league career, but it’s my son who is playing now, he’s in the under sixes at Marist, and at 34 I think it’s time for me to move on and do the family thing.
Had there been any failed retirement attempts in the past?
SI: I tried retiring three years ago! I came back for one more year just to play for my father in-law who had passed away and was a Marist clubman. And then the last two years the boys just kept pulling me back for ‘one more year’. No change of mind this time though, definitely hanging up the boots.
ST: This is my first attempt. I hadn’t given it any thought prior to this year really. The crystal ball isn’t working that well lately, but right now I am done and I am going to enjoy the time off.
You have spent much of your life playing top-flight footy in Auckland, have you given much thought to what it’s going to be like next year?
SI: It’s going to be a big change not playing, but I’ll still be there supporting the boys, still sat there at games, still dedicated to rugby league.
ST: I pretty much went straight into Bartercard Cup after school and then into the Fox, so I think it’s close to 18 years. I guess I have been lucky because as the season has gone on I’ve been injured for a lot of it so have got used to it.
What’s the standout memory from your career?
SI: The best would be winning the Fox Memorial with Mt Albert in 2006. The best with Marist is just all the brotherhood there has been since I have been there. We are pretty much family now with all those guys.
ST: Representing your country. To represent New Zealand and Samoa for the residents, they stand out.
How has the game changed since you made your Fox debut?
SI: The main change is probably the skill level and how fast the game has become over the years. I don’t know if that is just because I am getting older, but with the new rules coming in the game has picked up fast. The young guys in the comp now are so talented, they can bring so much more to the game.
ST: The amount of young boys that are coming through now. I remember when I was coming through and I relied a lot on the older guys to look after me a bit. But the younger guys now are almost on par with everyone because of the amount of fitness they do and the pathway they have now. They are on the level or sometimes even better than veterans. Back in my day the young guys wouldn’t be as strong or physical.
What about higher honours or representative chances in your career?
SI: I made the Samoa Residents team the last couple of years, playing against Tonga and against a NSW Residents team. Got to play in Samoa which was good.
ST: Getting to play for the Samoa Residents and New Zealand as a Junior Kiwi and New Zealand Resident. Those things are just a bonus. The travelling, you don’t forget those trips, they stick with you. All the boys and the friends you make in those rep teams, that’s what stands out.
Who has been the best guy you have taken the field with?
SI: Definitely Sialii, he is one of the stars I have played with and has been a standout for a while now.
ST: There have been a lot of good players. But I play left-side second row and my half on that side is the guy I am retiring with, Simon. We know each other so well, we know how each other plays, we don’t even say much to each other, we know what we are doing. But there’s so many.
And the most talented opponent you have faced?
SI: Probably the halves I have come up against. Cody Walker at Mt Albert straight off the top of my head.
ST: It’s more teams than individuals. Any Mt Albert team, their pack is always good, Papakura, so more than one player it’s about the group challenges.
Finally, what are you expecting Saturday is going to be like?
SI: It will be emotional. Playing has been a big part of my life, so I am just going to go out there and enjoy the last 80 minutes and being with the boys, because I am going to miss them a lot.
ST: I was at training last night talking to the boys and it’s an important one for them. I have thought about it a bit myself, and probably after Saturday it will hit me. But tomorrow it’s just another game and I am just going to enjoy it.