Humble in The Jungle
Bill Arthur looks ahead to an emotional and fitting tribute to the late Adam Watene at Castleford this Sunday.
Last Updated: 21/01/09 11:41am
The new Super League season's approaching and the teams are making their final preparations, some in exotic locations, others closer to home.
Having witnessed the Bradford Bulls training in an icy wind on a snowy West Yorkshire hill, you can see why several clubs decided to push the boat out and head for places like Florida and Portugal.
But not everyone's preparations have been going smoothly, especially those who have been tangled up in the red tape of visa world.
Several players are sitting in Australia twiddling their thumbs while the wheels of bureaucracy grind exceedingly slowly. Apparently it's all to do with the introduction of new tiers in the UK Visa Application process and the number of points needed to satisfy the various criteria.
Some of the clubs are wondering just what the point is because the new rules are driving them to tears as they wait for the consulate in Canberra to process the applications.
Celtic Crusaders have several of their squad stuck somewhere in the system and Hull's major signing Michael Crocker has also experienced the joys of dealing with the UK Border Agency.
Iris has got something to do with it too - it's no wonder it's taking ages if they've left it to the cleaning lady.
But those dramas are comparatively small compared to what the Wakefield Trinity Wildcats are having to deal with as they prepare to launch their new season.
The Wildcats have been training for their campaign with the tragically premature death of their prop forward Adam Watene hanging over them.
The 31-year-old Cook Islander collapsed during a weights session as the players started pre-season fitness work back in October and his death stunned the club and the sport.
The Wildcats skipper Jason Demetriou described Adam as the classic gentle giant. A big, kind-hearted and courteous man who led by example on the pitch, his deeds doing his talking for him.
Jason (pictured) was close to the big front rower and his tribute to his departed team mate is to wear Adam's squad number during the coming season. So Wakefield's team sheet will still feature a number eight and you can bet that the man wearing it will be doing his utmost to do the jersey justice.
Adam was a popular player at his other clubs, Bradford and Castleford, and that popularity has been demonstrated by the way supporters have rallied to raise funds for his wife Moana and his children Arana, who is 10, and four-year-old Ena.
Nearly 2,000 fans turned out recently at an all-star football match in aid of the Watene family and they came from across the rugby league map. Hopefully there'll be a big turn-out too on Sunday, January 25th, at The Jungle when Castleford Tigers take on the Wildcats in a pre-season friendly.
The two teams will be playing for Adam Watene Memorial Trophy which is a unique piece of hand-carved Maori sculpture, specially made by a Cook Islands artist.
On it are symbols and drawings depicting Adam's family, his career and his sadly short life. Moana Watene will be there to present the trophy to the winning team and it'll become an annual challenge.
Another of the highlights of the afternoon will be a special haka in tribute to Adam. It'll be performed by family members, friends from all over the country, and by some of his former teammates and rivals, players like Willie Poching (pictured), Ali Lauitiiti, Kylie Leuluai, David Solomona, Semi Tadulala and Martin Moana.
They'll perform the Te Aroha, a respectful memorial version which will be dedicated to Adam's widow and the two children.
Fans are so used to seeing the haka these days that it seems to have lost some of its impact. But on Sunday at Castleford there'll be no doubting the emotion and the sincerity of the dance, as they pay tribute to a man who should have been leading his team's charge into the new Super League season.
Compared with that, a bit of red tape seems a minor inconvenience.