Dual International Mathew Ridge debuts at Waka Ama Nationals

By Eru Paranihi

It's a different domain for former Kiwi League and All Black Matthew Ridge who is making his debut in the Premier Men's division at this years competition.

“It's still really physical and it certainly bust your lungs and tests you mentally too. I was really shocked when I first came and did it. My first paddle, my first training session it was a real eye opener for me but I'm really enjoying it,” says the former Warriors fullback.

Being famous can often come with a bit of ribbing from his Taniwha Outrigger teammates.

“They're good boys. That's the good thing about sport and team sport it's all good camaraderie you know. We're enjoying it.”

Frano Botica, who has been competing in Karāpiro for 10 years, is delighted to see his former team-mate on the water.

“It's the first time I've seen him actually and the first thing he actually said was "are you in our race?" and I said "well, I'm a little bit older than you bro so I'm in the next level." And then he said "well I would beat you anyway!" but unfortunately h's about two or three seconds slower than our team and he's in the opens. But it's good to see him anyway,” says Botica.

Ridges W6 1500m team got off to a flying start, but eventually had to settle outside of the qualifying place coming in 4th.

That's awful that stuff. It's pretty hard to breathe. You finish five minutes and I'm still puffing so don't recommend it unless you're fit, and I ain't fit anymore."

In the Senior Masters W6 1000m heat, Frano Botica's team easily accounted for their race.

“The boys did well, just at the far end there's gust of wind so we nearly got pushed out of our lane but luckily the front boys pulled us back in.”

Any chance of any other former All Blacks joining Botica and Ridge seems in vain.

“I took Walter Little out in Hawaii this year in a three man and he enjoyed that, but I haven't seen him since. Frank Bunce is too lazy, and Charles Riechelmann can't fit in it,” Botica says jokingly.

Both Ridge and Botica will be racing again on Saturday having qualified to the next round for their respective divisions.