A stalwart of Māori rugby has died.
Hupa Jim Maniapoto of Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Pikiao and Tūhourangi passed away overnight surrounded by his wife Anne and wider whānau.
Speaking on behalf of the whānau, nephew Maru Maniapoto said the family are in mourning. "He mate ohorere tēnei, ahakoa kua roa e mauiui ana. E harikoa ana kua mutu te mamae."
Maniapoto was the youngest of Hema and Mamaeroa Maniapoto's six children, many of whom were sporting exemplars who grew up at Te Rangiita on the eastern shores of lake Taupō, before Jim later left for St Stephens College.
"Uncle Jim was the last of that generation. He was schooled in and around Taupō and went to high school at Tokaanu. One year, St Stephens were touring the country, they came down and thrashed Tokaanu. But they noticed Uncle Jim's talent and offered him a scholarship. That was one of the earliest cases of schoolboy rugby poaching," says Maru Maniapoto.
In 1962, Maniapoto entered teaching college in Auckland, where he was selected for the Auckland Ranfurly Shield team and the New Zealand Colts.
"He was in the champion Auckland team with players like Wilson Whineray, Waka Nathan and Pat Walsh."
Maniapoto and his two older brothers, Huri and Manu, were famous for their rugby pedigree, which saw them selected for the Māori All Blacks. Jim would go on to represent the Māori from 1964 to 1972. Many argued he should have been an All Black.
"People said they were good enough, but, unfortunately, he and his brother were playing during the time of Stan and Colin Meads. So, they never made the All Blacks."
Such was his passion and commitment to Māori rugby, the whānau have dressed their legendary koroua in his 1960's Māori Rugby blazer.
"He's dressed in his favourite jacket because he loved the Māori All Blacks because he grew up in the Māori world."
Maniapoto was a staunch Whakarewarewa man with whakapapa through his Hamiora side. Along with his brother Manu and Dinny Mohi, they were the first three centurions of the Bay of Plenty.
"All three of them were from Tūwharetoa. That made us very proud."
Today, the humble giant has fallen. Famous to the outside world, but to his wife Anne, their two children and many mokopuna, he was a loving and caring figure, treasured immensely by all generations.