Newly appointed Ngāti Porou East Coast coach seeks to restore mana

By Taroi Black

Rugby-star Hosea Gear returns home after a two-year stint in France. Now in charge of Ngāti Porou East Coast as head coach, he is taking up the opportunity to give back to the heart of Tairāwhiti.

The appointment to the coaching role for the 15-test All Blacks winger is also a blessing for the historic team, which will reach its 100-year milestone in 2021.

“I always look back on those years and I never thought I’d be back here coaching them, so it’s a little surreal,” Gear says.  

It is about passion and pride wearing the Naati blue jersey which draws in its staunch supporters, being the only team representing an iwi in a national provincial rugby competition. 

This is the making of a true Māori fairytale for Gear, who was inspired by Ngāti Porou East Coast winning the 1999 NPC Third Division Championship. Then followed the Heartland Championships in 2012, under the guidance of former Māori All Blacks captain Rua Tipoki and Ngarimu Simpkins.  

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Coaching is not foreign to Gear, since leading the Céret Rugby Club in France to several wins last year.

After returning home, he says the prospects for East Coast rugby in 2020 are all about mental and physical preparation, four months out from the Heartland Championships. He is using this weekend in Tolaga Bay as a foundation before the players enter into club competition in four weeks' time.   

However, Gear admits in order to produce a winning culture in a team like East Coast, which has not won a single match in six years, much will turn on the ability of players to take responsibility and take charge.

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That starts with having one-on-one mentoring with former players within their ranks and setting up life goals outside of the sport.

“We really want to try bring back a little bit of mana I suppose, a bit of a wairua to what it used to be.”

Gear and the management team have also thrown a lifeline at the players, making their travel time to training easier by holding the bulk of their team sessions in Tolaga Bay (Uawa).

In previous years, trainings would take place in Ruatoria which took a heavy toll on their players travelling from as far afield as Gisborne and Te Kaha.  

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The concept of bringing the team together in Tolaga Bay is also a calling for Gear, whose mother Annie Tamanui grew up there, holding special memories for the former All Black player.

For the team’s captain Hone Haerewa, who has experienced the highs and lows over the last six years, there is a change in the air.

He told Te Ao Māori News progress started last season as Ngāti Porou East Coast came close to a win which he hopes to achieve this year for his team.

“It’s definitely more structured and harder out with conditioning and training and hopefully that’s a step in the right direction,” Haerewa says.

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This is also a new challenge for Gear who represented their arch-rivals Poverty Bay before his future was set in the Hurricanes and on to the All Blacks.

The task at hand is also providing a pathway for younger players coming through, ensuring there is an opportunity to go further in rugby.