Rugby club to remember Māori head coach shot in line of duty

By Will Trafford

A year to the day Kiwi-born British policeman Matiu (Matt) Ratana was gunned down by a suspect in a South London police station, Ratana’s East Grinstead Rugby Club will commemorate his life with a day of matches, music and an immersion in Māoridom.

Ratana, who was head coach at the rugby club, was fatally wounded on September 25th of last year by a suspect who had snuck a gun into custody.

“It’s hard to believe that it has been a year since we lost Matt,” the club said in a statement.

Saturday’s events (UK time) will kick off with a pōwhiri by London Māori club Ngāti Rānana. Waiata will be followed by a rendition of the Rugby Union ‘World in Union’ anthem performed by opera singer Joanna Forest and adapted to commemorate Ratana.

The East Grinstead Seniors !st XV will then face Eastbourne in the first of three games to be played on the day.

Described as a gentle giant, Ratana’s death sent shockwaves through the UK’s rugby and policing communities.

His partner, Su Bushby, saying “Matt made the most of every minute of his precious 54 years. In any situation or room he walked into, his presence would always be felt.”

Ratana had served for almost 30 years and was nearing retirement when he was killed. Last year, he was named the ‘Unsung Hero’ at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards. His memorial was visited by Prince William in the days following his death.

A 24-year-old appeared in court charged with Matiu’s murder last week.

Plans are underway for a police memorial service for Ratana that had been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

East Grinstead RFC is welcoming members and non-members alike to ‘come and join us to celebrate our Unsung Hero’s incredible legacy, with fantastic rugby and special performances.’