Rugby legend reunited with whānau after 22 months

By Mare Haimona-Riki

Former Fiji Rugby captain Deacon Tahanakore Manu (Taranaki, Taharoa) has come to the end of a 22-month emotional roller coaster, after being separated from his family since March 2020 due to international Covid restrictions.

“It’s been really tough, being away from them for so long and especially knowing that they are only a short plane ride away too.”

The Taranaki raised father of 3 was fulfilling his role as the Physical Education teacher at ACS (international) in Singapore in early 2020 and ended up getting stuck there for almost two years, relying strictly on technology for contact with his whānau. He attributes his ability to deal with the emotional effects of this dilemma to his upbringing in sports and thriving career in professional rugby.

“Being able to have the coping mechanisms to get through this, like only worrying about what in my control and not what isn’t.”

The Taranaki born rugby legend has played for New Zealand Under 21’s and debuted for the Waikato Chiefs in their opening game of the 2001 Super 12 tournament. He went on to play for the Wales-based Parcy Scarlets from 2006. Since his retirement in 2014, he has been the head coach of the Hong Kong Cricket Club in the HKRFU Premiership.

Manu says he was only 6 hours away from missing his window of opportunity to see his whanau, as the Hong Kong government were closing the borders to non-citizens.

Manu will be returning to continue his tenure as a teacher at the Singapore School and has high hopes that there won’t be a two-year wait to see his family again.