Popular Katia brings up century in the Bush

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On Saturday however that unlikely possibility materialised when Katia featured in a 20-16 defeat to Ngāti Porou East Coast in the Heartland Championship.

"It's pretty special to get to one hundred. I came off the bench five minutes into the second-half. We played well. I played well, but we didn't win,” Katia said.

"In the first-half we had three penalties beside the posts and the boys went for lineouts and scrums. We missed nine points which in a close game was the difference."

In 2011 Katia arrived in New Zealand, brought out by Gladstone coach Steve Thompson to play for the club. The relationship was fruitful with Katia debuting for Wairarapa Bush that season. Gladstone won three senior championships over the course of the next decade.

The following year Katia met Jenna, the daughter of Wai-Bush centurion Bernie Lett (116 games). Inia and Jenna married in 2014 and now have three children, Honor, Nani and Manoa.

Like Lett, Katia is a sprightly halfback though he has often covered midfield. 

 "I prefer halfback. I love to be involved close to the ruck, making tackles, getting turnovers and creating space. In midfield how much of the ball you get depends on the forwards."

Wairarapa Bush have been Meads cup semi-finalists a handful of times since 2012. Katia has been involved in some memorable matches. 

“My favourite try was against King Country in 2012. We won the game (25-15) and they had two Fijian wingers both of which I burned.

“Later that season we played Whanganui in the semi-final. I scored a try, we led the game, but lost a heartbreaker.

“The 2019 semi against North Otago was similar. I think that was the best game I’ve played. We were down three tries with ten minutes to go. I swapped back to halfback and we scored two quick tries and nearly won.”

There is a large Fijian presence in the Heartland Championship and Katia has a special bond with his fellow countrymen. 

"When it's Fijian on Fijian we want to kick each other because we don't know each other. As soon as the game is finished we become friends and brothers. We can talk to each other and know where we came from straight away.”

The special connection with Lett saw Kaita swap from Gladstone to Carterton in 2021. This year the Maroons won the Moose Kapene Cup with a 32-24 victory over Marist in the final. Katia scored a try. 

Wairarapa Bush haven’t been as successful in the 2022 Heartland championship. Their only victory is against West Coast (42-30) but Katia is adamant he can play “at least another couple of seasons.”

The record for most games for Wairarapa Bush is 132 by Gary McGlashan between 1971 and 1983. The last player to reach a century of games was prop Bryan Styles in 1995.

The century of Katia isn't the only milestone Wairarapa Bush have celebrated this year. In the first weekend of September the 50th anniversary of the Union was belatedly celebrated with a two-course buffet dinner, auction, special guests and the official launch of the Sir Brian Lochore Trust. The anniversary was scheduled to happen last year but was postponed because of covid. 

The 1971 season saw the merger of the Wairarapa and Bush Unions. The aforementioned Lochore is the most famous alumni. The former All Black captain and World Cup winning coach played for and coached Wai-Bush. 

The best result in their history was in 1985 when they were fourth in the first division of the NPC. That season they enjoyed wins over Canterbury, Wellington, Northland, Southland, Counties Manukau and Otago. In 2006 Wai-Bush won the first Meads Cup defeating Whanganui 16-14 in the final.