Community, camaraderie and caring came to the fore in an epic battle at the Raetihi Rec on Sunday.
Defending their inaugural Top Town title, the meticulous military planning of Waiouru was not quite enough to beat Raetihi who also triumphed over a determined Ohākune.
Captained by Barney Warbrick, the hosts had to dig deep at the Ruapehu Whānau Transformation and Ngāti Rangi hosted event when the competition’s undeniably toughest player was forced to retire after popping his shoulder out of its socket.
Never one to shy away from physical contact, Ruapehu rugby legend Peter Rowe was the perfect team member for Raetihi to line up in the carrot competition.
Inspired by the surf lifesaving flag event, the loose forward had to be assisted from the field after coming off second best while diving for a carrot.
Mr Warbrick said despite the loss, his team were delighted win the Top Town Crown.
“How can you not be inspired by Pete’s commitment to the team?
“After popping his shoulder he just said, ‘it’s ok captain, I got the carrot’.
“It was great fun today and while each team had 20 on the field the whole community has got behind everyone.
“A huge thanks to Ohākune and Waiouru for such a great day of fun competition, Chaana [Morgan] and all the volunteers and marshals, Lilburn Transport, Pearsons, Proude Contracting, Marty McGrath, Missy, the Papahaua boys as well as Tian and Maria Beukes.”
Waiouru captain WO2 Brent Pene also congratulated all the competitors for the strength of spirit and camaraderie they had bought to the event.
“We don’t get together as a region enough and while it was pretty competitive out there, please pass on our regards to the big guy [Mr Rowe], I could understand if he had had a rugby ball, but [injured] diving for a carrot?
“Waiouru will go home and eat our humble pie, but next year in Ohākune, you better watch out.”
As a carry on from last years donations to the Raetihi Kōhanga Reo, all the money raised from this years event is being donated equally to Manu Kōrero and Te Aroha Kōhanga Reo.