Some former rugby league stars will be rolling back the years in Queenstown next week — but they’d best not be colour-blind.
Twenty-six teams, including some mixed teams, four Aussie teams and a Queenstown/Central Otago combo, have signed up for the International Masters of Rugby League Tournament which was postponed from last year due to Covid.
Male players have to be 35-plus and females 30-plus — and all have to have retired from competitive football.
To tell players how hard they can tackle their opponents, those in their 30s wear white shorts, in their 40s, black shorts, in their 50s, red shorts, and 60-pluses, yellow shorts.
If you’re wearing yellow, you only get tagged.
However, Taika Brooks, who’s managing the Queenstown/Central Otago team, Kahui Tipua, says ‘‘even the old boys who are supposed to be playing rippa are putting shots on players’’.
Kahui Tipua’s player/coach is Lui Matulino, whose brother Ben played for the Warriors and Wests Tigers before retiring in 2019.
Lui’s got no doubt his players will be fit enough ‘‘once the adrenalin and excitement kick in’’.
‘‘I think the competitive side’s still in everyone.’’
One of his stars will be Cromwell-based Whetu Taewa, 51, an ex-New Zealand rep who was in the Warriors’ first run-on team in ’95 and even scored a try.
Kahui Tipua’s only yellow-shorts player will be Queenstowner Ned Wepiha (formerly Webster), 60, who’ll be stand-off/five-eighth — ‘‘that’s where I’ll do all the talking’’.
Though he hasn’t played since about 2000, Wepiha, who co-founded the former Wakatipu Giants in ’88, is raring to go.
‘‘I’m here to win, I’m not here just to fill the numbers.’’
Being played at the Events Centre, the tournament sees each team play 40-minute games next Monday, Wednesday and Friday — games start 1pm, 2pm, and 3pm — with NZ and Aussie teams and South Island and North Island teams squaring off next Saturday.