Above: The Moananu brothers, from left to right: Misapalauni, Fa'atoto and Misiluni, who have all given tremendous service to the Poneke club
It's said that once you join Poneke you become part of a family; you don't just play, you belong! The Moananu brothers epitomise all of this.
One member of the Poneke family, Misiluni Moananu, is set to reach a significant Poneke club milestone on Saturday when he takes the field for his 200th Premier run-on match.
Luni will join an exclusive recent club headed by former players and Premier coaches such as Grant Griffiths (287 games), Paul Hakaraia (255), Fred Baker (235), Dave Mahanaga (235), Harry Burgon (212), current Wellington Lions and Hurricanes assistant coach Richard Watt (209) and John Jackson (208). Poneke caps are only awarded for run-on appearances in the starting XV, not off the bench.
However Misiluni is not the only Moananu brother to reach 200 starting caps. Nor is he the second. He'll be following in the footsteps of twin brother Misapalauni ‘P' (239 and counting) and older brother Fa'atoto ‘Toto' (226 and counting).
Oldest Moananu brother Fili played at centre for them for a few seasons in the late 1990s, middle brother Fa'atoto first played Premier rugby against MSP in 1994, while the younger twins, Luni and P made their Premier debuts in 1997. Between them they've amassed upwards of 700 Premier caps in almost two decades of service to the club.
Throughout the Moananus'S association, Poneke has won the Swindale Shield once, in 2002, and won two Jubilee Cups, in 1996 and 2003, and appeared in seven of 12 Jubilee Cup finals between 1999-2010 and six of 11 contested at Westpac Stadium between 2000 and 2010. Toto (as a winger/fullback), P (second five-eighth, formerly a No. 8) and Luni (tighthead prop) all played in the winning 2003 side together, beating Marist St. Pat's 26-22 in the final.
The Moananu brothers, out of Wellington College, have variously played representative rugby for four different provinces. Toto played for the Lions in 1995, 1997 and 1998 and Luni in 1998. All have also played for the Wellington Bs. Both P (2002-2004) and Luni (2002) played for the Horowhenua-Kapiti NPC side, whilst Luni also had a season with Marlborough. In one of his first games for the Lions, Luni propped against Kevin Barrett, father of Hurricane and All Black, Beauden Barrett. His performance in that game played some part in Luni spending a season Taranaki with games for the Taranaki Development XV before he returned to Poneke.
The brothers have each spent time overseas with Luni playing in Hong Kong, and P spending the 2001/02 Northern season playing in Scotland. P also joined up with Toto for a short stint in Cambridge in England.
Luni also toured the UK and Canada with the NZ Youth team in the late nineties, along with fellow Poneke and Lions player, Evan Belford. His selection for the NZ touring side followed consecutive trials for the NZ U19s and the NZ Colts, and previous representative honours with the Wellington Secondary Schools, Wellington U19s and the Wellington Colts.
Former Poneke Premier Manager and Poneke and WRFU President John Davies explained the Moananu brothers' value to the club.
"The Moananu brothers are well liked, admired and respected throughout Wellington rugby, showing great humility in victory and grace in defeat. Between them they have contributed over 50 playing seasons to Poneke and, as stated, have accumulated about 700 starting games! Off the field, the contribution of the brothers and their family to Poneke has been immense, just as their contribution to the church and their beloved Mission Choir is also legendary.
"It is no exaggeration to say that the Moananu family have made a unique, and what will be recognised in years to come, as a historic contribution to Poneke, changing its face but upholding its traditions. Indeed, the Poneke family is all the richer for the Moananu family! The Moananus are a great source of pride for Poneke - they have made Poneke proud!"