Farewell, Dene Halatau.

In my time writing for BWTF, our beloved club has said farewell to a lot of Players. Whether it be leaving for another team or retirements. This year and potentially this weekend, we farewell Dene Halatau from our game.

Dene debuted for Wests Tigers back in 2003.  Over the course of his career he’s played all over the park. He’s played everywhere from  Second Row to Lock and Hooker to name a few. You’d be forgiven for thinking he actually spent time at Hooker for us back in 2008 and for New Zealand internationally too. He’s the first player that comes to mind when someone says ‘Utility’ to me, and that’s really not a bad thing at all. A good utility player is invaluable to their team.

Whenever I can, I will take the opportunity to watch the classic matches from the 2002-2006 era of Rugby League. What is abundantly clear when you watch these matches is just how much the size and structure of forward packs have changed since then. Not only the size, but the role of certain positions (notably lock). Dene was very typical in size and structure to the well performing Locks at that time, but the game has changed significantly since then. That he has continued to be able to perform ten years later at the highest level is nothing but a credit to him.

Dene has admitted himself that he has never been the fastest or most flashy player going around, as if it’s some sort of slight on himself. To be perfectly honest, I admire these kinds of players more than the most naturally gifted ones. Because simply put, they don’t get there on skill alone. Blake Austin described himself in a similar fashion a few years back. These players get there on determination, perseverance and hard work. You don’t play 14 seasons in the NRL by accident.

Dene does what the team needs him to do, and never complains about it. I’ve never seen Dene whinging in the media, ever. When Dene replaced Robbie at Hooker a couple of months ago, he even answered to the media that it was a little bit ‘awkward’, but despite this he acknowledged the job he had to do. He’s done it without complaint and in my opinion, has done a damn fine job for us the last few years. From my own career experience, I can’t stress how valuable it is to have people on your team that just get stuck in and do what is asked of them. I have no doubt that if you were to ask any other Player from our team they would tell you that they’re damned thankful to have Dene lining up next to them.

Not to be undermined as well is the continual work Dene does for Communities and Charities. Mary Kaye from Ladies Who League attended a literacy program with Dene last year and she spoke to me about her time with him. “I had the pleasure of meeting Dene Halatau when he came to my workplace to meet some students from Sarah Redfern Primary and High Schools. Dean spoke passionately and eloquently not only about his achievements on his field, but on the importance of education and the variety of roles he performs off the field including as an NRL State of Mind Ambassador and his role with the RLPA. He was extremely impressive and on every subsequent occasion I have seen him Dene has been committed to engaging with the community and particularly kids that look up to him. During his career Dene has been a leader by example and has been a credit to not only the Wests Tigers but also to his community. I am honoured to have had the opportunity to work with him and I wish him all the best for the future. I hope the Tigers send him off with a win.”

I am not at all surprised by Mary’s words. In this day and age where it seems there’s off field incidents four times a week, Dene has never placed the game in disrepute. Not one single off field incident in the media. This speaks volumes of the character of the man.

Whatever the future holds for Dene, I hope that he remains involved in Rugby League in some capacity. Many of the younger players of today could learn a lot about how to properly conduct themselves both personally and professionally. Thanks must go to his Wife Rochelle as well, for all the support she has given Dene over the years in order to help him stay on the field for as long as he has. I sincerely hope we win this weekend and go deep into the finals, to give Dene his 250th game. He deserves nothing less.

Dene, Rugby League and the Wests Tigers will be poorer for your absence. I wish more Rugby League players were like you. Regardless of how our season turns out from here, I am thankful from the bottom of my Black, White and Orange bleeding heart that you’ve represented our Club. Thank you.