Willie Apiata was with the trust less than two years. Photo
/ Richard Robinson
Willie Apiata has moved on from his job helping at-risk
youth - and is now being handled by Richie McCaw's management
New Zealand's only living Victoria Cross recipient had left
the Defence Force to take up a role at Papakura's High Wire
Securing someone with the mana of Mr Apiata was a
high-profile coup for the trust, but the move appears to have
not worked out after less than two years.
Mr Apiata is now being managed by experienced rugby player
agent Warren Alcock of Essentially Group.
The international sport and entertainment marketing company's
clients include All Blacks Richie McCaw and Dan Carter and
cricketer Daniel Vettori.
Mr Apiata had been running the High Wire Trust's satellite
camp at Awhitu Peninsula, which hosts at-risk youth for
activities including high ropes, abseiling and kayaking.
The trust was set-up in memory of Papakura liquor magnate
Michael Erceg, whose widow Lynne is a trustee.
Financial statements for the year ended March 31, 2013 show
it received more than $3 million in donations, but a going
concern was a reliance on continuing support from the major
It has strong links with the armed forces, running an academy
to help young people towards careers in the military.
When Mr Apiata announced his move to High Wire, Prime
Minister John Key said he was a loss to the Defence Force,
but would prove a great role model for at-risk children.
The New Zealand Herald had been told that Mr Apiata
became frustrated with the opportunities available to him at
High Wire, but the trust's chief executive David Hopkins
strongly denied that.
"That's wrong - he hasn't left under a cloud or anything,
Willie's left for other things, to advance his profile and do
different things," said Mr Hopkins, who served with Mr Apiata
in the Defence Force.
"He's also still in contact with the trust. Willie's a good
man. Life goes on I suppose."
Late last year Mr Apiata signed up with Essentially Group, Mr
Hopkins said, and he was now managed by Mr Alcock.
The Dunedin-based lawyer, who has been involved with rugby
contracts since the turning of professionalism in 1995, could
not be reached for comment yesterday.
An "Essential Speakers" section on the group's website said
it was launching this month.
Mr Apiata is a former corporal in the SAS and received the VC
in 2007 for bravery under fire in Afghanistan after carrying
a gravely wounded comrade across a battlefield to safety.
Originally from the eastern Bay of Plenty township of Te
Kaha, he has made several public appearances in recent
months, including during April commemorations for the Battle
of Gate Pa in Tauranga.
Simon Collett, who helped organise the commemorations, said
it had been a thrill to have the war hero speak.
"It was outstanding. He's quite a nervy speaker, but, man,
when he was speaking you could hear a pin drop. There's
something about him, there's a real presence."
On Anzac Day Mr Apiata made a public speech at Auckland's War
Memorial Museum, in which he spoke of his own war experiences
and what the day meant to him.
According to The Australian newspaper, Mr Apiata also
addressed the Melbourne Storm in the lead-in to their clash
with the Warriors on the same day.
The NRL club was bought last year by a syndicate headed by
Kiwi sports lawyer Bart Campbell, who is also a director of
- Nicholas Jones of the NZ Herald