Rugby: Family affair for Waldens

Josh (left) and Tei Walden at Otago train at Logan Park this week. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Josh (left) and Tei Walden at Otago train at Logan Park this week. Photo by Peter McIntosh.

Josh and Tei Walden will be expecting a text some time today.

Nothing unusual about that, in this digital age.

The first brothers to play for Otago since 2003, know this particular text will arrive as regular as clockwork.

The boys' proud mother, Deneille, always texts them on the day of the game, no matter where and when they are playing''It's always the same. Make your first-up tackle and get a try if you can,'' Tei said.

''Every game she sends it. It's become now, if I don't get it I'm wondering if something has happened. Something is up.''

It will be coming today in what is a big game for the brothers, who are part of an Otago team taking on Hawkes Bay.

The brothers, Josh (25) and Tei (22) and sister Miaana (23) have all headed to university in Otago after being schooled in New Plymouth.

Josh was the first to venture south to ''escape from home'' and go to university.

''We had a cousin down here and I just wanted to get away from home. Get away from mum and dad and see how things went away from home.

''Then Miaana came down. She'd heard all the stories and wanted to come. Tei had to come then. It's home now really. I've tried to go back to Taranaki a couple of times but always ended up coming back here.''

Miaana Walden also made an impact on the sporting field while in Dunedin, and played netball for Otago from 2011-14.

She is now back working as a lawyer in New Plymouth but a knee injury has her on the netball sideline at the moment.

The brothers played their first game together for Otago last week when halfback Josh came on in the second half for his debut in the loss to Canterbury.

Tei, who first played for Otago in 2013, played second five-eighth last week.

Their father, Kevin, rushed down from New Plymouth for the game.

''It cost him $800 but he didn't want to miss it. He was really proud to get down and see the game. Mum wanted to come but she would have been too stressed out,'' Josh said.

''We're a really close family. The rest of the family were around having a dinner together, watching the game and cheering us on.''

The brothers play together for the same Southern club and said it was fun playing in the same team but there were no telepathic plays between them.

''We just play together and get used to each other's style.

''We actually started off playing football when we were at primary school. Made all the academies and that. But we were always at rugby games, as Dad used to coach,'' Tei said.

''It was only when we went to Francis Douglas [Memorial College] that we switched to rugby. Rugby was the sport there.''

Josh is a teacher at Columba College while Tei is working towards a bachelor of science degree in geography and Maori.

The last brothers to play for Otago were Tony and Cory Brown, who played for the southern province in October, 2003.

The Walden brothers will have to be on their game tonight in what looms as a tough match for Otago.

''But every game is tough at this level. Every team is strong. Last week was our first game of the season and it was never going to be perfect. But the guys have put some good plans in place for this week,'' Josh said.

It is going to be a tough ask for Otago tonight. Hawkes Bay has 11 Super Rugby players in its side and is coming off a big win last week.


FB Stadium, tonight, 7.35pm

Otago: Peter Breen, Tony Ensor, Matt Faddes, Tei Walden, Jack Wilson, Fletcher Smith, Kaide Whiting, Mika Mafi, Theo Commissaris, Adam Knight, Josh Dickson, Blair Tweed, Hisa Sasagi, Liam Coltman (captain), Craig Millar. Reserves: Sam Anderson-Heather, Donald Brighouse, Aki Seiuli, Charlie O'Connell, Ratu Dawai, Josh Walden, Michael Collins, Gavin Stark.

Hawkes Bay: Israel Dagg, Ryan Tongia, Richard Buckman, Andrew Horrell, Zac Guildford, Ihaia West, Ellery Wilson, Brendon O'Connor (captain), Tom Stanley, Tony Lamborn, Mark Abbot, Michael Allidice, Jarvy Aoake, Ash Dixon, Brendon Edmonds. Reserves: Ricky Riccitelli, Tolu Fahamokioa, Mark Braidwood, Sanaila Waqa, Trent Boswell-Wakefield, Chris Eaton, Billy Ropiha, Shannan Chase.

Referee: Richard Kelly (Taranaki)


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