Nikau in 2011
|Born||1 January 1967|
Huntly, New Zealand
Rugby league career
Tawera Nuieia Nikau (born 1 January 1967) is a New Zealand former professional rugby league footballer who played in the 1990s and 2000s. A New Zealand international representative forward, he played club football at a number of different clubs in New Zealand, England and Australia during his career, including the Melbourne Storm's victory in the 1999 NRL season Grand Final.
Nikau was born in Huntly, New Zealand. He began his career playing rugby league for the Otara Scorpions and rugby union for the East Tamaki Rugby Union club in Auckland before his family moved to the Waikato.
A Waikato and Auckland representative, Nikau played his early club football for the Otahuhu Leopards, Sheffield Eagles, York Wasps (1990-1) and Castleford Tigers. Tawera Nikau played loose forward in New Zealand's 0-17 defeat by Great Britain at Wembley Stadium on Saturday 16 October 1993. Tawera Nikau played loose forward in Castleford's 12-28 defeat by Wigan in the 1992 Challenge Cup Final during the 1991–92 season at Wembley Stadium, London on Saturday 2 May 1992, in front of a crowd of 77,386. Tawera Nikau played loose forward in Castleford Tigers' 33-2 victory over Wigan in the 1993–94 Regal Trophy Final during the 1993–94 season at Headingley Rugby Stadium, Leeds on Saturday 22 January 1994. He spent the 1988 season with the Canterbury Bulldogs on the New Zealand Rugby League's "Rookie Scheme". Having already spent several seasons playing in England, during which time he earned representative honours for New Zealand, from 1996 to 1999, Nikau played in the Australian NRL, spending the 1996-1997 with the Cronulla Sharks, losing the 1997 Super League Grand Final to the Broncos in Brisbane. He joined the Melbourne Storm team in its 1998 inaugural year, helping the team reach a third-place finish in the minor premiership. Melbourne also did well the following season and Nikau played as a lock in the 1999 NRL Grand Final victory over the St. George-Illawarra Dragons. Nikau's performance has been credited with sparking Melbourne's second-half comeback. From 1999 to 2001, Nikau was under contract with Super League franchise, the Warrington Wolves.
As a player, he was known for his high energy, fearless charges and his sometimes terrifying facial expressions while playing. In defense he was often seen to be "everywhere"; making a tackle on one side of the field and the following the ball to complete a tackle on the other.
Nikau suffered a personal tragedy on 5 April 2001, when his wife Letitia committed suicide. After taking some time from rugby to spend with his children in New Zealand, Nikau completed the season. He won in a charity boxing match in June 2002 against Samoan rugby union footballer Peter Fatialofa, supporting the Yellow Ribbon Fight for Life to prevent youth suicide.
Between 1989 and 1997 Nikau was a New Zealand national rugby league team representative, although his international career was hindered by a dispute with Richie Blackmore that resulted in him refusing to play in the same side as Blackmore.
In 2003 Nikau had a motorcycle accident in which resulted in an amputation of his right leg. Nevertheless, he participated in the 2004 Yellow Ribbon Fight for Life, defeating Tea Ropati. In that same year, his athletic career to date and the details of the tragedies he had survived were described in the biography Standing Tall.
In November 2006, Tawera was appointed New Zealand and Islander Liaison Officer with the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
Nikau currently works for Māori Television and previously provided NRL match commentary for Sky Sports. Recently he has been added as a consultant to the board of directors of the newly formed USARL. He is the chief executive of Aotearoa Construction and owner and managing director of Team One Corporate Development, a training company.
In 2012 Nikau was found guilty of assaulting his estranged daughter Heaven-Leigh outside the Huntly police station, he was convicted and fined after he failed to get a discharge without conviction. This conviction was later quashed on appeal.
Honours and awards
He won a Sir Peter Blake Leadership Award for emerging leaders in 2011.
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