Paku loving Manawatu return
Manawatu Rugby Union chief executive Shannon Paku is loving life being back in the province that reinvigorated his love for rugby.
Paku, 37, has been at the helm of the province since March when he took over from John Knowles. He said it has been a great start to tenure. “I am really enjoying this role because there are so many aspects and stakeholders and that keeps me interested,” he said. Paku is no stranger to Manawatu rugby fans having played for the Turbos in 2010.
He said it was that season that convinced him he wanted to return to the province. “I loved the culture, I loved the supporters and engaging with them and the sponsors and just engaging in the community in general. They were just really accepting of you and were genuinely behind you.”
He credits the Turbos for helping him re-discover his love of rugby. “When I joined the Turbos, I was at a stage when I was not really enjoying my rugby,” he said. “Mentally and physically I was quite broken. I said no to a contract in England and signed with Manawatu and it was probably the best thing that ever happened to me. I always wanted to finish playing rugby in New Zealand because in my opinion, it is the best rugby in the world.
“The Turbos have always played an exciting brand of football. You could say that the Turbos are the country’s second favourite team after their own provincial union. They always have the ability to do special things.”
“I always hark on about that experience about how much I enjoy it. It reinvigorated my love of the game. I have always remembered that and that is why I am here now.” But that was not his first year in Manawatu.
While he grew up in Masterton, he started to make his mark on the rugby field when he attended Hato Paora, near Feilding. He first played for Manawatu in the Under 16 representative side. Paku moved to Auckland for his final year of high school at the now defunct St Stephens.
He made his provincial debut for Wellington in 2000, played for the New Zealand Under 21s in 2001 and cracked the Hurricanes in 2002. In 2002 he transferred to Auckland and was part of the Blues squad in their victorious 2003 campaign. But he returned to Wellington and the Hurricanes in 2004.
When he signed with French club Montauban in late 2007, he had 55 Super Rugby caps to his name. He returned to New Zealand, wrapping up his professional career with his sole season with Manawatu. Since then, Paku took a step away from rugby allowing him to start his own trucking company and spend time with his wife and three children. He said time away from the sport has made him appreciate it even more.
Now he is well settled into his new job and he said he was looking forward to a big season of rugby.
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