Marist skipper Tyler McKinnon-Stevenson made his 100th appearance for his beloved club on Saturday.
The feat was made more incredible after the Marist stalwart’s career looked to be over after fracturing his neck in 2011.
Tyler’s teammates helped mark the occasion as Marist defeated Stoke 40-15 at Tahuna.
“It was pretty emotional and to do it on the ground where I played my first game was pretty awesome.”
Tyler says the club made a big deal of his century which was pretty special.
“When I walked out onto the paddock they made me go by myself, so everyone clapped me on which was really nice, they also gave me a blazer which had my 100th and first games embroidered on it.”
To cap off the emotional experience, Marist performed a haka for their leader following the final whistle.
Tyler began his illustrious career in 2007 against Wanderers as an 18-year-old. Having grown up in Stoke, it was the style of the green machine that appealed to Tyler.
“I always enjoyed watching the likes of Gavin Briggs and Kahu Marfield, Callum Taylor, I just loved their attitude and the way they played the game.”
Straight out of Nelson College, Tyler was originally going to play for the Nelson B side.
However, a chance meeting with Marist coach Steven Jackson after a Tasman Maori tournament saw his path redirected.
“Steven asked me afterwards who I was playing for, when I said Nelson B he replied, ‘that’s a joke’, and asked me to start for Marist A’s and the rest is history.”
Cracking the century is a testament to the lock’s longevity who nearly had to quit the game because of injury. Tyler played three seasons for Marist before moving to his home club Stoke.
It was while playing for Stoke against Huia in 2011, where his career was curtailed.
Tyler attempted a tackle on a much larger opponent when he fractured his c8 vertebrae.
“I just went in to smash him and I came off second best.”
At the time Tyler was in the Mako High Performance squad and was hoping to become a professional player. “Once that happened, that was it.”
Tyler was now faced with the very real possibility of never playing the game he loved again.
“She was pretty emotional for a few months, I sulked for a bit, but my teammates didn’t give up on me and helped me push through it.”
After two years of painful recovery, Tyler was cleared to get back on the paddock.
However, the psychological damage had been done.
“It was more of a mental thing, I tried to come back but just couldn’t play the way I used to, so I decided to chuck it in.”
However, the desire still burnt and when Tyler’s younger brother then started playing for Marist in 2012, he decided to put the boots back on. “I saw an opportunity to play with my younger brother and haven’t looked back since.”
The interior plasterer says he has a host of great memories from his time at the club, including a club championship in his first year, a 40 meter runaway try against Harlequins and defeating Nelson in the 2016 semi-finals.
He says he owes a lot to Marist and while he laughed at the idea of notching up 200 games, “you never say never”.
“The club means a lot to me, it’s helped shape me into the man I am today.”