El-niño Peniamina and Tone Vaka following their first game for their new clubs. Photo: Supplied.

Teammates turned rivals


El-niño Peniamina and Tone Vaka have been creating nightmares for opposition defences for the past two seasons.

The Pacific Island powerhouses formed a blockbusting mid-field for Wanderers and were the key weapons in the Brightwater side’s attack.

However, following Wanderers’ withdrawal from division one, the two teammates have made the move to separate clubs in a bid to keep their seasons alive.

El-niño says it was a hard pill to swallow.

“It was a tough one to take, but I guess, with Covid and injuries, it had to happen.”

El-niño had offers from multiple clubs but opted to join Waimea Old Boys.

“I saw it as a good opportunity for me to grow and get better at footy, some Waimea players are part of the Mako set-up, and I just want to be in that environment.”

After just two games for the club, Elniño says he already feels at home.

“They have been real kind and nice to me and made me feel comfortable.”

In an ironic twist, his debut came against Nelson, where he lined up against Tone.

“I was quite nervous, playing for Waimea and seeing him in the opposition. It’s always good to test my skill against him, he tackled me quite hard early on, so I knew I had to give it my all.”

El-niño says he was unable to get one back on his mate during the 31-27 victory.

“Nah, I think he was hiding.”

Tone says the pair had plenty of moments during the clash at Trafalgar.

“It was a bit fun going up against my teammate, we had a few pushes and I gave his hair a bit of a pull in the ruck, but it was all friendly.”

After his monster hit on El-nino, Tone didn’t say anything to his friend lying on the turf but was sure to let out a “cha-hoo’ to the boys.

The 20-year-old echoes El-niño’s sentiments about Wanderers’ exit.

“I was a bit gutted, but it was a good call because at training we sometimes only had six players and couldn’t do anything.”

Tone made the shift to Nelson to play alongside his brother Sosefo but hopes to return to the blue and gold in 2021.

“I will be happy to go back and help out the club, I don’t want to see it fold.”