It was a special occasion for eight- year-old ‘diehard’ Titans fan Penita Taufua yesterday when he met all of his heroes at the Aquis Titans captain’s run training session at Trusts Arena in Auckland.
Auckland local Penita has not missed a Titans’ match in Auckland game since he was five years old and he patiently waits for hours after each game to congratulate every Titans player after a match.
Penita has been going through a tough time, with “best friend” - his ‘Papa’ Ben Taufua - being hospitalised with a heart condition.
The club was contacted by Penita’s dad last week, asking if we could lift his spirits and meet him while in Auckland.
“Thank you for showing my son (on and off the field) that no matter what life throws at you and no matter how tough and hard the obstacles are that hard work, dedication big heart and a desire to succeed will always overcome life obstacles,” he said.
“It is encouraging to see a team display these core values and characteristics week in and week out. These are the same values that my father has passed down to me and also instilled into his grandson.”
Penita’s two favourite Titans are by Greg Bird and Ryan James and he was ecstatic when they took the time to present him with some Titans gear and tickets to today’s game – and posed for a photo which will be a wonderful keepsake.
Why does he love the Titans when so many of his school friends are Warriors supporters, his grandfather and uncle are true blue Eels fans and his father is an avid Raiders fan?
At first it was because he loved the Titans colours. But it has developed from that.
“I love how they work really hard and never give up, as long as they try their best then that’s all I want,” he said.
This perception of an eight-year-old brought a smile to the faces of the players and coaching staff who mingled with Penita and his mum yesterday.
When the Titans arrived for the Anzac Day clash later year, Penita was overwhelmed with how much time the players – and particularly Bird – gave him.
“When the boys come to town we always wait after the game so my son can get photos and his ball signed,” his dad said.
“It may just be a hello and a quick smile for the players, but to my son it’s a lifelong impression you leave with him.
“He goes on and on and on about who signed what and who shook his hand. Thank you especially to Birdy; last year he took a photo with him straight after the game and thanked my son for his support, then thanked him again for waiting near the bus and took another photo with him.
“Just a hello from Birdy would of been a highlight for my son but he pulled him aside and for those few seconds made him feel like he was the luckiest kid in the world.”
Penita became even luckier yesterday and we look forward to seeing him after the game again today.
His Papa, who had a birthday this week, is just out of hospital and although still not well, will accompany him to the match.
Others who met the Titans players at training yesterday were the New Lynn Red Devils under-eights and some of their parents from west Auckland. They left with signed posters and plenty of photos and memories of meeting their heroes.
Team assistant coach Michael Fruean said: “I would like to thank the Titans boys, management and staff. As you would have seen today, the kids really enjoyed it and no doubt it meant a lot to them.
“These are once in a lifetime opportunities and we are very grateful.”
We are grateful too that we have admirers over the ditch who took the time to support us.