My special guest is Ruben Wiki. Ruben is a legend of rugby league with his illustrious career spanning 311 first grade games for the Canberra Raiders and New Zealand Warriors. He also won a premiership with the Raiders in 1994. He represented New Zealand in 55 tests and was test captain on 18 occasions.
Listen to the full podcast above or find the entire transcript below. There are a number of audio interruptions as Ruben lives
right next to airport in Auckland so I wanted to provide both options. The interview for Ruben begins at 1 hour 16 minutes into the show and follows an interview I did with Great Britain legend Paul Sculthorpe.
FULL TRANSCRIPT OF THE INTERVIEW
TK - Now first things first you talk to me about health and fitness because man your feats with bodybuilding last year at 45 years old was really really incredible man. Can we talk a little bit about your experience in bodybuilding?
RW - I think it was one of those bucket list things Tristan. When I hit 45 I’d always been curious about it so I thought I'd give it a crack and I gave myself six months probably not a lot of time to prep but it was different arena and different mindset and you know individual sport but I really enjoyed the journey and you know kind of test me mentally on my food side of things anyway.
TK - Yeah you know you just said individual sport was that the main attraction because you've been involved in team sports for your whole life it must have just been a perfect new challenge yeah?
RW - Yeah Since I've been retired I've been trying new things and a lot of individual sports like marathons, half marathons, half ironman and I just wanted to get a perspective on that side of the spectrum and to see what these people do individual sports kind of go through and like mentally man it is challenging and physically was too so but it was it was great to be able to tick those off with my wife and the bodybuilding was just another one that I just wanted to give a go.
TK - What was your body fat in the end it would have been well under the 10 percent?
RW - Six months out I was 10 percent anyway so I'm always around that margin when I was at 98 kilos. I ended up at 90 kilos like back in my 94 and I was about 3.4%. So I was pretty lean and the judges gave me some tips after it and probably needed more bulk up the top with the shoulders and chest. So I do a lot of body weight stuff and probably need another six months of weights.
TK - Yeah gotcha. Are you gonna do it again man?
RW - Yeah actually it's on the agenda this year with my son. So a father and son bucket list you know just to help us get going bro.
TK - How old’s your son?
RW - He's 20 mate. He's 21 this year so it's a birthday present for him.
TK - Has he got the kind of a like similar build to you?
RW - Yeah he has mate, I think it's just getting back in shape kind of went off the rails a little bit and now it’s a good chance for myself and my son to just get their bonding in.
TK - Yeah for sure man you know because you know you grew up playing in such an explosive sort of power game. Well I'm sure that your what you were doing in the gym back then you know like cleans and you know what it's like all the dead lifts everything like that. Now in bodybuilding there's a lot of different structures in terms of your sets, your time under tension. How’d you adjust to the different training?
RW - Oh man I think it was more not being able to do burpees haha. So no burpees for six months, so the cardio was like just walking and my treadmill. The weights was 12 to 15 reps five rounds of sets. So there’s not much cardio you're only walking and just getting in the gym pumping out iron four or five days a week just doing weights.
TK - Now Ruben take me a little bit back to the start because you were born in Auckland and I know you've got a Samoan and Maori heritage. Now before we go on to that it must be pretty cool with the Maori’s & Indigenous All Stars coming up because I just feel that it's going to be with two cultures coming together because before with the NRL All Stars there was like well they're just the team of all stars but now there's two teams that actually care about their culture as well so that's why I feel that we're the incredible games going to come from?
RW – For sure. I think’s a great idea and you know I think you know having the cousins from Australia playing against the cousins from New Zealand it's gonna be an awesome atmosphere and all the Kiwis and Indigenous will be coming out for that one. Its two proud cultures coming together to celebrate it’s going to be epic mate and I’m glad they bought it to life.
TK - Now tell me a little bit about your Samoan and Maori heritage?
RW - My mom's Samoan and my dad left when I was three so I've kind of grown up on the Samoan side. So my Mum bought up three kids. So she did the hard yards for many years and she steered us in the right direction. You know we had that Once was Warrior background and I witnessed a few of that stuff with my mom so that was kind of my calling into take up a sport and play by rugby league under controlled aggression and take it out on the people in the field.
TK – How did you even find rugby league?
RW - Well Mom took me down to my first game when I was like five years old man and went to the local club the Otara Scorpions and played a bit of footy down there and keep getting tackled started crying. I just don't get it. Get up and score tries and don't get tackled so I did that but I really fell in love with the sport mate. New Zealand's known for rugby orientated sport but a lot of us went the other way and I kind of just played that all my life.
TK - Yeah you mentioned the All Blacks over there and Rugby being huge. How did you guys avoid it, did you ever play rugby union at all?
RW - There was there was selection and school was called the Roll Mills and I went to the trials they had and I knew it wasn't my calling because when I got tackled I had to let the ball go, so I said this is not my game and I let that one slide. I didn't like going to the ground and dropping the ball and you know set up for the rucks and mauls so I wasn't too keen on that one so I moved on I liked running the ball so I found my calling.
TK - What about when you became a pro did rugby league ever come calling?
RW - No mate nah I don’t think it would of suited me that game.
TK - Back here in Australia we don't know too much about how the Kiwis actually have their junior development over it. Talk to me a little bit how you came through the ranks, your first position, how you went away from being the crying little boy to the aggressive style that you developed?
RW – Haha, yeah so as I said before I started at the Otara Scorpions and play there until I was 10 years old. Then I stopped playing for a couple of years, then in my teenage years we went to another rugby league club the Otahuhu Leopards there's a lot of legends from there. Mark Graham, Tawera Nikau, Hugh McGahan and Richie Barnett. I went over with a few mates over to the club and I played most of my years there. I got a call up to play Prem’s when I was 18. I didn’t really want to go play against the big boys. These guys with moustaches and beards and stuff. I went up and played in 1991, I was on the wing and Richie Barnett was on the other wing. Do you remember Richie Blackmore?
TK – Yeah the centre?
RW – Yeah he was playing centre and Tawera Nikau was playing lock. So when they were on offseason they would come back to the club back home. Also Vila Matautia from St Helens would come back.
TK – How’d it feel because Richie Blackmore was playing at Castleford? How’d it feel because you were playing on the wing and had the opportunity to learn from a guy like Richie?
RW – I think it was more like rubbing shoulders with like current Kiwi players you know and it took us to another level. And you know you just to learn off these guys and how they go about their business at training and so forth.
TK - So were you stuck on the wing? Was that the position they thought was always gonna be for you or were you were in the centres at all?
RW - Well I think I was as I was by lock and centre when I was in my junior clubs, but when I’d play prems or first grade they put you on the wing haha. You've got to earn your stripes you know.
TK - Were you big back then?
RW - No I wasn't. I was about 90 kilo. I wasn't a big fan of the weights back then so only push ups and chin ups and stuff like that, so that was it. Throughout the season they ended up throwing me in the centres when Richie Blackmore went back to the UK and I think that's the year after that I started getting noticed.
TK- In 92 you played both Junior Kiwis and New Zealand Maori, Tana Umaga played with you right?
RW – Yeah in the Junior Kiwis mate we were centre partners and we played the Australian Schoolboys that year. Tana and I were in the centres.
TK – What was Tana like back then?
RW - Just good in attack, all round solid. He was tall and lanky but he got picked up after that. That year we had Willie Poching, Joe Vagana, Gene Ngamu so we had a quite a few NRL prospects back then.
TK – Who was the most impressive back then because sometimes people can develop quicker than others. Who really caught your eye back then?
RW - It was probably Willie Poching and he ended up having a good career in England. He played for the Warriors for a while but didn’t get the accolades he should of. It all depends what they’re doing away from the field. Gene Ngamu going over to Manly stood out when he first started. Tana also going on to play for the All Blacks, so probably those three.
TK - Before we go on mate I just heard another plane how close do you live to the airport?
RW – haha about 25 bro we are right in the line of the airport. They all come past us.
TK - What time did they have to stop?
RW – After mid night it’s a good alarm clock hey, you don’t miss an alarm in this place it’s crazy.
TK – Ruben I know Tim Sheens and Dean Lance spotted you at the Pacific Nation’s Cup. Talk to me about the cup and how they spotted you?
RW – We had the Pacific Cup in 92 and I was playing for the New Zealand Maori. After one of the games Dean Lance and Tim Sheens came into the dressing sheds and wanted to have a chat. So I told my mum as you do. So then we went back to this hotel and had a conversation and heard what Tim Sheens wanted to propose and we kind of went from there. He offered a two year contract to come over the Canberra and try my luck but it was actually the Australian Schoolboys coach that actually put my name forward to Tim Sheens. Peter Solace was a local development officer in Canberra and he was the coach for the Australian Schoolboys when we played them and he just mentioned you know that his seen a mini Mal Meninga haha
TK - What was your first impression of Tim Sheens?
RW - He was just really stern. He didn’t really say much but I knew he meant business and I’d just listen to what he said. He had lot of history in Canberra so I was just in awe at the moment so I was just taking it all in.
TK - And the conversation next with your mom because obviously you're very close to her and the rest of your siblings. You'd have to move away from New Zealand. How was that conversation?
RW - I was the tough one bro. I just said I had to do this you know and I ended up taking my girlfriend with me who's now my wife and my little brother. So he kind of just needed to get out and get away from New Zealand because he was going down a different direction. So I kind of just took him with me as well and my girlfriend we just took a gamble going to Canberra for a couple of years and my Mum I'll be I'll be back in a couple years.
TK - But you had signed a letter of intent with the Warriors too?
RW – Yeah it was a home sick kind of thing but I sorted it out with the Canberra Raiders and squashed that one and went to court for a little while and I sat out of footy for a few months but ended up staying in Canberra for another 10.
TK - Before we get onto that. When you arrive in Canberra you know a young kid from New Zealand you're probably lucky because you're from Auckland so Canberra's not huge to start with. But was there a culture shock?
RW - Probably for me when I got picked up from the airport by the guys in the under 21’s team and they're only like 18 and they look like 30. Steve Trindall and Bruce Mamando they were like fully grown men and I said far out these guys look 30 when there closer to 18. I freeked out a bit but I went to my first training and saw the rest of the squad and they looked even bigger. Then you see you idols like big Mal and Laurie and it just felt surreal hey.
TK - The legends you just mentioned like Mal Meninga you know a legend from our childhood. Did you approach him or did he approach you?
RW – He kind of said hello to me and I kind of gave him the Kiwi wave you know the head nod and that was it.
TK - Was it hard not to ask for his autograph?
RW - I never asked for his autograph even to this day haha. I was trying to take it all in mate and try to adapt to the new expectations, patience, fitness, and a whole new environment to where I came from. I was in a singlet, shorts and ankle socks but it was pretty cold when I went over. So I was just sucking in the big ones trying to not act cold or show weakness.
TK - How far behind were you in terms of training?
RW - Well I wasn't too bad to be honest I just bit the bullet I think it was more the weights room. I never kind of did weights before and these guys had amazing strength. So I was trying to adapt to the lifting of the weights the bench press, cleans, squats and snatches but over the years you kind of go with the flow and you end up getting that armour on and you wonder why they look like full grown men because they start them at a young age in the system in Australia. So what they've been exposed to in Australia is totally different to New Zealand and is certainly a hundred percent higher level.
TK - Now in the twenty ones, Craig Bellamey coached you yeah?
RW – Yeah mate I had Bellyache. I met Craig in the twenty ones as I came off the bench my first game you know as soon as I got an opportunity to get on the field I just tackled everything in sight. Ken Nagas was making his debut too and I think the week later I ended up getting a run on spot and my centre partner was Madge Maguire it’s crazy hey.
TK – Talk to me about the Canberra system of coaches because there was like Tim Sheens, Mal Meninga, Loz, Sticky, Bellyache, and Michael Maguire. They’ve created this little system down there of just creating the best coaches in the world?
RW - Well you know they had Don Furner Senior down there and Wayne Bennett so their coaching philosophies are kind of similar but they don’t really so much emotion. So then you look at the coaches that came out of that system from a playing like Sticky and Loz they got a different flavour. Stick us really passionate, Loz is as well, Mal is too. But they seem to be able to get the boys up for big games you know. I think the coaching system and standards down in Canberra has rubbed off on the players and when they go into the coaching arena they try to abide by that as well.
TK - In 93 you actually make your debut off the bench against South Sydney. Now it's a lot different back then because you know you've got reserve grade and you all sit on the bench waiting for a chance to talk to me about it because I know you guys were thrashing South Sydney that day. Were you ready then or you were with the other lads having a laugh, like how did Tim Sheens say you're coming on?
RW – I was just taking it all in and when he did call me to get ready to get on and that you know the butterflies and I always had butterflies mate every game and when I had the opportunity to run on their outside Mal and score a try it was pretty massive. So I took it all in and I didn’t want to play 21’s or reserve grade any more.
TK - Once you get that taste it must be an incredible feeling. You were probably just trying to run off Mal all day yeah?
RW - Yeah. All day all day. He's got the vision and whatever he said was like gold so I was like a lost puppy. You know the pace of the game was totally different to reserve grade and 21’s, so I had to adjust in that place. But I would I would do my own training when we didn’t have training. Try to work on my game and what I needed to improve on I always wanted to get better.
TK - Now the next week you actually debuted as a starter against Newcastle in Newcastle on the wing but they give you a bit of a whacking. Was it one of those days where they were just bombing you all day and stuff?
RW – Yeah they bomb me all day mate it was me and Ken Nagas debut. Yeah they just bombed it and it was like close your eyes and just catch it and see how you go.
TK – Who did Newcastle have back then like Michael Hague and Matt Rodwell?
RW – Yeah all those old boys, Mark Sargent, I can’t even remember the game to well mate.
TK – So it must have been like pick on the new boy?
RW – Yeah it was like pick on the new boy. So after that game I was like I’m never going to feel like this again. So I worked on what I needed to work on, you’ve just got to adapt to any position your put on there.
TK - Back then what did you think were your strengths and weaknesses?
RW – Well no one had really taught us how to do the draw and pass back then in New Zealand. We learning to do that, keep your eyes up and read a game. Some foot work wouldn’t go astray haha instead of trying to run over people all the time. It was all about being smarter with your carries it took me 10 years to sought that out because I just tried to kill everyone. I had some good mentors in Johnny Lomax and Quentin Pongia.
TK – Did it make it much easier with the two kiwi boys being there?
RW – The way they trained was they played so I just went with their mentality. I just did what they did on the field just out wide.
TK - It's interesting that the New Zealand Warriors being there how good Canberra were at picking out the Kiwi boys?
RW - Yeah you know even Sean Hoppe was there for a while as well, Tim Sheens had some love for the Kiwi boys.
TK - Yeah sure. Now obviously 94 was a huge year. You know you become a starter in the team. How did it feel to finally crack it into the first grade teams regularly and you know again you're playing with your idols?
RW – It’s funny we were just talking about that morning at breakfast. David Boyle was starting in the centres and he copped an injury and Tim Sheens called me in to start. Once I was in it was either knock me out or take me out at training. That was my mentality going into training, if you want it come get it.
TK - Back then who played outside you Noa or Kenny?
RW - It was Kenny and we became good mates over the years even off the field with our families. We just really enjoyed each other’s company hey. He could play and could score tries. So just put him in a hole and he would do the rest.
TK - Now before the grand final, Canterbury actually beat you in the major semi by one by one point they beat you 19 to 18. What was your mood going into the Grand Final?
RW – Well we got another chance to get in the grand final. I think we played North Sydney the next week and we won that game and the week leading up to the grand final was pretty laid back actually we had a bit of fun. I just thought back to my years playing with my mates when I was 18 years old and the fun I used to have back then. I just made sure I did right by the team by doing everything right with my carries and tackles and just do my job. I had my 5 visits to the toilet before as I do?
TK – What you just get nervous?
RW – Yeah always even after playing I still get the jitters mate. But I succeeded and did well so I kind of playing through my family on the field.
TK – When Martin Bella dropped the ball from the kick did you guys just know you had them that day?
RW – Yeah mate I think it was after that knock on from the kick. As soon as he knocked it on I said we got these dudes and kind of everything unfolded after that. Paul Osborne was the grand final hero he had a blinder. Everyone just did their job and didn’t take their foot off the pedal. It was Mal’s last game too so we wanted to send him off on a great note.
TK – With Paul Osborne playing so good because he played like an immortal that day for you young guys did that show you that you’ve always got one good game left in you?
RW – Yeah and it was the biggest day of his life. What he did was unbelievable. We all felt for John Lomax missing that game but what Ossie did for the team in place of Johnny was huge.
TK – Hey Mal dropped the trophy that year yeah?
RW – I don’t know what you’re talking about haha I could have been Loz, Sticky, Mal it was one of those big dogs. Haha. I can’t point my finger on it, It might be the captain so let’s blame one of them, one of the Aussie guys hahaha
TK – Now Ruben coming off the grand final and knowing that you might have to go back to the Warriors now. I know that you learnt a lot about loyalty during this period because of the way the Canberra Raiders looked after you during that time. But were you ever scared that you might not be able to play again?
RW – Yeah it got to that point man when we were sitting out, not being able to play games and just dissecting things and do I just bite the bullet and go home or just hang in there and stick it out. Canberra gave me a lot of support there to make sure everything was going to be ok. I had a lot of trust in Tim Sheens and the coaching staff to pull through this and the players were right behind me too. It got sorted out of court. We played the Broncos the first game back I was playing in the centres that day and it was great to be back.
TK – Yeah it must have been incredible to be back. So Rubs tell me about 94 and you put on the New Zealand black and white jersey for the first time. But it's a pretty tough debut man PNG in PNG?
RW – Bro it was horrible. It was brutal. The ground was hard there was rocks in the ground. The fans were crazy they were Raiders mad. It was pretty hostile and we weren’t allowed out of the hotel for the time we were there and we were there for a while.
TK - Was that for security?
RW - Yeah for security reasons. We could hear guns in the background and we were stuck in the hotel by the pool. Did our training outside the hotel and came straight back. But yeah what an experience for your first time playing a test in PNG. It was a very hostile place but very passionate about the game.
TK - Was David Westley and Bruce Mamando playing for PNG?
RW - Yeah they were but they were born locals. But it was the first and last time I went to PNG.
TK - Did they play the national anthem?
RW - Yep they played the national anthem. What I remember was at one point tear gas was thrown on the field. So we had to stop the game and I'm thinking this is nuts and we kind of had to go back into the changing rooms.
TK - Welcome to Test footy hey?
RW - Haha yeah but I survived I survived and it was good experience a great experience.
TK - Where were you when you got the news of Super League because for you coming off all your legal dispute stuff as well, then all of a sudden Super League arrives. How were you approached about Super League?
RW - Because the club ended up playing Super league you had to abide by what the club was doing so you just follow suit. There was all these meetings and so forth with all the big names in our team and the fringe players like me and Kenny Nagas we were the last to get into the meeting. They focused on securing the big boys then after the young pups like us.
TK - Is it still a lot more money than what you were on before?
RW - Yeah mate especially compared to what I went over on.
TK - Did you ring your mum and say Mum I've made it?
RW - Haha it was like winning the lotto. It was awesome and the Wife and I had to sit down and sort out what we were going to do to invest and it got us a home which was pretty cool.
TK - In 97 with the split competition. Look I'm sure that you would have been friends with some of the boys that are playing in the ARL. What was the mood like between the two competitions?
RW - It wasn't that bad mate. I think it's just the way panned out. You can't get dirty, it was what the clubs were doing you couldn't really do anything so you just go with what the club was doing. I think some players like McCracken and Jimmy Dymock went over to Parramatta probably because they got a lot of money. For players it would have set them up financially for a little while so I guess they went where it was better for them and their family and that's how it panned out.
TK - Now 98, Mal's still coach in 98 right?
RW - Yep
TK - Is he the one who suggested the move to the backrow?
RW - Yeah he kind of fell short of a few front rowers so I put my hand up. They had unlimited interchange back then so I thought oh yeah I'll give it a crack and I think Parramatta was my first game against Dean Pay, Jim Dymock and all those dudes.
TK - What was it? Was it the involvement that you loved the most?
RW - Yeah just getting in there and tackling and not worrying about chasing fast guys you know.
TK - How much did you weight back then were you 100kg?
RW - Nah man I didn't hit 100 till my late days my late 20's so I was still a little young pup, so yeah it was 1998 so I was well under 100 kilo. I just loved the physicality and getting involved in a way where I don't have to wait for the ball out wide once in a blue moon.
TK - Do you think that the unlimited interchange helped you adjust because every time you got a little bit busted you could just go off?
RW - Yeah definitely as a centre coming on as a front rower and trying to adapt to the speed in the middle of the field and my lunges were busted man I couldn't breathe. Even with unlimited interchange haha.
TK - Was it a little like NFL? Go on smash yourself then come back off?
RW - Oh we go longer than those guys in the NFL.
TK - Yeah they only last 20 seconds.
RW - Haha yeah only 20 seconds and there gone man. So yeah it was mainly adapting to the pace but you get conditioned after every game and it becomes easier and easier. So over the years you use a little bit of what you learn in the centres with things like late foot work, eyes up, not running straight at a bloke but between them and save the body.
TK - Talk to me a little about leadership because one of the great moments of your career is that 2005 final win against the Kangaroos 24 nil. Not only did you win the Tri Nations but the thing is you broke the record for 50 caps which is the most by any player. So take me to that game because you were also man of the match and one of the most significant moments in your career?
RW - Yeah, well the year before we didn't have a successful tour and I was going to retire in 2004 and I thought you know I was the captain in 2004 and things didn't go right and the culture wasn't the best. And so you know over the break our I said if I make the Kiwis I'll try and make a change. I'm not sure if they were going to pick me again and maybe captain again. So I just stamped my authority down with my voice. This is what's going to happen on tour. We're not going to drink on tour. There is going to be opportunities but when that times comes I’ll let you guys know but where just going to sacrifice. And as a group we all decided that and we had some young blokes coming through and some older leaders who voiced their opinion on what should happen on this tour and everyone bought into it. There was the biggest Kava session ever after that. But we made sure we ticked all the boxes on our 1 percenters. We actually lost to England in that tournament but we didn't want to feel like that again. So we made adjustments and came out and played the Aussies in the final and took it out on them.
TK - You know winning 24 nil like. I remember watching this game and it was like nearly the perfect 80 minutes of football I've ever seen?
RW - It's crazy hey. Everything just went our way, the balance, and the calls.
TK - Because we think about the opposition like the opposition was stacked. They had a great Kangaroos team.
RW - Mate they were stacked to the hills.
TK - And they weren't even doing that much wrong either?
RW - Nah we were just coming in numbers and we were really focused on numbers in tackles and not taking a backward step. And you know we even Wayne Bennett sensed there was going to be a change he could probably just feel it. So probably one story I can tell you when we got to England for the tour it’s funny we went to the gym to do a workout just to get the jet lag out. So we did ten one minute efforts on the rower. So you do one minute on the rower try to get 300 metres take 30 seconds rest then back on but the Aussie boys were in there on the treadmills and I think they were hung over. So we were in there making a lot of noise, you know how us Kiwi's do. Because we were going hard because we didn't go out the night before. So we were going hard in the gym while they struggled and were sweating it out from the night before. After we finished on the rowers I said boys we got them. So that's the mentality we went into with that campaign and everyone did their job and I was pretty blessed to play 50 games. And in that final I didn't even know I was up to 50 haha I was just taking it a game at a time.
TK - But Ruben your longevity but because you're the first Kiwi to play 300 first great games as well. Now I know you talked about kava so is that the secret?
RW - Nah suspensions mate you've got to have suspensions, you've got to fit a holiday in here and there haha you've got to make sure they are around school holiday time.
TK - Ruben who introduced you to Kava was it Noah?
RW - Yeah Noah introduced it on our second day. These limo's turned in Queanbeyan with the Kava bowls and mix and nothing else. This was the second day after the grand final and I kind of fell in love with the Kava after that. I also did a bit of research and that did help with recovery with things like muscle soreness and anti-inflammatory due to the water in the kava. I practiced it religiously as I got older.
TK - What was it about the Kava that you loved so much?
RW - It was probably sitting around the lounge with the crew and playing music and just having a laugh, just the comradery and they dissected my game and what I needed to get better on and I'm like oh man I think I'm going alright haha. Tim Sheens always made a point to make sure you find some friends from outside of the circle of the footy arena.
TK - Was that for balance?
RW - Yeah balance. I found some friends outside and formed a bond with those islanders in Queanbeyan. They kept me grounded and so did my wife and kids and that led to longevity getting that balance right.
TK - After so many years at Canberra what made you move back to the New Zealand Warriors?
RW - Probably because the kids were born in Canberra and it had come to a time in my career. Financially wise it was the best option. There was a few offers given. Over time I had taken a few pay cuts to stay in Canberra because I loved it so much and I had to kind of look after myself and the family and I took a gamble and saw what was out there. So the Warriors came knocking and Wigan was interested as well. I had to weigh up the options and see what was best for me, the wife and the kids and the Warriors one was more appealing to bring the family back home and see the family again.
TK - So now the way it all finished because you and Steve Price you both finished in the prelim final so you're only one step away from the Grand Final. Was it kind of hard to take the fact that you achieved so much in the season but it was gonna be your last game at the same time?
RW - Yeah it was a funny season. When guys were saying you should be rid of this old fella. We weren't going to well at the Warriors halfway through the season so they had to find something else find something to spark them. Part of way through I had a bit of a rough patch in the season and I went down and played reserve grade.
TK - Did ya? Was that humbling after such a big career then having to play reggies?
RW - Oh mate it didn't bother me as long as I was playing footy. It doesn't matter what level you're at footy is footy, I loved it, it was awesome. Politics aside they weren't going to pick me in first grade so I went and played reserve grade. When I got called back to first grade I'm like but this is cool I was on 298 games. It's just one of those things man it was a testing time and I got through it and I called on some people like the coach of Kiwi's like Frank Endacott and just wanted to see what they thought I'd go about this. Do I get better or do I smile and just be me Ruben Wiki. I feel better that I took the right approach, I had some fun and had some me time. But I came back and had a mean run into the finals.
TK - But it’s a good example for the kids coming through to man because you could've just chucked it in but you didn't you just had fun and waited to get back in there?
RW - I just wanted to finish the season on a high with my mates and you know we grew the beards strong and the 300 game was coming through and I was a couple of games short and the boys wanted to get me the three hundred and to a grand final. We all bought into it and had a good run to the end you know. We ended up in 8th spot and played Melbourne and beat them.
TK - So weren't you the first team that finished eighth to beat the team that came first right?
RW - Yeah it was never heard of. We beat them then back to New Zealand to play the Cowboys then the Roosters against my mate Soliola it was always going to be me or him haha
TK - How'd you get the nickname Jake the Muss and also Kava King?
RW - I showed the movie on a bus trip to Sydney when it first came out. So we used to always travel to Sydney on a bus and a couple of the big boys they watched the movie and saw he had the same hair cut as me and the day after that they started calling me the Muss, Jake the Muss. I was like man I don't want that nickname I cook my own eggs man, I'm not going to get my wife to cook my eggs. But I think it was because it was from back home. It played a massive part in my life and I knew what they were trying to get across so that's where Jake the Muss came from.
So back in New Zealand we had the Kava sessions and the Kava King came into place. I used to go over to Australia with my bowl and the Kava and it had to go through customs so I think that's where it came from. They still call me the Muss when I catch up with the old boys and I'm like man I'm still cooking my own eggs boys so leave me alone haha
TK - Now Ruben you are a great leader in your time but when you have a look and reflect who do you think was the greatest leader that you had and why?
RW - Quentin Pongia, just the way he went about his business at training and playing. He didn't say much he let his actions speak for him. I learnt a lot from Q. If you've seen Q recently his going through a bit of a tough time. I caught up with him at the Kiwi's reunion last year and it bought me to tears. I've got that tough look about me but also a soft side. Q is all about being hard and that's it so he looked up to me when i was coming through the grades. Before games I used to hold pads for Q all the time and he'd always have claret even before a game. Just us two going at it on the pads was nuts and we knew we were ready for the game. But yeah Q I could just see it in his eyes that we were going to be ok.
TK - Ruben who was your toughest opponent?
RW - Oh Jesus I went up against some quality centres back in the day. Mary McGregor and the Pearl, Crackers. But I'd probably say Steve Renouf.
TK - How fast was that guy?
RW - He was fast bro, I'd jam up and try to take his head off before he could get around me. It was smart mate it was smart haha. He'd usually skip out and try to palm you off without even missing a beat and I still keep in contact with the Pearl on instagram I have a lot of respect for him. Probably Gordie Tallis in the back row and Petero in the middle. Three guys I really respect for what they do in the game and really nice guys off the field too.
TK - Ruben I really appreciate your time today before I let you leave I have some contact details to follow you. Online at www.wikiworkz.co.nz and on Instagram Rubenwiki_workz and also wikiworkzfitness.
RW - Santa and I have been training people on the side for 10 years just to give back and try to change people's lives.