TRENT Rose had played in a host of Indigenous rugby league matches prior to Saturday, but none of them prepared him for what he faced at Redfern Oval.
The former Bathurst Panther and Oberon Tiger not only stood and faced a Haka delivered by a passionate New Zealand Maori outfit, but he led the First Nation Goannas as they responded with their own intense war cry.
Those displays were followed by an entertaining Festival of Indigenous Rugby League match which Rose’s Goannas won 22-16 over the New Zealanders.
It was little surprise that Rose was won over by the inaugural festival.
“The whole concept sort of left me speechless. I was lucky enough to be given the honour of leading the war cry back at their Haka,” the talented second rower said.
“It’s an awesome concept, obviously with two very strong Indigenous cultures.
“The respect shown towards each other throughout the week then obviously on game day, it was a real show, that’s what it is all about.
“It’s a whole new experience, I have played in a lot of Indigenous type things, but I’ve never come up against a side as strong as New Zealand Maori. It’s completely different from knockouts and that sort of thing, I’d never faced the Haka before, which was pretty cool and intimidating.”
Though the game was the highlight of the week-long festival, Rose embraced everything about it.
From learning about his fellow Goannas – who included St Pat’s new recruit Zac Merritt – to being coached by league legend Laurie Daley, Rose said it was all an excellent experience.
“Leading up to the week we sat around and told a bit about our backgrounds, where we are from, what we do in our lives … we had a bit of a laugh because at knockouts, the blokes who we were in camp with, we’re used to running out and trying to knock their heads off,” he said.
“Getting to know each other on a personal level, obviously there’s that pride, passion and power when we get together in that strong brotherhood and I think it showed when we dug deep.
“I obviously watched Laurie when I was growing up when he was a rep player and George [Rose, brother] has had him coaching in the Indigenous All Stars team before.
“To have that experience, a guy with his knowledge and wisdom of the game, just the calmness he created through the camp all week was great. He’s not intense at all, the knows what he wants and he puts it out there and lets the boys have their say.
“It was good to see him relaxed and enjoying the camp as well … it was pretty amazing having someone of his calibre around.”
Saturday’s game at Redfern Oval was an exciting contest, with the New Zealand outfit scoring first before the Goannas hit back with a pair of tries.
By half-time the rivals were locked at 10-all, but when play resumed the Goannas put on 12 unanswered points to set up the win.
While Rose had confidence in his team-mates, he was still a little surprised to emerge victorious.
“The team they had put together for New Zealand Maori, there was a lot of Q Cup players in there and a few NSW Cup players – I thought myself, I always had faith in the team we assembled because I knew that every player we had was a decent footballer – but seeing the squad that they had assembled on paper, it was like ‘Whoa, that’s a decent line up’,” he said.
“It was a tough game but we dug deep and gave it back to them.”