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You're never too old

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COMPETING: Life is good when you stay active, says Auali'itia.

Age is only a number. Just ask 66-year-old Auali’itia Jack Apelu from Vaiusu and Lefaga and that’s precisely what he will tell you.At his age, you’d expect him to have really slowed down by now so that he will restricted to reading, eating and trying to make the most of his last years.

Not this young man. The Auckland-based Samoan keeps himself busy working out at the gym and running to keep fit.

In his prime, rugby was his passion. Along with other Samoans in the area, they formed an all- Samoan team that was unbeatable for one season playing in the Senior C division at Papatoetoe rugby club.

“We didn't know that Senior C was a lower division in rugby and we smashed all the teams we played against, there was no North Harbour rugby union then.”

Their success prompted a move to trial for the premier division in the following year where 11 of them made the team.

However, with a move up the to the premier division of the Auckland rugby meant they can't rely on their C division skills to get by and that began Jack's fitness regime.

He ran everywhere and to work.

Playing hooker required a lot of hard work and Jack never shied away from hard work, and to do that he must be fit. He ran from his home in Papatoetoe to Fletchers at Penrose, about one hour and thirty minutes each way every day.

“I ran through the winter and my mates said I was crazy. I hate winter but running made me warm,” he sad.

“When I was playing in the C division, we only train on Tuesday and Thursday evenings for Saturday's game. Premier rugby wasn't like that.

“We were told to train in our own time and to turn up to rugby training already fit – that meant training every day of the week, so I ran everywhere.

I played hooker but was moved to flanker because of my superior fitness.

In those days at Papatoetoe rugby, we had to run around Papatoetoe, and the first 15 that came in was the team that will play on Saturday.

“We didn't know that palagis train seven days-a-week to play rugby, we island boys were fit and only train on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, no individual training.”

Jack then shifted to the East Tamaki rugby club before ending his rugby career at Ponsonby when he heard about their intended trip to Samoa.

“I was getting on a bit with my age at that stage and a trip to my homeland Samoa to play rugby sounded good. Peter Fatialofa was our captain on that trip. I enjoyed it but was worried about what to do after rugby.” He went back and played presidents

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team at East Tamaki. “Just social games with the Cook islanders.” Born in Samoa, the father of three, four grandchildren and one great grandchild, hung up his rugby boots at 46.

But he felt empty. He felt that he needed something to fill the vacuum created by his retirement from rugby. And that’s how he got into bodybuilding.

So from the game of lineouts, scrums, tackles and mauls then chasing the oval ball, Jack entered the world where he only wears a skimpy outfit to bare all his muscles.

He said he needed to to stay fit because he was working for Sprinkler Systems at the time and bodybuilding training helped to maintain his fitness.

He was asked to join the Papatoetoe gym bodybuilding team that was going to the Nationals Bodybuilding competition in Taranaki but he told them he was too old.

They twisted his arm and he ended up going with 20 bodybuilders from the Papatoetoe gym.

He returned with a trophy – in his very first competition at the Masters division.

“And from that point onwards, I never stopped. I have been competing for 20 years now.

“Last week I won the Masters in Whakatane in the 60's age group. In 20 years and 71 competitions all over New Zealand, I have won 31 of them with 40 placements.

“In the year 2000, I competed 11 times and won them all. The last one was just last week. I've competed from Whangarei right down to south island, the whole of New Zealand.

“They have a bodybuilding competition calendar. For me, I have have natural muscles, I can compete any time I want but I do train all year to stay in shape.”

Jack also represented Samoa in the Pan Pacific Bodybuilding competition when he first started.

Jack has worked at the Farmers Distribution Centre for the last ten years and has no plans to retire.

He cycles to work every day. His employer had acknowledged his stay healthy regime out of nearly 500 people who works with him.

Keven Mealamu is his favourite All Black, “Because we both play hooker and go to the same church.”

Today, Jack encourages people his age to stay active.

“Life is good for me and my family,” he says. “My two daughters have got university qualifications and are now secondary school teachers, my son is starting his own business soon and I’m a happy man.”

The goal for him is to continue in the bodybuilding competition until he reaches 70. He wants to grab every title there is to win in the Masters division.

And his firm handshake is an indication that retirement is still a long way off.

 

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