Jack Kani – Puni Rugby Club | Faces of Auckland Sport and Recreation Volunteers
Jack Kani has been one of the mainstays of club rugby in Counties Manukau for decades, playing for a number of clubs across the region since the 1970s before finally hanging up his boots in 2021.
It was a return to the Puni Rugby Club, where Jack’s rugby career started, that cemented his love of volunteering though, giving back to the club and sport that he says “has given me so much.”
Situated between Pukekohe and Patumahoe, Puni Rugby Club is a small club with a big heart. After some lean years that saw the club struggling to field enough players, Puni has gone from strength to strength recently, including lifting the Sid Marshall Shield for Counties Manukau Premier Grade 3 in 2022.
But behind every club are the volunteers who make things happen – people like the man widely known as ‘Uncle Jack’, who’s willing to do whatever is required for Puni to take to the field and compete.
After joining Puni as a 16-year-old, Jack went from the under-19 team in his first year to senior rugby in his second, holding down a spot as a prop. Stints at other clubs in Counties Manukau followed, as did a representative career with Counties which saw him earn 30 caps and a New Zealand Māori trial.
It was when Jack returned to Puni as a player/coach in 1990 though that his commitment to volunteering really took hold.
“Coaching and playing is volunteer stuff; it's about what you can do for your club,” says Jack. “In 1990, I came back from playing first division in Ardmore to help Puni out and bring my experience back. Rugby helped me and gave me a good career, and I thought ‘I'll just do what I can to give back’.”
Jack went on to spend time at other clubs, helping them “get their feet back on the ground.” But he eventually returned to Puni for good in 2014, and while he’s hung up his boots now, his role as a volunteer rolls on.
“The icing on the cake for me is being able to come back to help out at Puni,” says Jack. “I’m just ready to help the club out, and do whatever needs to be done to help keep the club moving forward.”
That’s included coaching, administration, and helping with a recent project on renovating Puni’s clubrooms – the first upgrade in 50 years, which was supported by local businesses and Counties Manukau Rugby.
“I took a week’s holiday from work, and just spent the week at the clubhouse helping out with whatever the tradies needed done, holding a bit of timber or painting something,” says Jack. “It's just putting your hand up and helping out - that's what it's all about.”
“If you're going to volunteer for a club, whatever the sport is, you need to want to carry on the work the people in the club before you started. Just get it in there and give it 100%, and just keep going forwards towards what you believe in. As long as my health is good, I'll be around at Puni as long as I can be.”
Aktive and Vodafone New Zealand are thrilled to be working together to celebrate our awesome volunteers who make Auckland sport and recreation possible.
Volunteers generously give their time, knowledge, and skills to community sport and recreation, making for a happier, healthier Tāmaki Makaurau.
If you’re interested in volunteering, have a chat with your local sports club or recreation group – we’re sure your support will be hugely appreciated!