Rugby: Wauchope Thunder to host memorial day for Taegan Grace and John Tavaga

SADLY MISSED: John Tavaga playing for Wauchope Thunder in 2015.  PHOTO: MATT ATTARD.

SADLY MISSED: John Tavaga playing for Wauchope Thunder in 2015. PHOTO: MATT ATTARD.

PORT Macquarie Pirates coach Chris Young knows about the importance of their clash with Wauchope at Andrews Park on Saturday.

In an afternoon where emotions are sure to run high, both sides will compete in a memorial day for former player John Tavaga and his wife Taegan Grace.

Tavaga tragically lost his life late last year, 12 months after Taegan lost her battle with cervical cancer.

Young admitted it would be a day where “rugby came second.”

“JT played a significant role in both clubs and it will be a big event on Saturday,” he said.

“I got to know him quite well and it was one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen.”

The Pirates coach knows his players will have to put emotions to one side for the game which looms as a must-win encounter.

“A few of the boys were really close to him and we haven’t spoken about it, but I’m sure we will at our last training session,” he said.

Pirates are on a tightrope walk to the finals although Young admitted they still faced an uphill battle.

“We know we have to win and one or two results have to go our way,” he said.

A few of the boys were really close to JT and we haven’t spoken about it, but I’m sure we will at our last training session.

Port Pirates coach Chris Young

“But it’s one of those ones where we either win or we lose, there’s no other option.”

It will be the third annual memorial day for the club which they started in 2015.

The day will consist of the great game that is rugby union starting with the under 14’s, followed by the women’s, reserve grade and the day will finish off with the first grade game from 3pm.

The Thunder will take to the field in a specially designed jersey as they have done every year.

This year the jersey was designed especially with Taegan and John in mind. The artist who designed Walter Hati was a good friend of Tavaga’s.

Fellow player and journalist Matt Attard has fond memories of his friend.

“JT was a bloke with a huge heart and an infectious smile, even through the worst kind of heartache imaginable,” he said.

“He was always there for me, because that's the kind of guy he was. He was there for everyone and everyone was his "bro".

“He shared love, always. He was always motivating me, and always cracking a joke. I miss him very much, and I know everyone who had any kind of relationship with him feels the same.”

There will be a number of jerseys to be auctioned off.

JT was a bloke with a huge heart and an infectious smile, even through the worst kind of heartache imaginable.

Matt Attard

The Thunder have been able to source a few number 12 jerseys from numerous clubs to help with their cause, the number being the one Tavaga used to wear.

The Thunder will have full bar and canteen facilities on the day, a jumping castle, temporary tattoos and face painting.

There will be a raffle with some great prizes to be won, and a popcorn and cotton candy stand.

Money raised will go to the Palliative Care unit in Wauchope and the Motor Neurone Disease foundation on behalf of the Shore family who recently lost their father to MND.