“What a game, like far,” Keelan Whitman laconically quipped last year when speaking about the St Pat’s Town v Wellington College traditional.
The loose forward was Town’s captain in a remarkable 31-26 victory. At one stage the visitors had trailed 19-0 and were reduced to 14 players for the last 50 minutes following a red card.
“I believed we could always win. We had a lot of talent and pride in the jersey,” Whitman stressed.
At the forefront of Town’s talent was Whitman who scored a try and ran riot.
“I had never beaten Col in five years at Town, so it was good to get them at last,” Whitman said.
Whitman gained his First XV cap as a Year 11 lock forward. In 2017, he was selected for the New Zealand Under-18 Maori’s who beat a fiercely competitive Tongan outfit 38-26 at Jerry Collins Stadium, Porirua. Whitman scored a try and was a standout performer in the narrow success.
Despite Whitman’s consistent excellence, Town was an enigma last year. The stirring Wellington College triumph was followed by a humiliating 52-10 defeat to St Patrick’s College, Silverstream. Town wasn’t expected to beat Scots College away from home in the semi-finals.
“The Stream game was a big wake up call for us,” Whitman recalls.
“After it we built staunchness and developed an underdog mentality.”
Town stunned Scots 33-26 in that semi-final with Soul Lauvi Johnson and Emin Kaya scoring tries in the last minute. The momentum carried on into the final and Town almost upset Stream.
“I think the Scots game was the highlight of the season. No one gave us a chance, but we never gave up. It was disappointing to lose the final, but I think we won a lot of respect,” Whitman reflected.
Whitman is respected by Wellington Rugby where he has been a member of the Wellington High Performance Unit for two years. One of the few schoolboys involved, Whitman trains several mornings a week before heading to construction sites around Wellington. Whitman has secured employment as a builder since leaving college.
“The Academy is about becoming a better rugby player and person. I have really enjoyed leaving school and having to stand on my own two feet,” Whitman enthused.
Whitman will join his brother Grayson (a former Samoa Under-20 rep) at Marist St Pat’s this season. Whitman has high hopes for MSP.
“The vibe is really good at the club. We’ve got a lot of players returning from last season and guys from the Academy like Natioa Ah Kuoi and the Thompson twins,” Whitman observed.
On his 17th birthday, Whitman applied a tattoo on his right arm denoting his tribal affiliation. Whitman is from the Ngati Rangiwewehi iwi based out of Rotorua.
In his spare time, he enjoys playing basketball and spending time with friends and family.
Keelan’s parents Rachel and Sonny (the latter always in a distinctive orange beanie), are among the more pleasant and louder supporters of Wellington rugby.
Favourite Musician: Usher
Favourite Movie: The Blind Side
Celebrity Crush: Usher, Glenn Donaldson
Favourite Player: Jerry Collins