Mean Maroon rugby 1979

Sunday, October 14, 2012

"Steak" Ondiek (in a white shirt and holding a glass) in a recent photo taken during the Las Vegas sevens in 2011. On the extreme right is another Lenana legend who joined the school after "Steak" had left, Martin Ndenda.

In 79 the bulk of the ’78 and highly successful ’77 rugby team had departed. Still new stars emerged to take their places. I am just amazed at the endless belt of rugby talent that Lenana has been able to sustain whatever the circumstances. Some of the new faces who were very visible that year included Jimmy James Muchiri of Mumia (a fly half and amazing goal kicker from any angle) and Max Muniafu (a ferocious forward) who was borrowed by CF from Mumia when he returned in 5th Form.

Unfortunately in Kirk we were not as well represented as we had been the previous year. In fact the only guy I seem to recall playing on that team was a guy called Otieno. I remember an interesting tale involving him. In those days we were still playing in the Eric Shirley Shield and so Mean Maroon would sometimes play as many as two or even three games in one week. Otieno (who was a winger) got injured but was still determined to play in the next game two days later. And so on match day I saw him hobbling up and down the Kirk corridor. Looking at him I thought he was crazy to even think of playing in that condition. But he just kept at it determined to warm up his leg injury. Later I saw him in the Maroon kit headed to Ridge 1, still limping a little. With lots of apprehension I headed there to watch the game. I don’t remember who we were playing but amazingly he did okay. Dick Mogere who was head of school was also the captain of that side. The guy’s passion for rugby was unmistakable.

That year Mean Maroon had a serious problem in the full back position. Jimmy Owino (a member of the legendary Eric Shirley winning side of 77 and HOH Speke) had departed the previous year. Actually the crisis developed when Ramoya of Mitchell was injured after only a game or two. That year I played my rugby for senior Colts and “Stake” Ondiek ( a third former) would sometimes appear at our training sessions jokingly asking us to ensure that we kept a place in the team for him. He was a full back just like me but used to train with the 1st XV. Small but heavily built he ended up being Ramoya’s replacement. At first I must admit I was skeptical but after watching him play in just one game, I was amazed. His positioning and ability to read the oppositions’ next move was just out of this world. For instance the opposing fly half would kick for touch deep into our half and amazingly Ondiek would be there catching the ball before it even bounced. His tackling was a joy to watch—very low, very clinical. And of course he would kick for touch too.

However Lenana being Lenana the captain Mogere seemed to be under a lot of pressure not to play a guy who had been a rabble just the other day. Luckily he was a guy who believed in merit above the school’s strict seniority system unlike other Mean Maroon skippers in later years. He would even toss fifth and fourth formers out of the school bus in favour of rabbles who played rugby for a school team when we were going out to watch an international game at Quins. Ondiek deserved the big break and in danger of sounding boring and repetitious I shall say once again what I have said in numerous other threads here on Facebook. Stake Ondiek is one of the greatest Full backs Lenana has ever produced and it is a great pity that he did not stay in Kenya long enough to play club and international rugby because more people would have been able to see what all the fuss I have been making here is all about.

On a personal level I was rapidly developing my own game for Kirk and the school senior Colts team where we demolished most of the opposition we came across.