Peter Cooper

Founding Partner

Climb to the
top of that hill.
And the next.

Growing up in the isolated Far North community of Kaitaia, Peter Cooper always wondered what lay over the top of the Mangamuka Gorge. One day he biked all the way up, only to find he was looking at another hill. Another unanswered question. Even more possibilities.

It’s his relentless drive to find out what lay over the next hill, and the next, that led Peter Cooper to create a legacy rivalled only by the world’s most accomplished business leaders. But you’d be forgiven for not knowing it. The quiet Northland boy who grew up playing rugby barefoot in the winter, clearing cows off the rugby field and welcoming the warmth of fresh cow droppings on his frozen toes, has never forgotten his roots. Nor the part those experiences played in forging the man he is today.


Sharon Morgan


Rugby gave me
so much more than I gave

She never set out to be the first female president of the Northland Rugby Union. But for someone whose love of rugby began when she was a young girl, watching games by her father’s side, there could be no greater honour for Sharon Morgan.

It’s a pathway that chose her, rather than one she pursued, thanks to a lifetime of involvement in rugby, putting the hours in as both an administrator of the game, and a supporter of her late husband Joe Morgan’s career as a provincial and All Blacks player.

But in Sharon’s eyes, she gained so much more than she gave. Now, she focuses on giving back to the sport that she says has given her so many opportunities, happy memories, and lifelong friends.


Darryn Shanks


We had an opportunity
to give more
than a handout

When the Kaitaia College First XV team approached Darryn Shanks for sponsorship, he saw an opportunity to give them more than a handout.

Not only did Darryn agree to support the team, but he pioneered a concept that would offer work experience for the College students at his company, Northland Waste, while allowing them to earn and save the money they needed for their tour.

The simplicity of this concept encouraged each student to take full responsibility for their own earnings – giving them a powerful sense of ownership for the project – as well as valuable life skills through the employment process.

“It was based around getting these boys to put their hand up, rather than putting their hand out”, says Darryn.


Cheryl Waaka


It doesn’t matter
where you come from
you can achieve

When Cheryl Waaka was growing up, girls weren’t allowed to play rugby. So she never imagined where she’d be now. Former Black Ferns New Zealand women’s player. First woman in Northland rugby history to coach a senior men’s club rugby team. And now, President of Kaikohe Rugby Club.

She reluctantly accepts the term ‘pioneer’, citing the hard work women of her generation put in, and the part they’ve played in getting women in rugby to where they are now.

She knows first hand the benefits of sport to a community, and because of that, she chose to return to Kaikohe, where she grew up, to give back. It’s her way of showing that if you really want to achieve something, it doesn’t matter where you come from. You can.


Warren Dunn


You learn to
trust the guy
next to you

For former Northland player Warren Dunn, rugby is about more than just jumping on a field every Saturday. Warren says the role was as much about getting out into the community, showing face, and being a positive role model to younger people.

He’s taken that experience forward into his post-rugby career in the New Zealand Police. He believes the values and skills he learned as part of a rugby team apply just as much in his new career as they did when he was playing rugby.

“You need to be able to know and trust that the guy next to you has your back. Playing rugby, that’s what it’s all about, trusting the man – or woman – next to you.”


Derren Witcombe


It’s been a rollercoaster
but rugby saved me

Life’s been a rollercoaster for Derren. But there’s one constant that appears again and again, always pulling him up, lifting him out of the dark times, and sometimes even saving his life.

From steering him towards the right path as a troubled teenage truant, to giving him the confidence he needed to believe in himself and his abilities as a player, rugby has always given Derren something positive to put his energy into.

And when a neck injury threatened to end his promising career as an All Black and Super Rugby player, when the darkness descended and the only logical way out seemed like a bottle of painkillers, it was the friends he’d made through rugby who were there to help him through.


D’Angelo Tahitahi


Do the mahi
get the treats

D’Angelo Tahitahi was one of nine Kaitaia College rugby teammates who took part in a work experience and fundraising scheme with local company Northland Waste. Over eight weeks, he and his teammates worked as rubbish collector and sorters, doing the hard mahi to earn the money they needed for a rugby trip to Rarotonga.

But they gained more than just the funds they needed for the trip. His coach, and manager of Northland Waste, Darryn Shanks, says one of the most obvious benefits was the confidence the boys developed, something that was apparent both on and off the field.

After eight weeks they were working independently and speaking confidently. And that showed in their game too, with the boys communicating better on the field too.


Te Kahi Nathan


Hand up,
not hand out

‘Hand up, not hand out’ is the motto of Te Kahi’s team – the Kaitaia College First XV.  It’s something they live by, on and off the field. He says it’s about stepping up, putting your best foot forward and getting the job done, rather than asking and waiting for someone else to do it for you.

That’s a life skill he’s learned through his involvement in rugby, and it’s not the only one.

Communication skills, leadership, teamwork, time management – Te Kahi says he’s been fortunate enough to develop skills in all of these areas, thanks to his involvement with the sport. And he’s had opportunities too – to travel, meet people, develop friendships and learn from others – all of which he wouldn’t have had, at least not to the same extent, without rugby.


Eric Rush


It behoves us
to give back

Eric Rush remembers the names of all his old coaches. Every single one. He credits the time and energy they put into him as a youngster with making him the person he is today, setting him on the path that ultimately led him to success as a professional rugby player, and in business.

The former All Black, who also holds a New Zealand boxing title, a law degree and now runs a successful supermarket in Whangarei, believes it’s his duty to give back to the next generation, and impart the knowledge he learned all those years ago.

“Rugby is a game that shapes character, and builds respect”, he says. “It worked for me, and I’ve seen it work for other kids too, kids that are playing in black jerseys now.”


Madison Waaka


The future
face of rugby

Madison Waaka may not see herself as such, but she represents the future of rugby. The 13-year old started playing a year ago, giving up her other sporting interests to focus exclusively on rugby. She says it’s the physicality of the game – the very reason why women were excluded or discouraged from playing rugby for so long – that appeals to her. Although she does admit to preferring the faster pace of Sevens.

Women, and particularly young women like Madison are reinvigorating the sport like never before. This year alone, there were 3,500 new female players in New Zealand, and the number of registered female players has almost doubled since 2012. It’s a sea change that’s both inspired by, and adding to the momentum of successful women’s teams like the Black Ferns and Black Ferns Sevens.


Rene Ranger


beyond the rugby field

As one of the top players to come out of Northland, Rene Ranger has enjoyed a career that’s taken him around the world. But professional rugby player is just one of many employment opportunities he’s had through his involvement in the game.

Labourer, butcher, road worker – they’re all jobs he’s landed through his network of club rugby contacts, many of whom own businesses, and all of whom stick together – because that’s what you do for your mates.

Not every club player will become an All Black. And even those who do won’t be All Blacks forever. So having something to fall back on is invaluable. And you could do worse than having the support of a club to develop skills for the workplace, and a loyal network of contacts to offer opportunities beyond the rugby field.

What is
Rugby for Life?

Rugby for Life is a community rugby partnership program that leverages the power of rugby to help improve the lives of all Northlanders and their communities.

Building on the networks, values and influence of the Northland Rugby Union and the Northland Rugby Community, the Rugby for Life program will provide meaningful support to local communities at a local level in all corners of the region, to achieve positive health, education and employment outcomes for Northland.

To find out more about Rugby for Life and how you can become involved, please contact:

Sharon Gibson - Project Coordinator
021 2442 811