Not all famous surnames in the history of Featherstone Rovers come from local families. One famous family came from New Zealand. In the 1980s fans loved to hate the bruising Sorenson brothers and the Tamatis. In the 1980s fans loved to hate the bruising Sorenson brothers and the Tamatis. In the 1990s we were thrilled by Henry and Robbie Paul, and later on the Kiwi test team included Louis and Vinny Anderson. In a country that has so many famous rugby league families, the Ropati name is one of the most well known in New Zealand RL circles. The first Ropati brother to arrive in England was Joe Ropati, who played for Warrington in 1988. He was the second oldest of seven brothers, four of whom would go on to play the game professionally in England. He was a strong and uncompromising winger who fit well into a tough Wilderspool team. The following year, his brother Iva came over too and signed for Featherstone Rovers. He must have wondered quite who he’d signed for as his debut was a disastrous 59-8 defeat at Widnes in September 1989, where we were destroyed by Martin Offiah and Brimah Kebbie.
A long striding centre who knew his way to the line, Iva Ropati immediately found a place in Rovers first team, and went on to play 26 games in his debut season in England, notching 15 tries, including two on his home debut against Doncaster the week after the Widnes debacle. He was also a try scorer in the Yorkshire Cup Final against Bradford. That same season his younger brother Tea Ropati was included in the touring New Zealand party, and once the tour was over Tea signed for St.Helens. The youngest and perhaps most talented of the brothers, Tea operated mainly at stand-off and went on to give St.Helens good service over a number of seasons. That same 1989 season saw Leigh sign Peter Ropati a hard-working hooker who stayed with Leigh a couple of seasons.
In 1991 Iva Ropati came back to England, joining Sheffield Eagles. That year he set the Eagles try scoring record with 30 tries in just 27 games, showing the type of form which prompted Howie Tamati to pick him for the 1993 tour. But before that season had finished, he left Sheffield for Oldham where his prolific try scoring continued. On the 1993 Kiwi tour he won his first test caps, up against Great Britain’s Paul Newlove, a former club-mate of his. He became the third brother in his family after Joe and Tea to win a test cap for New Zealand. Once that tour was over he signed for Featherstone Rovers for the second time, picking up where he left off with an impressive try scoring rate. In his second game back, he ran in a hatrick of tries against Leigh in a 36-0 success. He left Featherstone at the end of 1994 having played a total of 56 games and scored 31 tries.
Our 2012 winger Tangi Ropati is only very distantly related to this family.