On Friday 25 September, Matt Ratana, Head Coach of East Grinstead RFC was tragically killed whilst on duty in his role as Custody Sergeant.
Matt Ratana was born in the Hawke's Bay Region of New Zealand and was of Māori descent. He moved to England in 1989, working for the Metropolitan Police for nearly 30 years. Matt also served with New Zealand Police, joining the British High Commission Wing in 2003 and serving in the Auckland City and Counties Manukau police districts before returning to the UK in 2008.
Aside from his work in the police, Matt worked tirelessly as rugby coach for all ages and mentor to young people. He spoke often to his various teams of the importance of ‘ Whānau’, which in Maori means, your community, your family. He was an inspirational leader, friend and teacher.
He was wholly inclusive and ran teams from the very young through the men’s and women’s senior teams, as well as encouraging all ages to engage with the sport.
He inspired so many, and The Matt Ratana Rugby Foundation will work to build a legacy that he would have been proud of.
We have five pillars that make up "The Whānau way" . These were Matt's values focused on young people and the wider community.
BBC's news section on Matt and his importance
BT sport and EGRFC Tribute to Matt Ratana.
Coaches and Captains pay tribute to Matt
As well as his influential involvement in the rugby community, Matt was a popular and respected personality in Sussex gym circles. He brought the same uncompromising drive and inspiration, never happy unless he was busy organising, mentoring and bringing the best out of all those around him. In short, Matt encouraged others to push themselves to new goals, in the same way that he refused to settle for second best himself, as witnessed by some pretty serious achievements in weightlifting competition.
Matt’s colleagues and friends at South Coast Gym, led by Neil Donohue (pictured below with Matt), responded to the sadness and shock of their loss by pulling together supportively. Their annual event, Lancing’s Strongest, became a fundraiser last year, providing gym equipment dedicated to Matt’s memory. This year they went one further by raising a magnificent £1700 for the Foundation, alongside another worthy cause, Veterans’ Lifeline.
This magnificent firepit, conceived and created by Valerie Kruse, and kindly donated by Fred Wilson, was presented to EGRFC as a lasting memorial to Matt. To all the wonderful folk at South Coast Gym we extend heartfelt appreciation for their support and generosity.