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Aaron Lester

Aaron Lester

Aaron Lester left the Warriors and ended up at Whitehaven where became a club legend. Also Workington was the final port of call for Hitro Okesene who still lives in the area...
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Aaron Lester left the Warriors and ended up at Whitehaven where became a club legend. Also Workington was the final port of call for Hitro Okesene who still lives in the area...
Yep. I don't go much now though so a bit out of tune, lost contact with a few school mates and my Dad is in his mid 80's. Both clubs are now two divisions down from SL which is poor. West Cumbria needs a pooling of the resources and get a regional side in SL, but there are too many ingrained local rivalries for it to work ATM.
Was having a look through some old squads and can’t really remember the following players playing for the Warriors.
Anyone able to remember anything of significance about any of these guys?

Mike Dorreen
Iva Ropati
Aaron Lester
Steve Buckingham
Meti Navaoo
David Bailey
Zane Clarke
Frank Watene
Peter Lewis
Carl Doherty
Boycie Nelson
Talite Laiva’a
Scott Coxon
Matt Spence
Ben Lythe
David Mulhall
Jonathan Smith
Jason Temu
Jeremiah Pai
Danny Sullivan
Shannon Stowers
Herewini Rangi
Kane Ferris
Paul Atkins
Corey Lawrie
Daniel O’Regan
Mataupu Poching
Lester and another former warrior Hitro Okesene live in Cumbria in NW England. This event
was for a bloke who was in my year at school

Sice v Lester for No.9 shirt

24th February 2005

CARL Sice vs Aaron Lester. No, it’s not a competition, but the fact that the young pretender starred with a hat-trick of tries in Sunday’s redeeming home victory over Barrow has re-opened the debate over Haven’s hooking position.

Like: Who should start in the No.9 shirt? Sice, the younger man, got his chance in the Northern Rail Cup at The Recre last week because the skipper was injured.
Few players like to be on the subs bench, although this is the nature of today’s game: Impact at the right time.

On his day Aaron Lester, who has signed a new two-year contract, is arguably still the best hooker in the division and one of the best leaders.

His leadership remains a big factor at Whitehaven. When the dynamic Kiwi plays well then invariably the team plays well, although sometimes too much reliance has been put on his shoulders.

In my opinion, Lester has proved himself the best No.9 ever to wear the chocolate blue and gold and that’s why he was selected as one of the Haven Immortals.

No doubt in my mind, subject to form and fitness, that Aaron will continue to be the first choice starting No9, he is the captain after all.

That does not stop the heir apparent continuing to chaff at the bit. His five-star display against Barrow proved as much.

In most National League One sides, Carl Sice would be first choice hooker. Last season, although understudy to Lester, I considered him to be the best Cumbrian hooker by birth and championed his right to be in the Cumbria team and after being originally overlooked the ex-Town jack in the box got the honour he deserved against the Anzacs.

Head coach Steve McCormack knows he is in an enviable position of having two top-class hooker on the books, plus the new Aussie Jamie Seaton being able to cover the position as well.

But when I put Steve on the spot yesterday as to who would be starting against Gateshead on Sunday his answers were so diplomatic that I suggested he should have considered putting himself up for Jack Cunningham’s political job!

Q: Is Aaron Lester fit for this Sunday. A: Yes.

Q: Will he start again the game. A: He will be in the 17........ I haven’t picked the side yet.
Much tongue in cheek. I will be surprised if Lester doesn’t lead the team out.
“Aaron is a massive influence on the team but Carl Sice is an outstanding player in his own right,” says Haven’s master politician.

But McCormack is quick to make a telling point: “Carl played more games for Whitehaven than any other player last season, he only missed one game against Swinton, and played good games over and over again. Every one of them in the No.9 position with Aaron unless he went off injured moving to back row, loose forward or No.6. And for most of the time they were on the field at the same time, causing a lot of threats between them.”

So long may it continue, starting against The Thunder at The Recre on Sunday in the next round of the Northern Rail Cup. Don’t know about Lester, but I fancy Carl to bag a few more tries......when he comes on!


Lester set to retire at end of season

22nd January 2007
By Martin Morgan
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Lester set to retire at end of season

LONG-SERVING Whitehaven skipper Aaron Lester has confirmed that the forthcoming season will be his last at the Recreation Ground before he retires.

The former Auckland Warriors hooker, who has been granted a testimonial this year, with fellow Kiwis Leroy Joe and David Fatialofa, will see out the final year of his contract and then bring down the curtain on his playing career.

“I’m 34 in May and I started playing at this level or above at 16½ or 17 and I have been really fortunate,” Lester said.

“I have had five operations over my time, but I class myself as quite lucky.

“People watch this game because it is physical, and it takes it out of your body. I will be quite happy when I’m finished. You get to 33 and your body has had enough.

“There is social rugby, but there is a reason why there are no over-35s rugby league teams.

“When I finish it won’t be because of the training, as I love it. But after 10 years, travelling to away games is a bugbear.

“If there is one thing I dislike at this stage of my career it’s the travelling.”

He expects young players such as Graeme Mattinson, Derry Eilbeck and Scott McAvoy to continue to improve this year, and he is hoping that Spencer Miller sustains the impressive form he showed last term on returning from a long-running eye injury.

In common with many team-mates, Lester does not see the failure to sign new players in the off-season as a major problem.

“It’s strange this year as it’s not like last year when we had four or five new people coming in,” he added.

“We won’t need time for new players to get used to the rest of the team or a new coach. It should be good.

“Castleford are always going to be up there, plus one or two others, but it’s hard to say.

Players are switching between clubs depending on whoever is offering a little more money.

“Widnes still have Super League ideas, the structure for Super League and the advantage of their location. It has never been a level playing field.”

Understandably, Lester is happy that team-mate Joe has been granted a testimonial, despite not playing 10 unbroken seasons at the Recreation Ground.

He played one year at Hull KR after being reluctantly released by Haven due to new restrictions on overseas imports. But he returned to West Cumbria the following season.

Lester said: “The club didn’t want to let Leroy go at the time, but they could cover his position a little better than others.

“He’s a very under-rated player, playing in a position where you get a lot of notice. He has been around for a long time and teams know his strengths.

“If he has a quiet game it’s not necessarily because he has played poorly. He had a good season last year and for me he was one of our better players.”

Meanwhile, Great Britain amateur international Craig McAvoy is training with Haven after catching the eye of coach Dave Rotheram in action for Hensingham.

“People told me he was a stand-out player, and when I saw him he franked those reports,” said Rotheram, who stressed that McAvoy had not signed for Haven.

“He has good skills and can play anywhere in the back-line. He’s having a look at us to see how he likes it. We are putting him under no pressure.”

McAvoy took almost a year out of the game after breaking a bone in his ankle and suffering a dislocation playing for Great Britain BARLA Under-23s in late 2005.


Lester deserves a medal of honour

5th July 2007

THE news that Aaron Lester has decided to hang up his boots in his testimonial will overshadow Whitehaven’s bread-and-butter home game against Sheffield Eagles on Sunday.

But it is appropriate that one of Haven’s greatest players should choose to make the announcement now — so it doesn’t detract from the build up to the Northern Rail Cup final, one of the most significant games in the club’s history.

Eyebrows have been raised following the respected Kiwi’s omission from the last two matches. Was he injured or just dropped, or had he fallen out with the coach?

On the latter score, nothing could be further from the truth but Aaron has had a succession of knocks which has understandably affected his form. Lately, the skipper has been looking a shadow of his old self and that’s why I applaud his decision to retire now rather than allow speculation of the wrong kind to fester. Especially if he feels he can no longer give of his best at the ripe old age of 34!

Aaron Lester is the best player I’ve seen in the No.9 jersey at Whitehaven — and I have seen a lot. I was one of those to pick The Immortals, the best 13 players to wear the chocolate blue and gold in their respective positions. Lester was virtually an automatic choice for the hooking spot.

When you talk about players putting their bodies on the line, this courageous New Zealander is the perfect example, someone who was surely good enough to play for New Zealand and certainly make his mark at the top of Super League but instead he chose to throw in his lot with Whitehaven and make his home here.

Lester has worn the chocolate blue and gold with pride, honour and dignity — and that’s the way he deserves to bow out.

If I had my way, the warrior from Auckland would hang up his boots in a blaze of glory.

I’d retain him as non-playing club captain for the time being, make him champion of Haven’s build up to the Northern Rail Cup final on Sunday week at Blackpool, not only that but to have the honour of leading the team on to the field.

Of course, this is not the Aaron Lester way, he doesn’t care for the limelight but, by the same token, his presence has always been important and sometimes inspiring to his team mates both on and off the field.

They, along with the directors and the coaching staff, should do their best, as I am sure they will, to get their captain involved not only in the lead up to the Blackpool final but also this Sunday’s home league match in some way.

Lester has been Whitehaven RLFC’s talisman. He deserves a medal of honour and certainly a farewell appearance of some sort would be fitting — supporters will want to pay homage and fitting tribute.

As far as the players are concerned, there should only be one thing on their minds: and that’s not the Cup final. Perhaps easier said than done, but the team really must concentrate from the word go on Sunday put in a first-class performance that shows the Eagles no mercy.

“They will be playing for their places in the final” — that’s the uncompromising message from coach Dave Rotheram.

It’s good that David Seeds is back. Likewise the indomitable David Fatialofa, one of the three Kiwi musketeers. Along with Lester and Leroy Joe, Fats found his way to The Recre 10 years ago and like his compatriots has been granted a well-earned testimonial.

Some of the doom and gloom merchants were at it following the 44-12 reversal at Castleford but by all accounts the scoreline wasn’t a true reflection of the proceedings. At least one or two of those fans who were there are prepared to put money on Haven winning the televised return at The Recre in August.

One critic, believe it or not, told Radio Cumbria: “We don’t have a scrum half or a defence.”

True, the defence has been vulnerable at times but as for the scrum half, many rate John Duffy the best all-round No.7 in the division on current form. I’m inclined to agree just at the moment. Even though I did suggest to Martin Morgan a couple of months ago when Castleford were running hot that I’d swap two or three Whitehaven players for Danny Brough, the lightning-quick scrum-half Hull let go. Well, Martin informs me that Duffy, in a beaten side, outshone Brough at The Jungle! Duffy vs Joel Penny in the Cup final will be interesting but all that matters now is that Haven keep their eye on the ball for this weekend — and don’t forget the value of Aaron Lester.


Souvenir book for Kiwi trio

12th June 2008
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Out now: The HaveNZ Three commemorative book

A SOUVENIR brochure marking the decade of sterling service to Whitehaven of their Kiwi trio David Fatialofa, Leroy Joe and Aaron Lester is now on sale.

The 64-page HaveNZ Three, packed with pictures from Whitehaven News photographers John Story and Mike McKenzie, is available at Unique Sports priced at £5.

And Lester and Joe will be at the Queen Street store between 10am and noon on Saturday to sign copies.

Included are tributes from Stan Martin, the coach who brought the Kiwis to the club, their families, former team-mate David Seeds, ex-ref Colin Morris, supporters and Haven president Richard Woodall.

The top trio chart in humorous detail their careers in New Zealand, and how they came to join Haven.

Journalist and author Harry Edgar, who had a spell as Haven chief executive, also puts his authoritative stamp on their impact on the club.

He writes: “The history of Whitehaven RLFC owes a massive debt to these three fellows, for they have shaped that history so much, and always for the better.

“Without them, who knows what might have happened? And so does the whole town of Whitehaven owe them a massive vote of thanks for the amount of pride and enjoyment they have helped bring to the area. It has been a pleasure to know them.”

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Kind hearted Kiwis donate testimonial cash to hospital

12th February 2009
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THANKS: Haven's Kiwi trio David Fatialofa, Leroy Joe and Aaron Lester have presented the ICU and HDU Units at the West Cumberland Hospital with £1,500 from their testimonial fund. From the left: David Fatialofa; Rose Franklin from the unit; Howard Hill

WHITEHAVEN’S kind-hearted Kiwis have presented a cheque for £1,500 to the Intensive Care Unit at the West Cumberland Hospital.

The cash, courtesy of ex-skipper Aaron Lester, David Fatialofa and current captain Leroy Joe, will be used to update the ICU’s family room.

It was raised at a gentlemen’s evening for the trio, organised by ex-Haven directors Ron Batty, Kenny Shepherd and Des Byrne, which brought down the curtain on their testimonial year.

Former Haven boss Paul Cullen was among the special guests.

“It was a good night and finished the testimonial year really well,” said Lester, who thanked the testimonial committee for their hard work during the year.

“We chose people who we knew were good and they didn’t disappoint.”

The ICU was chosen after the care they gave to team-mate Howard Hill on his recent illness.

Around 500 special commemorative rugby shirts were sold on their behalf by Billy Rudd, of Unique Sports. And Lester hailed the special testimonial brochure as a particular highlight.
“Harry Edgar and Bob Sewell did a lot of work on the book, and it was fantastic,” Lester added. “You just can’t put a price on it.”


Aaron Lester: Why I quit Haven

23rd September 2010
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Ex Whitehaven player Aaron Lester and wife Clare with children Emily Zach and Jake at their Moresby home

THERE may have been better rugby league players than Aaron Lester to wear the chocolate blue and gold but not too many.

That’s why within a relatively short time of making his majestic mark at Whitehaven the former New Zealand junior international was selected for The Immortals - 13 players judged to be Haven’s all-time greats in their respective positions. In the eyes of many good judges the teak-tough Kiwi had the ability to play full Test rugby for New Zealand alongside such early contemporaries as Stacey Jones – certainly good enough to hold his own in Super League had he chosen to leave the Recre.

But instead, for the best part of a decade, Aaron Lester was Whitehaven’s own Man of Steel, captaining the side in two successive Championship Grand Finals and amid rapturous Recre scenes collected a piece of long-awaited silverware as League leaders.
When Lester played well the Whitehaven team generally played well, he led inspiringly from the front.

Now, as the curtain comes down on 62 years of Recreation Ground history, the team’s acknowledged talisman reflects on a distinguished career.

In the first of a two-part feature, Aaron also talks candidly about his Haven ups and downs and for the first time publicly reveals the reasons for his shock decision to quit the club.

Lester served under no fewer than six Whitehaven coaches – Stan Martin, Colin (“Buck”) Armstrong briefly as player/coach, Kevin Tamati, Paul Cullen, Steve McCormack and, more controversially, Dave Rotheram.

Paul Crarey and Ged Stokes both tried to entice him back but to no avail.

Not the sweetest of endings but the Lester individual brilliance and leadership will remain forever in Whitehaven RLFC’s history books – not bad for a relatively unknown lad who arrived, unheralded, into a cold, dark West Cumbrian town from the Land of the Long White Cloud.

Stan Martin was the magnet not only for Aaron but also a galaxy of bright young Kiwi talent – David Fatialofa, Leroy Joe, Siose Muliumu and Gus Malietoa-Brown.

Stan Martin had succeeded an even more illustrious New Zealander (Kurt Sorensen) as Whitehaven coach. Stan was a great mentor, getting the best out of the fledgling Kiwis as well as some excellent local talent.

Stan, as with the case of Lester, Fats and Joe was to leave a legacy of his own.

But overall his permanent replacement, fellow countryman Kevin Tamati, was unable to leave the same impression.

Lester is frank in his view: “I am not being disrespectful to Kevin but he was a better player (ex Widnes and New Zealand Test front rower) than he was a coach. For me, personally, coaching wise he was struggling.”

Next it was Paul Cullen, bringing in culture changes on and off the field.

“Before Paul came, all sorts was going on,” says Lester. He disclosed: “I had talks with Ralph Calvin – potentially I was going to be player/coach but I was never really going to do it so young.

“Whitehaven suited Paul Cullen and Paul Cullen suited Whitehaven.

“During Kevin Tamati’s time we were struggling, good young players like Phil Sherwen and the Purdham boys, Rob and Garry. I had a lot of respect for all of them but they were chucked in at the deep end. We always had the players, but never enough of them.

“Under Steve McCormack the club attracted some excellent overseas players alongside some excellent local talent. Our worst player in the team was better than what we had two years before!”

It culminated in the euphoria of two Champion-ship Grand Finals.

Says Aaron: “The first (against Leigh) went into extra time, but we should have won. I was more demoralised the year after when we lost to Castleford.”

Bouncing back from being 18-0 down to beat Castleford (at The Recre) a couple of weeks before might have given Haven a huge confidence boost for the final but Lester points out: “In some ways it was worse; but when it got to the final itself we just didn’t perform.

“There were a lot of rumours that we didn’t want to win, that we didn’t want to go into Super League. I can assure you everybody wanted to win both those finals, it would have been good for us as players and also for the town to have the big clubs come to Whitehaven.”

Were you over-awed against Cas? – “No, we just didn’t perform. With all the promotional stuff our coach had to do in the week leading up to the final, our preparation wasn’t all that good.

“We didn’t train at our normal times, everything was unsettled, Castleford just came out on fire, we didn’t. Cas were a really good team, perhaps we didn’t fully appreciate they were full time and we were part-timers.

“When we lost the previous season I don’t think you could possibly lose any better. Everybody gave it their all.”

Next chapter: Steve McCormack lured away to Widnes and Dave Rotheram arrives from St Helens.

“Dave came in with some new ideas, some of his drills I really enjoyed. For me it was a little bit of fresh air, I was full of enthusiasm.”

So much so that Lester led Haven again to the Championship play-offs but it proved all bitter sweet. The pain was not down to a broken arm alone.

“When I broke my arm, the club brought in Aaron Smith, there was an influx of travelling players,” he explained.

“I was retiring at the end of my contract, I’d already said (to Dave) that we needed to give Matty (Graeme Mattinson) as much chance to develop as hooker. I saw him as my replacement along with Sicey (Carl Sice) who was the best bench player in the league. Dave didn’t really see it that way, his idea was that they should try and take that position off me.

“I started the season as hooker and when I broke my arm it seemed bad for me but good for Matty and Sicey. Then the club went and signed Aaron Smith. I was disappointed. I thought ‘what’s the point of wasted. Aaron Smith’s a good player but was he better than what we’ve got?’ I didn’t think he was. That was sort of the beginning of the end for me.
“I didn’t feel as though I was playing that badly, if I was comparing myself to the rest of the team. Was I below par? – no I don’t think so.”

Were you spitting the dummy out? – “Was I? Maybe a little bit yeah. When I signed my last contract I decided I didn’t want to stand in the way of youth but there were a couple of other issues going on that I wasn’t liking.

“Dave was a good coach but if I’ve got a criticism it was his man management. A few players were disgruntled.

“The game I got dropped for was the semi-final of the Northern Rail Cup – I was about to go training and Dave came up and said ‘you’re not playing’.

“I was the club captain but I wasn’t told until that morning, I was dropped – not even in the 17 but Dave said ‘I want you before the game to get in among the changing room and at half time’.

“I said ‘I’m not doing that’ – Dave didn’t have the decency to tell me earlier on in the week so I just said ‘no’.

“Don’t get me wrong, I would love to have finished the year playing for Whitehaven. I had a couple of days away from the club, had a discussion with Dave, sounded him out about a few things but still didn’t like what I was hearing.

“Our relationship had broken down.”

Clare, your wife, was heart-broken about the way you hung up your boots – “Yeah, I don’t think she necessarily agreed with the way I finished. Clare always supported me, although she’d twine a bit about the time I would give to the game. We didn’t get married for three years because I was playing, we were engaged but I wasn’t having a weekend off to get married! Selfishly sometimes my rugby league came before my family. Clare was upset, she wasn’t happy but she also understood the situation.”

Did anyone extend the olive branch after Dave’s departure? “Yes Paul Crarey did (the next coach) and then Ged (Stokes); they asked me to go back and play. I said I’d consider but other issues needed sorted out first.

“Basically when I retired I left halfway through a season, I’d rung Des Byrne (then club chairman) and said ‘that’s me finished’, we’d need to sort something out contractually.

“I gave back my sponsored car to Ron Batty. I hadn’t been paid for the first four months of the year; as soon as I retired I relinquished the rest of my contract, a clean break.

“A lot of other sportsmen don’t quit like I did; they get sacked and get their money.

“Ged said ‘we’ll sort it out and you’ll get you outstanding money paid monthly’ but I didn’t get a phone call, it didn’t happen.

“Whitehaven were very good for me for nine and a half years. In the last half a year I was a professional right up to day I left, but I don’t think the club conducted themselves professionally towards me – that’s the way it goes.

“I have no regrets, the only regret is that I didn’t finish the year playing the game and saying ‘so long’ on the field to the likes of Leroy, Fats and Seedsey. I had a choice to make, I made that choice.”


Legends to speak at memorial night

30th October 2015

LEGENDS Gary Charlton, Aaron Lester and Hitro Okesene will be the star attractions at a memorial night for Moresby chairman Tommy Callan.

The three rugby greats will speak at the 'Evening with three Cumbrian heroes' fundraising event next month, with cash being donated Hospice at Home West Cumbria.

Callan, who died earlier this year, started at the rugby union side when more than 40 years ago, was a hugely popular club member.

Charlton, Lester and Okesene will all be interviewed by Howard Nicholson at the event on November 21.

Charlton and Lester are former rugby league players, who starred in England and Australia during his career.

Both played for Whitehaven, with Charlton being the son of RL legend Paul, who won the World Cup with Great Britain.

Okesene is a New Zealand international, who also plied his trade in his home land, England and France.

Colin McLaughlin, who is helping organise the event, said it was important people knew this was not just a Moresby event.

Fewer than 100 tickets are left, and McLaughlin said: "We want to remember a great rugby player, committee member, family man and a friend.

"It promises to be a great night, and I'm sure Gary, Aaron and Hitro will have some stories to tell.

"It's not just about Moresby though. Tommy was well known for his links to Sellafield, its dive team, and the wider community. Everyone is welcome to attend, and hopefully we'll raise a lot of money for a great cause."

Callan passed away in May, aged 55, after battling cancer.

Last update

We had very little to go last time with the confirmation being his continued involvement with Whitehaven RL club.

He is still living in Whitehaven and still supporting the Whitehaven club. Living with his British wife who is a teacher.

All I could on him work wise was a company he owns called ASLNZ Ltd (his initials and birthplace). There is no website or any online presence apart from company registry in the UK and credit report agencies. The company is registered under the following industries.

This company is listed in the following categories:
70229 - Management consultancy activities other than financial management
71122 - Engineering related scientific and technical consulting activities

Screenshot 2022 11 01 122214 AM
Screenshot 2022 11 01 122124 AM

So I guess we can say he runs an engineering consultancy of some description...
HaveNZ Three Testimonial jersey...

313207601 10229901689425002 7032127991784932148 n
1995 L to R: Tusa Lafaele, Des Maea, Gavin Hill and Aaron Lester...

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Aaron Lester top left getting ready to attend the SIX60 concert with friends including Hitro Okesene, David Fatialofa and Leroy Joe in Glasgow, UK December 2021...

313399261 10229901694425127 8200938505331948292 n

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