Published: 08:51, 25 September 2021
| Updated: 09:52, 25 September 2021
The vice-chairman of the rugby club which former Metropolitan Police Sergeant Matiu “Matt” Ratana coached for has paid tribute to him ahead of a memorial event this weekend.
Matt Marriott, who is vice-chairman of East Grinstead Rugby Club in West Sussex, will mark Sgt Ratana’s anniversary during the first league game for the men’s first team since his death, as well as a welcome from a Maori contingent and a performance from soprano singer Joanna Forest.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Mr Marriott said he hoped the day would be “full of smiles rather than tears”.
He said: “It was a year ago today that the president of the club and I gathered in my kitchen amongst floods of tears as we just heard the news. It’s been a tough year for us as a club.
“Today is the first game for our first team, they’re playing their first league game since he died, and we’re determined it’s going to be a celebration.
“Matt would be delighted about today. We’re determined to enjoy it to the full.”
Mr Marriott said Sgt Ratana was a “massive part” of the East Grinstead Rugby Club during his time as the coach for the senior men’s team.
He told BBC Breakfast: “He came in like a Kiwi bouncy ball full of vim and vigour. He was very difficult to contain.
“He always wanted the very best for his boys, he was like a dad to many of us. He was also an exceptional rugby coach.
“He lived and breathed rugby, and that legacy really lives on. The boys have taken that to heart and I think they’re going to give it their all for Matt.
“I’m actually putting my boots on today for the first time for a long time, so I don’t know how I got roped into that, but I’m going to be remembering him too.”
The 54-year-old sergeant died after being shot in the chest as he prepared to search a handcuffed suspect at a police station in Croydon on September 25 2020.
The Metropolitan Police will hold a minute’s silence on Saturday at 11am to mark the incident and are planning to have special memorial service on Monday.