Written by Callum Walker
Born in Auckland, New Zealand, centre Shontayne Hape began his career with the New Zealand Warriors, scoring seven tries in 28 appearances after debuting as a 19-year-old in 1999. In 2000, Hape won the Rookie of the Year award, but spent all of 2002 on the sideline with an anterior cruciate ligament injury.
Having been pointed out by fellow Kiwi and Bulls legend Robbie Paul, in 2003, Hape moved to the Bradford Bulls, a side very much on the cusp of glory. Bulls head coach Brian Noble was happy to see the New Zealander sign on the dotted line.
Hape’s transfer to West Yorkshire coincided with the Bulls’ Golden Era. The centre – who was only 22 – missed just one of Bradford’s 35 games in 2003, scoring 15 tries and ending the year as a treble winner as the Bulls won the Grand Final, the Challenge Cup and finished top of the Super League table.
In doing so, the New Zealander and Bradford became the first treble winners of the Super League era. Hape and Bradford started 2004 like they ended 2003, winning silverware with a World Club Challenge victory over Penrith Panthers.
Though Bradford were on the receiving end of a Grand Final defeat in 2004 to archrivals Leeds, the centre’s return from a knee injury towards the back end of 2005, inspired the Bulls to another Super League title and revenge over the Rhinos with a 6-15 victory. Again, Hape and Bradford were crowned world champions in 2006, this time thrashing Wests Tigers 30-10.
Both 2007 and 2008 ended trophyless for the Bulls, but Hape earned recognition for the role he played in Bradford’s success a few years earlier, being named in Bradford’s Team of the Century in 2007.
At the end of 2008, the adopted Bradfordian switched codes. The Kiwi went on to enjoy spells with Bath, London Irish and Montpellier before retiring from sport at the end of 2013, aged 32 after an injury-blighted career.
Hape did not leave without a parting show, however, citing the apparent lack of care given to head injuries during his time in league and union.
Over the course of six seasons, the Kiwi registered 136 appearances for the Bulls, scoring 85 tries and igniting one of the most potent wing/centre threats in Super League history with national teammate Lesley Vainikolo.
The centre’s form for Bradford was so impressive that he earned 14 caps for New Zealand between 2004 and 2007, scoring six tries.
As Super League centres go, Shontayne Hape was easily one of the most formidable. Standing at 6 ft 1 and weighing over 100kg, the number four was a force to be reckoned out wide, particularly when he had ‘The Volcano’ on his wing. Despite his large frame, Hape was an incredibly skillful player and could find an offload out of almost nothing.