Puk Kireka has lost 31kg since taking up rugby.
Puk Kireka has lost 31kg since taking up rugby.

‘It’ll be hard to get a job with my tatts’

A man who has been in and out of jail has revealed how he turned his life around, but the challenges he now faces in getting a job.

Puk Kireka, 31, now plays rugby in New Zealand with Tamatea and faces sledges from spectators because of his distinctive face tattoo.

He has the slogan of the Mongrel Mob gang "notorious" tattooed in black and red on his face.

"What's that mobster doing on the field ... he's giving our code a bad look," remarked a spectator while pointing at Kireka during a match against Napier Technical.

Father-of-three Kireka, 31, is a mobster but also a player with one hell of a story to tell.

Kireka, from Napier in New Zealand, talked to Hawke's Bay Today about how he is turning his life around.

He has already lost 31kg since taking up rugby.

"Basically I just wanted to get healthy ... look good and feel good," Kireka said.

He admits sport wasn't really a priority when he was at school.

"I just went to school to eat lunch and play a bit of basketball at lunchtime," Kireka said.

Despite his limited sporting background, he impressed during pre-season with Tamatea, doing 30 press-ups, 30 squats, 30 sit-ups and three consecutive 500m sprints in just 7m 50s.

"I could have done more than those three 500 metres at the end ... that's how good I felt," Kireka recalled.

Puk Kireka with ‘Notorious’ written across his face.
Kireka has the Mongrel Mob gang's slogan "notorious" tattooed across his face.

He understood there may be sceptics who will question whether meth was used during his weight loss program.

"I was into meth before my last stint in jail. But I kicked the habit while in prison and I've been drug-free for the last four years," Kireka explained.

A mobster since 2008, Kireka, had two prison lags, a three-year one on violence-related charges and a two-year one for standovers.

"I first went to court when I was 16 and I haven't been back since 2016. Meeting (Tamatea head coach) Levi (Armstrong) in 2017 helped turn my life around.

"I've proved to be an inspiration for other mobsters throughout the country. Since they have read about my lifestyle change on Facebook many have been in touch asking about my fitness programs so they can follow them."

Kireka will start a level four Sport and Recreation course next month with the aim of gaining a diploma and then a degree before securing a job within the sporting industry.

"I know it will be hard to get a job with my tatts," Kireka said pointing to the mob colours which decorate his face.

"I will always be a mobster but it's important to show we can have better lifestyles. I want to bring some of the others on board this better lifestyle.

"A lot of them are still drinking and smoking. While they aren't getting into much trouble they are still ruining their lives with their lifestyle."

This article appeared on the New Zealand Herald and was reproduced with permission