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20 years later, it’s all smiles for Oduk

Kenya’s most qualified rugby coach Tito Oduk has called time on his playing career to focus on family and coaching.

After two decades of top flight rugby Oduk, who will marry his sweetheart Makena this weekend, looks back and smiles with no regrets.

Born in 1978 in Nairobi, Oduk retired as a player at the end of last season after an illustrious career at Mean Machine, Mwamba, and Kenya Harlequins. Oduk also played for the national 15s team and earned 12 caps.

“My mother was a teacher at Lenana High School, which was a rugby powerhouse. I got hooked on the sport after watching some matches while visiting her. Years later, mother became my biggest fan,” he said.

Oduk excelled in every sport he took part in.

“When I joined Alliance High School, I tried out basketball and hockey before settling on rugby,” he said.

He joined Mwamba in 1997 after completing high school. At the time, his family lived in South B and it was more economical to play for Mwamba that trained at Railway Club.

He stayed at Mwamba for a year before joining University of Nairobi and the rugby team Mean Machine.

His first taste of glory, however, came in 2003 when he won the Kenya Cup with Kenya Harlequins. He went on to win a number of titles including the national Sevens circuit, the Kenya Cup, the Rugby Super Series, and the Impala Floodlit tournament.

He also coached Mwamba between 2010 and 2011 he is now the assistant coach.

Union politics

In 2012, Oduk was at the centre of controversy as a tussle emerged at the Kenya Rugby Union over who to appoint as assistant to former Kenya Sevens team head coach Mike Friday.

After interviews were conducted, Oduk scored the highest marks, beating Felix Ochieng, Mitch Ocholla, Charles Cardovillis, John Mbai, Paul Odera and Edwin Shimenga. In an interesting twist, Ochieng was hired.

As consolation, Oduk was named the national 15s assistant coach.

“I was to deputise Michael ‘Tank’ but there was no contract. In-house politics erupted and I resigned because I did not want to be involved,” he said.

Oduk returned to Mamba as an assistant to Meli Tuni Wainibuli. He played for one more season and quit with his head high after winning the Enterprise Cup with Mwamba.

In 2012, Oduk was selected by the Canterbury Rugby Union in New Zealand to do a course with the International High Performance Unit.

Oduk was posted to former Super Rugby Champions Crusaders where he rubbed shoulders with some big names.

“I was dragged to the changing room because I was nervous. I mingled with top All Blacks players such as Dan Carter and Richie McCaw. It was amazing,” he said.

He topped the class and has an equivalent of a Level 4 coaching certificate, making him the highest qualified tactician in Kenya.