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Black Fern Grace Steinmetz and Chiefs legend Rameka Poihipi’s surprise engagement

Engaged sporting stars Grace and Rameka are kicking couple goals
EMT Studios

When it comes to popping the question, there are so many different ways of planning the big moment – a romantic dinner, a beachside stroll or even a scenic hike. A fake photoshoot, though? Well, that’s a new one!

But for Māori All Black and Chiefs midfielder Rameka Poihipi, nothing but extraordinary would do for his proposal to the love of his life, Black Ferns and Matatū rugby star Grace Steinmetz.

“I wanted to make sure everything had been taken care of, in the sense that Grace would definitely cotton on if it all wasn’t planned out perfectly,” says Rameka, 25.

A laughing Grace, 26, adds, “Yeah, I’m a bit of an investigator – I’ve completed my law degree, so I guess it comes naturally! But Rameka did the most incredible job.”

Luring his girlfriend to the beach in her hometown of Paraparaumu under the guise of helping their photographer pal Eve Thomas with a seaside shoot for her client Pāmu Jewellery, Rameka had it all figured out.

“Eve turned into a little engagement fairy godmother,” laughs Grace. “She’d done my makeup – for the shoot, of course – and organised all the pieces of the puzzle. She and Rameka had even sorted for us to go out to dinner after the shoot, which explained why we were all dressed up a little more than usual!

“So we’re taking these photos of the jewellery and after about 10 minutes, she asked me to turn around and stare out into the ocean. And when I turned back, Rameka was there on one knee.”

Presenting Grace with a stunning ring from Polished Diamonds, Rameka asked Grace – the person he wants by his side on the good days and the bad – to marry him.

“It was amazing,” gushes Grace. “And I had no idea… Well, maybe just a little inkling because my mum had pushed me to get my nails done that week!”

Gotcha! With the help of a friend, Rameka pulled off the ultimate surprise proposal.

It was the perfect moment for the couple, who first met through their rugby in 2017. But it took them a few years to figure out that their friendship was actually something more.

“We were best friends for years,” tells Grace. “When we first met, we had other partners. But I eventually realised that he was the person I went to for everything and it got to the point where we both realised that maybe we were caring for each other more than just friends.

“It opened a can of worms for us – do we want to risk our friendship? So we spent some time away from each other to figure out the feelings. It took about eight months, but we decided to go for it. And here we are!”

Together properly for about four years – neither of them can figure out the exact date! – life is good for the two rugby stars, who are both playing in Waikato for the Chiefs men’s and women’s sides in Super Rugby 2024, meaning they’ll split their time between Hamilton and Christchurch.

“We also still play for Canterbury, so it’s a bit weird having no home,” says Rameka. “We’re lucky we have a lot of friends in both places!”

Rugby is, of course, central to their lives, but the pair try their best to limit the sport’s presence at home, with Grace and Rameka spending quality time together away from “work”.

“I had a little inkling. Mum pushed me to get my nails done that week!” says Grace.

Grace says, “We watch a wee bit of rugby and talk about our days, but you definitely need an escape from it too.” Rameka adds, “It’s more rugby league, to be honest!”

While Grace is what you’d call an active relaxer – alongside her rugby duties and her legal studies, she’s also established her own sports management agency, Athlete Advantage, and earned her real estate licence “just for fun, really”.

Rameka is the more chilled one in their relationship, preferring to spend his spare time on the golf course or in front of the telly.

“We’re very different,” says Grace. “I just love being productive! But the balance works. Rameka is my person – my best friend. I can totally be myself. I can be open, and I know how much he loves me and cares for me, as much as I do for him.”

Grace in action for Chiefs Manawa, and Rameka on the ball for Canterbury.

And for Rameka, it’s Grace’s kindness that he adores.

“She’s a very, very selfless person,” he enthuses. “She’d drop anything for anyone, and go above and beyond for anyone who needs that.”

Laughs Grace, “Oh, that’s probably the nicest thing he’s ever said to me!”

Now the attention turns to planning their wedding, which will slot in between rugby schedules and take place in the Bay of Plenty later this year.

“Yup, I’ve got a lot of work to do before now and then,” grins Grace. “But we’re so excited for it. We can’t wait!”

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