Big financial effort for Whakatāne whānau but 'heart is always towards kids'

updated By D'Angelo Martin
Aotearoa Māori tag football team from Whakatāne. Photo/File

Hundreds of tag football teams from around the country and across the pacific battled it out in Auckland for the 2020 Junior Oceania Cup title. But before arriving at the tournament, a big effort is needed from whānau to ensure that the financial side of things is sorted. Aotearoa Māori team from Whakatāne says it is an awesome opportunity for their kids but, with the team being self-funded by the parents, it can sometimes be a challenge.

For the next generation of this sport, the kids stand as the main priority regardless of the cost.

However, for the Aotearoa Māori team from Whakatāne it was $300 per child and that money came out of the pockets of their parents.

"We had to ask parents for a couple of hundred dollars around the Christmas and New Year time, as well as school starting (for) a lot of our babies. We've got one whānau who has nine kids so he's got nine siblings, and myself I've got six babies," Rio Grey says.

Grey is one of the managers for the team and says that money is not really an issue for her as long as the kids are able to venture out of Whakatāne. And this is a new experience for most of the kids.

"We do this so our kids have something and there's more opportunities. We do this because my heart is always towards my kids. The baby that we're coaching now is my fifth so this is the fifth kid I've gone through doing these adventures," she says.

Joe Herewini, of Ngāti Pūkeko, says, "For a small little town like Whakatāne and we get this opportunity to play against other different countries and not just provinces. It's different from the sport that I'm from which is touch and this is just an awesome event to come to."

The tournament has sparked interest for those who travelled from Whakatāne in creating a tag module there.

"We're hopefully going to form a whānau committee from this. A lot of our coaches have jumped in, they have a league background, a rugby and touch background and a couple of us have tag experience. And we were able to transfer some of those drills and help them out," Grey says.

The Aotearoa Māori U8s took out their game this morning, which proves that their trip was not for nothing.

The tournament kicked off yesterday at Bruce Pullman Park in Takanini.