Blues training camp in Northland a cultural success.

By D'Angelo Martin

The Blues super rugby team has spent this week in different parts of Northland preparing for the new season and has put a big emphasis on cultural aspects. This  included spending a day on a waka in Waitangi, learning waiata and being on the Marae

The Blues arrived in Waitangi on Tuesday and their biggest focus was to connect with mana whenua on a cultural level. First five Otere Black says "Connecting with the tangata whenua is very important to me being from the Blues. It's a very strong Ngāpuhi tribe up here and also the history behind being here in Waitangi."

With the squad making a huge effort to learn about traditional practices an opportunity opened up the opportunity for some of the players to paddle on a canoe and learn about Kaupapa Waka alongside kids from the Blue Light programme. For some of his teammates, being on the waters near the birthplace of the nation has been a learning experience. 

"When we were out in the waka matua Hone gave us a bit of history about Te Tiriti and all the history that comes with it so for a few of the boys it was a bit humbling," Black says.

The players had an intensive training session this morning ensuring they are fit and ready for this year's Super Rugby comp which will kick off in a few weeks. Blues centre Rieko Ioane says the ods are looking promising "Obviously there's gonna be a lot of hard games coming up. Got a pre-season this week against the Hurricanes and the Chiefs and then following against the Crusaders. Look, we know it's not going to be easy any game we play!"

A first time in Northland for a few of the players but it is the area that Rieko and Akira Ione call home. "We only came up on Tuesday but I stopped at my aunty's place on the way through in Moerewa and gave them some gear. But I think on our way down we will stop in to see Grandad, which will be good,"  Rieko Ioane says.

Akira says there is no place like home. And home is always Moerewa. "It's been a while since we've both been back up,  we don't really come this far- we just stop in Motown. It was good to come up here and see the fans and family."

The Blues look to be a dominant force in this year's super rugby season. "We tasted a small success in New Zealand teams, which we hadn't done so in a long time, and the real test would be building on that which we look to do so this year," Rieko says.