Ex Kiwi calls for inclusion of Māori team in World Cup

By Eru Paranihi

Kiwis Rugby League selector Tawera Nikau believes there should be a Māori team in the World Cup.

Eligibility rules allow players to switch from the bigger nations to the smaller teams like the Pacific Islands.

The Rugby League World Cup has already been clouded by the eligibility rules with the most recent example being the last minute switch of players like Jason Taumalolo to Tonga.

Nikau believes it is time for his former side to return, “We know that we've got a really competitive team and a Māori that can compete just as well as Tonga, Samoa, (and) Fiji too. It's definitely something I'll be pushing for."

New Zealand Māori Rugby League chairman John Devonshire says New Zealand and Australia need to create more opportunities for indigenous players.

“If you're a Pacific Islander and you don't make the Kiwi's or the Kangaroos, you can go back and play for the Islands. In the Northern Hemisphere, if you don't make the Great Britain side or English side, you've got Ireland, Scotland or Wales.”

The former Melbourne Storm premiership winner says having a Māori side will only boost the opportunity for Māori players and New Zealand league.

“I was very privileged to lead the Māori side in 2000 in the World Cup. I think there's a place, so there (will) need to be a lot of lobbying done.”

More than five hundred players are expected to turn out this weekend at the Māori Rugby League tournament.

“The games about growing our game. We've got a massive base here in New Zealand. This weekend we've got the Māori tournament where 35 teams are taking part in Rotorua,” says Nikau.

It's been 17 years since the last Māori side played at the World Cup. It's a long shot, but the men in green would be a handy addition to the tournament.