Former All Black Tamati Ellison now assistant coach of pro team in Hawaii

By Jessica Tyson, Te Ao - Māori News

Former All Black Tamati Ellison has been appointed as the assistant coach of the first Pacific island-owned professional rugby team in Hawaii.

Major League Rugby (MLR) has approved the initial application of  Kanaloa Hawaii, which will be based in Oahu.

Former All Blacks and Wallabies skills coach Mick Byrne is the inaugural head coach alongside Ellison.

The ownership group includes CEO Tracy Atiga and her husband Matt, former Cook Islands team manager Cam Kilgour, and former All Blacks Jerome Kaino, Joe Rokocoko, Anthony Tuitavake, John Afoa, Benson Stanley and Ben Atiga.

Tracy Atiga said a Pasifika team for Super Rugby was ignored by southern hemisphere rugby, so Kanaloa Hawaii took matters into its own hands.

The MLR season is scheduled to kick off in February 2021 and will run for only half the year. The 14 teams in the franchise are also restricted in the number of foreign imports they can sign but a formal approach to engage with national unions in the Pacific Islands will be made this week.

The team will aim to have a high-performance base in Auckland, with home games in Hawaii.