Ki-o-Rahi participation on the rise

The New Zealand secondary schools Ki-o-Rahi nationals kicked off in Auckland today as schools from across the country converged to battle it out over the 2-day event for national bragging rights. Event organisers say its participation numbers are growing every year.

It's Rotorua Boys' and Girls' High Schools first time at the kī-o-rahi nationals.

Teacher Maurice Stone says, “To foster the game at our school and to encourage our kids to partake in Ki o Rahi, largely because our school is predominantly Māori, so to support this kaupapa of Ki o Rahi this weekend.”

With the origins of the game still unknown, the game presumably became popular when the Māori Battalion introduced kī-o-rahi to Europe. Maurice says the competition plays an important part in keeping an old past time alive.

“I think most of these kids would have koroua or somebody in their family that went to war. So I guess it's significant in that way that they remember their koroua and I know a lot of our youth are participating in ANZAC these days so it will be special in a lot of their hearts.”

It's a sport Maurice says he hopes will be incorporated into their school curriculum, as the game draws on core Māori values of caring and making connections.

“It gives other students in the school an opportunity to represent our school in another manner.”

As well as taking home a title, students here are putting on their best performance to gain selection for the NZ and Māori representative teams

Organiser Hamuera Maika says, “The score isn't what's important but what is, is developing the skills and talent in the game.”

A popular Māori game overseas, event organisers say they hope the game becomes just as recognised here in New Zealand and that more schools participate next year.