Māori paddlers represent Australia at Worlds

By Tema Hemi

The Redcliffe open women's waka ama team is made up of ex-paddlers from New Zealand who are representing Australia at this year's World Waka Ama Sprints. 

The paddlers reside all over Australia.  They've been together a year and say their heart will always be with Aotearoa.  However, they're proud to wear the Aussie colors. 

Coach Nia Rudolph says, "We have two who fly up from Sydney, I live down south on the Gold Coast, and then we have a couple in Brisbane, my sister lives in northern Gold Coast and one in Redcliffe- so it's just coordinating times for us to train as a team."

Rudolph says she's still adjusting to wearing the new colours. 

"My heart will always be with Aotearoa but we're living in Australia.  It's a beautiful country.  It's getting used to wearing those colors, that's the thing for me."

Like every team at the Worlds they want to be in medal contention.

Te Ātiawa and Te Rarawa descendant Sandra Ritai says, "Our goal was to come together and do the best that we can and have fun at the same time, but out of that our elite ladies- which is the majority of our Redcliffe team- were able to snatch up a bronze medal for V12s so we're really happy with that."

Drawing upon each other's skills and experience is a great formula for success.

Ritai says, "The whole team is full experience, so drawing off each one's experience from different backgrounds, different years that they were all champions and all ex-New Zealand paddlers and from dragon boating as well."

There are Māori representing other countries at the Worlds, but all say their heart will always be with New Zealand.