Ngāti Toa ballers go all out against Ngāti Koata

By Mare Haimona-Riki
Ngāti Koata and Ngāti Toa pakeke teams. Source - File.

The 2020 Māori Basketball tournament in Rotorua brought two iwi face to face today. It sems that the Ngāti Toa and Ngāti Koata pakeke teams stole the show, entertaining fans, and perhaps, rekindling old rivalries.

“I think as we get older, we are trying to reconnect, rekindle old memories, which involve a lot of fun, a lot of whānau, good times, a lot of fouls, a lot of slaps, especially by Shane," says Ngāti Koata Baller, Russleigh Parai.

So it would seem that all is fair in love and war, as players from both sides of the court, were part time rivals, full time friends, and eternal whanau.

Parai, of Ngāti Toa and Ngāti Koata descent teamed up with brothers, sisters, and cousins aged between 45 and 60. 

They all grew up together playing basketball at their church. 

"That was our childhood growing up, teenagers, Church College, we've done it all. So yeah, 30 years later, and we're back on the court and loving it," Parai says.

Parai’s cousin, Ngāti Toa baller Randall Hippolite (Ngati Toa, Ngāti Koata) happily conceded defeat to his whanaunga, and had nothing but positive vibes about today’s proceedings.

"In and amongst all the competitiveness, we know that the most important thing is family friendships between us,” Hippolite says.

The tournament is becoming increasingly popular every year, with teams over 200 teams competing from 5 years old to 65. 

Who won today’s game? Parai proudly answers,“Koata!”