NPEC CEO, and former All Black appointed to Māori Rugby Board

By James Perry

The CEO of the country's smallest rugby union and a former All Black have been appointed to the New Zealand Māori Rugby Board following the AGM held on Wednesday evening.

Ngāti Porou East Coast Rugby Union CEO Cushla Tangaere-Manuel and 15-test All Black Arran Pene have been appointed as independent board members, for a term of three years.

The two were announced by the chairperson of the Māori Board, Dr Farrah Palmer at the AGM, held online for the first time due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Cushla Tangaere-Manuel has been the CEO of the country's smallest union, Ngāti Porou East Coast since 2013. 

Arran Pene played 26 matches for the All Blacks, including 15 tests between 1992 and 1994, as well as eight matches for the Māori All Blacks and 111 matches for Otago from 1988 to 1995.

The chairs of Te Tini a Māui and Te Waipounamu, Andre Baker and Andre Thompson respectively were also announced as new regional representatives to the board.

Dr Palmer reflected on positive growth year for Māori rugby, which saw an overall increase of 858 Māori rugby players, male and female in 2019. 

In 2019 the establishment of a Māori U20s team saw them beat the Fijian national side in Rotorua. Under 18 men's and women's teams were also assembled in Rotorua for a training camp.

“We are proud to see the Māori waka continue to grow at a community level and know that this can be directly attributed to the incredibly hard work our volunteers are leading around the country.

“As we move into a challenging time for rugby, Māori rugby will continue to focus on our Māori values, networks, and practices to ensure we continue to push the waka forward in the future,” said Palmer.

Palmer noted whanaungatanga was on full display at the festival week of Māori Rugby in Rotorua in July, leading into the Māori All Blacks’ sole home fixture of the year.

“That week was really enhanced by the four-day training camp for our Under 18s and a whanau day which was well attended.

“We had Under 18s, Under 20s and Māori All Blacks all interacting and creating a real buzz about the benefits of combining rugby and Tikanga Māori in a way that creates a sense of belonging, pride, and achievement for all involved.”

The year culminated for Māori rugby with All Black halfback Aaron Smith winning the Māori Sports Awards Sportsperson of the year. Black Fern Charmaine McMenamin picked up Women's Rugby Player of the year and Sarah Hirini becoming the first wahine to win the Tom French Cup for best Māori player at the NZ Rugby Awards. Tyla Nathan-Wong was named Blck Ferns Sevens player of the year, and Palmer and Louisa Wall were both inducted into the Māori Sports Hall of Fame.

The board also acknowledged the deaths of former Māori All Blacks Keith Davis, Stan "Tiny" Hill, Percy Erceg, Jim Maniapoto, Rod Yates and Trevor Albert who all passed away over the past year.