Selby-Rickit sisters burning passion to speak te reo Māori.

By Rahia Timutimu

The Selby-Rickit sisters are on their way to possibly winning the last ANZ championship title with the Southern Steel. I spoke to them recently about the challenges of replenishing the language in a limited reo-speaking environment.

They're sisters with talent, they both play for Southern Steel and share a burning passion to speak te reo Māori.

Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit says, “I grew up in Otaki, which is a Māori community, and I thought every person could speak Māori, because in Otaki, everyone could speak Māori. I was a bit shy to speak English because it wasn't my strongest language, my English was really bad.”

Te Paea Selby Rickit says, “We moved down here, to this cold place, and we didn't have that many friends that could converse in Māori, so we just spoke Māori to each other.”

Their Māori names are unique and are often mispronounced.

Te Huinga says, “For me, I try to close my ears when they say my name on the court, some commentators are good, some commentators are really bad.”

Te Paea says, “Sometimes they say "Te Peia" "Te Pia" but i just tell them, think of a pie, that's how to make it easy.”

Te Huinga says, “They say te huing-a, te hongi-a, ray-o.”

Every year since 1975 New Zealand has marked Māori Language Week, something new to the Selby-Rickit whānau

“Where we lived, we didn’t know there was such thing as a Māori Language week, because back home it was always Māori language week. When we moved here I was asked "when’s Māori Language week?" and I thought what? There’s a Māori Language week? So I called my Mum and I asked "Mum, when is Māori Language week?" and she replied, kind of mad "Every week is Māori Language Week.” Says Te Huinga.

The Southern Steel, under the coaching of Noeline Taurua, finished on top of the ANZ competition table with no losses. If they win their upcoming games in the finals, they could host the first ever final held here in NZ.

Te Huinga says, “We were a bit surprised to have reached this moment, we always just play for the 60 minutes, but then we realised "wow" were really happy to have won the round robin.”

Te Paea says, “Those in Australia want to break away from us NZ groups because they say were not good enough, so I want to win this competition, to show them, hey! We’re better!