Taitokerau Rugby League 'disagrees' with alleged player-poaching

By Raniera Harrison

Organisers of the Taitokerau Rugby League competition say that some of the competition's biggest 'hits' are actually off the field of play.

"Why would we consider the possibility of returning under the authority of an institution that is foreign to us?   Its guiding principles are foreign, it does not have any Māori frameworks, nor does it have an affinity for us as Māori," says Hone Harawira, CEO of Taitokerau Rugby League.

Harawira, the mastermind behind the Taitokerau Rugby League competition is taking a stand after receiving news that the Rugby League Northland body, under the authority of New Zealand Rugby League, has been informally approaching players and clubs to return under the NZRL-sanctioned competition in Whangārei.

"I do not believe in stealing our players, in attempting to entice our clubs.  I do not agree with that at all," says Harawira.

It's an important discussion point for the figures of authority in the sport in the Far North who are reporting a growing number of their players being approached to play for clubs based in the Mid-North region.  In doing so, it would allow representation for NZRL-sanctioned teams such as the Kiwis and other national representative honours.

Chairman of Ngāti Kahu Sharks- who have been a part of the Taitokerau Rugby League competition since its inception- Hone Bassett says, "That's a little bit sad that they've tried to poach our players but for the game of rugby league, and for our boys that are going to get sighted that way, so be it.  There's not a lot we can do about it".

Te Kāea made numerous requests to speak with the GM of Rugby League Northland, Phil Marsh and the chair, Walter Wells today via New Zealand Rugby League.

"There are a plethora of young men, much like myself, who have returned home.  Like Shane Jones says, "On the couch."  However, do the maths...there are 30 to 40 in each side, with 12 teams," says Penetaui Kleskovic of the Ngāti Kahu Sharks.

Te Kāea understands that Taitokerau Rugby League has also made approaches to different factions in Waikato and Taranaki to adopt their model and pull away from New Zealand Rugby League.

"Return the sovereignty of rugby league in the Far North to the families, to the sub-tribal groupings, to the people in the communities that support the game unconditionally," says Harawira.

A spokesperson for New Zealand Rugby League has said they will be looking to make a formal statement in coming days.