One of the oldest clubs in Hawkes Bay Tamatea Rugby Club has had a complete culture change. Dispelling Mongrel Mob myths and building its junior rugby club to the biggest numbers in its more than 100-year history.
Wearing the name of their ancestor Tamatea Ariki Nui on their backs, all who wear it play with pride.
Tamatea Ariki Nui Junior Rugby Development facilitator Paddy Steffert says, “Tamatea’s a Māori club but there are heaps of kids here who are just as fair as me if not fairer so there are a lot of Pākehā whānau who love the wairua of the club and they're bringing their kids over too.”
The may wear black and red but it doesn't mean they're in a gang.
Former Tamatea Ariki Nui player Jack Pritchard said, “That's your colours from our tupuna sure back in the day all our team were mobsters and of course if you're playing with them you're associated to them and sometimes just being guilty by association, like a lot of the kids parents weren't that way inclined but you know the change the stigma is going to take a lot of years, you gotta start somewhere, why not start now never too late.”
Former Tall Black Paora Winitana shared his experience, “It's been a club that I grew up with my whole life and now my sons, I got five boys and three of them are playing for the club now...you know there that's attachment from back in the day about the mob and red and black but that's all perspective Tamatea is about family and is about giving these kids the best opportunity to succeed through rugby.”
Through the hard work of committed whānau, the club has had a complete turn-around.
“When I started out with the club, we probably had three teams so we started off very little and to today we've got 13 teams roughly 13 teams so that is just awesome to see our club growing so much,” says Charlene Tuahine the Tamatea Ariki Nui Treasurer
That's 220 kids now in the Junior Club, who abide by a code of conduct that includes no swearing and encourages good behaviour.
Steffert says, “It's spreading throughout the community as they see that our kids are a) behaving and b) doing well and c) that they're well supported and I think that's the catalyst for why we got so big.”
Seeds that have been planted into the young bloods to carry the name of Tamatea Ariki Nui into the future with honour.