Tūhoe hosts national tamariki Māori rugby league tournament

By Herewini Waikato

This weekend Tūhoe hosted this year’s Māori rugby league tamariki tournament in Whakatāne.

NZMRL kaumatua Hemana Waaka, of Tūhoe, was delighted by the opportunity.

He believes the tamariki tournament is important as the wellspring of future great Māori rugby league players.

“The use of haka by these youth shook the grounds of Tūhoe,” Waaka says.

A total of 1,800 boys and girls aged 10 to 12 years old participated in this year’s tamariki tournament in the Benji Marshall-country of Ngāti Awa, Mataatua waka.

“When you have a cultural connection with a district, especially for Māori rugby league, there is no greater cultural connection than Tūhoe,” NZMRL and NZRL chairman John Devonshire says.

Rangatahi ready to take to the footy field.

Haka ‘connects tamariki to Māori identity’

The use of te reo Māori on and off the field was notable at this year’s tournament, and the availability of local marae was also a reason for holding the tournament in this area.

“This is the growth that has been sown into the minds and hearts to want to play as a Māori. Why? Because the haka at the beginning of the game is a symbol that I am Māori on this land”, he says.

Wayne Roberts coaches tamariki Ngāti Rangitihi teams who are newcomers to the tournament. “The population of Matatā is only 500 but what’s fuelling all of our children is all of their families and all of the love and support all over the nation,” Roberts says.

Storm player backs tournament

William Warbrick from Te Teko, and an Melbourne Storm player, was at the tournament to watch whānau. “Yeah, I think it’s awesome for all of the communities here, not just Whakātane but also Te Teko, Kawerau even Ruatoki, Tāneatua all of the communities here. I think it brings a lot of people here,” Warbrick says.

There are many tournaments ahead for the New Zealand Māori rugby league organisation, with the Pasifika and Aotearoa collective tournaments coming up in October and November.

“So there is plenty of football to be played, as there are still a lot of celebrations to be had,” Devonshire says.  

And the tamariki tournament will return to Tūhoe next year.