Watene ki Hauraki play to honour tupuna Puti Tipene Watene

Among the numerous teams attending this weekend's Māori League Nationals in Wainuiomata is one team who are carrying the remembrance of a stalwart of Māori league on the field.

Watene ki Hauraki is a team made up of descendants of Puti Tipene Watene, the first Māori to captain the New Zealand Kiwis.

Playing in their third year in the competition, the primary goal is to provide a platform for more of their descendants to gain traction in the sport.

Facing Māori speed and big tackles the Watene ki Hauraki family-based team take on the challenge of the Māori League National competition.

Moehau Husband, Kaiwhakahaere, Watene ki Hauraki says, “We are still new to this competition, however, we come here so that we can lay a foundation for our family members.”

It's the second day of 2016 Māori League Nationals in Wainuiomata where iwi, hapū and family teams have gathered, including the Watene family from Hauraki.

Takoha Ropati, (Ngāti Hine, Ngāti Ranginui) says, “It's war on the field, but after the game it's good to speak to them and maybe find out some potential genealogy connections that we share.”

However, the Watene family is also here to honour another cause.

Husband, says, “We're here to honour our grandfather, Puti Tipene Watene, who was the very first Māori captain of the New Zealand Kiwis side.”

The event has also brought family home from overseas, with four players and seventeen supporters making the trek from Sydney to take part.

Ray Husband (Ngāti Maru) says, “I could honestly say from the bottom of my heart, this is an experience that you couldn't get anywhere, when you come over from Sydney, as a young man, and having experienced the mana and strength of our people and the warm kindness this is a good place to experience it.”

The competition is a good example of Māori league operating on its own terms.

Husband says, “The hongi and the haka, amongst the other intrinsically Māori activities that are a regular occurrence here. I commend the organisers of the competition.”

The venue for next year's national competition is still to be confirmed.