Aotearoa Māori Netball consider men's grade for tournament.

By Eru Paranihi

Organisers of the Aotearoa Māori Netball Tournament are open to the idea of including men in future fixtures. But, with the tournament already at full capacity, finding a place for them will prove difficult.

This is a tournament that recognises the best female Māori Netballers in the country. Adding a men’s grade is something that organisers are open to.

Tournament Director, Pauline Wharerau, says. “We've considered it really seriously alongside development grades, alongside our whānau who live in Australia that want to come home and compete in our tournament. But now, we only have the capacity for our fifty teams.

There are fifty teams from ten regions that participate annually. According to organisers, their policy is to be inclusive of everyone including men.

Wharerau says, “They always support their wāhine when they're playing, and we know that the game amongst our tāne is going to new heights as well. So we would like to be able to at some stage in the future start off small perhaps with an exhibition match and go from there.”

As well as including men into an exhibition match, this year's hosts contemplated the idea of bringing guests from Sports Players to Politicians down to Manurewa for a celebrity match.

“A year ago, Tāmaki had put that on the table as well, and we thought that might have been something to entertain in the lunch break. But, we have a round robin tournament where our girls play nine games over two days, there wasn't the capacity to have a lunch break. However, as we grow and expand, we have to think about some ways that we can entertain all these ideas,” says Wharerau.

For Wharerau, it is about celebrating the legacy of Dame June Mariu who has also been a big advocator of change for Māori netballers.

“I've been involved for thirty years and my hopes and aspirations is that we will continue for the next thirty years. I love it that our kahurangi Dame June Mariu sits here every year with a smile on her face that can just melt people away,” says Wharerau.

With another successful tournament completed, next year's host Te Tairāwhiti have an opportunity to start including men.