It was an early morning start for a small group of Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Kawakawa Mai Tawhiti students from the small settlement of Wharekāhika (Hicks Bay) on the East Coast, who are making their way to Auckland to take part in the Ki-o-rahi National competition.
Hosted by Te Kura Māori o Ngā Tapuwae, the 2017 National Ki-o-rahi competition will be held over two days, 19-20th April at Barry Curtis Park in Flatbush, South Auckland.
After competing in the regional Te Tai Rāwhiti tournament, the team qualified for the nationals after placing second and taking one of three spots available for their region alongside Uawa and Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Waiū.
Since splitting from the Gisborne regional competition three years ago, Kawakawa Mai Tawhiti has qualified every year.
The seven and a half hour road trip is just part of the journey to get to the nationals. The students, ages 14 to 17, with the help of whānau and supporters, fundraised their trip by hosting a sports day for kura in their area, as well as holding hangi, cake stalls and raffles. Their coach Taiarahia Melbourne generously sponsored the team's hoodies.
Ki-o-rahi is a traditional Māori ball sport, a fast-paced game played on a circular field over 4 quarters, between two teams it incorporates skills similar to Touch Rugby and Netball. The game is played with varying rules (number of players, field size and tag ripping rules) depending on the area that it is played in. Divided into zones, teams score points by touching the 'pou' (boundary markers) and hitting a central 'tupu' or target.
Twenty teams will take part in the tournament and all will be hoping to take home the prestigious honour of being crowned national champions.
Photo courtesy of Anne Abraham