The finals of the National Māori Rugby League Tournament got underway today in Rotorua.
Many trophies were up for grabs, including the Tom Newton trophy in the Waka section, and the Wahine Māori toa title.
It's been an eventful tournament full of big hits and special tries.
Chairman of New Zealand Māori Rugby League John Devonshire passionately reflects on the calibre seen over the weekend, “There's a lot of passion, and flare that is unique to Māori.”
“The other thing is that there's a four letter word called Mana.”
Tournament numbers were boosted due the number of women who turned out. The weekend was also a trial for newly named Māori Ferns, who take on the Kiwi Ferns in Hamilton next month. The criteria for those wanting to be part of their team was to turn out to the tournament.
Māori Ferns coach Victor Heke says, “We've got another fixture in February against the Indigenous, and I hope the rest of the world sees the quality of our Māori Wahine.”
The tournament will reach a special milestone next year, when it celebrates 25 years. Rotorua International Stadium hosted the event for the first time this year, moving from its traditional fortress of Puketāwhero Park. There are already plans in the pipeline for it to return to the same venue.
Says Devonshire, “We're looking to do a couple of special commemorative occasions, may have a function, and no doubt there will be 25 years of stories.”
The first final of the day was for the Tom (Lummy) Newton trophy between Te Puaha o Waikato and He Waka Eke Noa from Perth. In the end, it was Te Puaha o Waikato taking it out for the Waka section.
Te Puaha o Waikato captain Raketi Clarke says, “Brothers have been only together for a week, but it’s a game of footy, and it’s good to get everyone together.”
In the Wahine section, Ngāti Umutahi Wahine was out to defend their title, against Te Māhurehure from Hokianga. Their tournament winning haka signaling they meant business. Despite a valiant effort from Te Māhurehrue, Ngāti Umutahi were crowned the champions for 2017.
Captain, and player of the tournament Jocephy Daniels says, “All the girls came together from like Australia and from up north, and we just gelled well together.”
Win or lose, the real winner at the end of the day is Māori Rugby League.