Māori All Blacks have again been announced as finalists for team of the year at the annual Māori Sports Awards. They won the title last year following a successful tour to Canada and America, and look to be the front-runners again this year after their recent success in Japan.
The immense pride and honour is written all over their faces. For the players, there is no other team like the Māori All Blacks.
Nehu Skudder-Milner says, “The first night we shared our pepeha, and spoke about the honour of representing the Māori team and our whānau back home.”
Hayden Triggs has also expressed his love for the team saying, “The coaches and management have changed and the team as well but the feeling and the mana in the team are the same.”
Captain Charlie Ngatai says, “It's a team that you really enjoy and you singing along on trips and the boys get right into it and it's something that no other team has."
The Māori All Blacks thrashed Japan in their first test 61-21, a thrilling result for the whole team especially the debutantes.
It has only become better in the second test for Dan Pryor, the grandson of Māori All Black great Albie Pryor, it was much closer but Dan grabbed the try in the dying minutes to snatch the victory 20-18.
It's also a moment that is etched in the mind of their coach Colin Cooper.
“Jamison Gibson Park passes a 40 metre pass to a hooker and most of them will drop it or try and run where as Joe caught it and passed it to his captain who did some good footwork and miracle offload to Dan who overran it but managed to catch the pass do a flip and score the try and that's Māori rugby," Cooper recalls.
So it could be another night of celebrations for the Māori All Blacks if they do win the Ngā Ika ā Whiro Award again this year.