The New Zealand Māori Rugby League Under 18's and Under 16's sides are set to take on teams representing the Pacific Islands in the Pasifika Youth Cup tournament. The tournament is in its first year which will be held at Cornwall Park, in Auckland.
The Pasifika Youth Cup consists of RL Samoa, Tonga (Hakula Tonga), Fiji NZ, Cook Islands and Auckland Niue Rugby League. While NZMRL are the hosts, the tournament is run in collaboration with the NZ Warriors.
Coach Turi Ngawhika is excited at the calibre of Māori talent that is coming through the ranks both locally and internationally.
“We’ve been very lucky to have five boys being able to represent Māori from Australia that are actually playing in Aussie,” says Ngawhika who knows that his Under 16’s are lucky to be able to call on for the tournament.
The under 18’s are just as fortunate to have an Australian influence in head coach Rangi Hiroti, who is the current coach of the New South Wales SG Ball squad, and Jordan Riki, who recently signed a rookie contract with the Brisbane Broncos.
Riki says, “ I love to be here definitely representing my country, and also Māori, and all the people here. When I got found out that I was being able to play for the NZ Māori I was over the moon and I told my whānau back home and they were very happy and excited for me.”
As one of they key players for the NZ Māori Under 18’s side, Riki has identified a couple of teams that they will need to be aware of come kick off.
“Definitely Tonga, or Samoa. They have quite a lot of big boys, and they obviously like to play an up and fast game. So definitely look out for those teams.”
While the tournament starts on Wednesday, both teams start their first match on Thursday against the Cook Islands before meeting Tonga and Samoa on Friday.