Topic: Touch Rugby

Māori talent seen across other countries at Touch Worlds

By Tamati Tiananga
  • Australia

The natural Māori flare and skill wasn't only seen in the NZ teams, there are Māori representing many countries including England, Australia, Cook Islands and South Africa.

OJ is a familiar name in America but this OJ is from Ngāti Kahungunu and spent most his youth in Waikato where he played touch.

OJ Hawea says, "I joined USA Touch in 2008, I took a few teams down in Houston at the nationals down there and continued to grow our club, we have won a few national titles."

Born in USA, after 16 years in NZ, OJ returned to America to form a club called Tūmeke, and is now president of USA Touch. 

"We have invited teams to come over to Orlando, Florida, we have an event there every year and that's what is helping our game grow," says Hawea.

There are five teams this year from USA.  Their open women's side is coached by renowned coach Ivan Pomare.    

Pomare says, "New Zealand, South Africa and this one, I am the only coach to do that.  How did I get the gig?  I went over there for a holiday 12 months ago and ran a couple of development clinics for the people over there."

Kahurangi Stone is a former NZ player and was a member of the NZ contingent at the 2011 World Cup. 
Kahurangi says, "From 2011 to 2012 I was over there doing study at BYU.  My relative OJ is the president of USA touch and I was playing touch over there before I went on my mission."

The men's side has also had a few key players return this year like current East Coast Rugby captain TK Moeke.

Moeke says, "He got me over though his wife, OJ's wife and my wife are sisters and believe it or not they are cookies and obviously they got one over us."

Hawea also says they will consider taking a team to the inaugural Whakatāne touch competition. 

Te Kāea will have more coverage from the finals tomorrow.