Māori Touch Rugby has celebrated its 20th annual tournament over the weekend in Rotorua. The tournament has faced and conquered many of its challenges since the tournament was first held in 1998 in Hopuhopu.
Running a tournament for twenty years in a row is an achievement, but not without its costs.
As tournament president Carol Ngawati explains, “The challenge - and it has remained the challenge - is the support financially for Māori sports codes. We have a Māori kaupapa and it's not being supported.”
Tournament participants old and young turned out to Puarenga Park in Rotorua. According to organisers, it's the most numbers they've had.
With funding proving a challenge, organisers are hopeful that the tournament will run for another twenty years.
“It would really be good to be able to be beamed out across the world and we've got Australian Māori coming home.”
To the finals now, and it was Tainui taking on Te Aupouri in the Open Women's final. In the end, it was Te Aupouri winning 5 - 4.
Winning Captain Taya Antonievic explains her jubilation, “Tired and relieved that it's over. Three years, it's been a long but it's awesome.”
It was a thrilling final in the Open Mixed grade between Ngāti Whātua and Ngāti Tūwharetoa. Ngāti Whātua picking up bragging rights for 2017.
Captain Te Raukura Hawke (Ngāti Whātua) says, “This is what we work our way towards. Coming this far all the way from Orakei, a little town. Coming all the way down here and actually getting the win is really special.”
With 36 different regions participating, organisers expect the tournament to grow. For now, the big winner is Māori Touch Rugby.