The All Blacks Sevens and women's Sevens sides for next month's Olympic Games have today been unveiled in Auckland. A celebratory occasion for the 24 players named today, however, for some familiar faces, the gold medal dream came to an end.
There was great joy at the naming of the Olympic national sevens sides at Eden Park.
Akira Ioane (Ngāpuhi, Te Whānau a Apanui) says, “Pretty proud to be going to the Olympics with my mate over here. Just representing the family, just proud and humbling I guess.”
Both the men's and women's teams to travel to the Olympics in 34-days time were named.
Huriana Manuel (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Tūwharetoa) says, “Representing our family and all the girls that came through the programme that didn't quite make it, but really excited and happy.”
The two major exclusions from the side were former All Blacks flanker, Liam Messam (Ngāi Tūhoe) and team stalwart, Kurt Baker (Ngāpuhi). Both popular figures amongst their peers.
Gillies Kaka (Ngāti Kahungunu, Te Arawa) says, “Especially like the boys who have been here the whole season. You see how much they give on the training. I guess this is just the lucky 12 that end up going.”
In saying that, there are numerous relationships already between the lucky Māori players who were selected today.
Portia Woodman (Ngāpuhi) says, “There's going to be three of us, myself and the Ioane boys all from Kaikohe, repping that home big time. It's mean.”
These Māori boys are looking forward to meeting some of the world's most prolific sports personalities.
The world's fastest man is in the sights of these Māori athletes.
Rieko Ioane (Ngāpuhi, Te Whānau a Apanui) says, “Him and I give each other training techniques on just on sprinting and what to do and what not to do, so yeah, I help him out where I can.”
Te Kāea asked, “You taught him everything he knows?”
Reiko says, “Yeah most of the stuff.”
The side is also considering making approaches to take a custom haka, especially for the Olympics.
Kaka (Ngāti Tūwharetoa) says, “Yeah we're looking for a new piece for the boys. We had something in the works but it might have fallen through so we'll be looking for someone.”
Lest the players fall into the trap of only wishing for gold, and not eventuating.