As teams from around the country prepare for the Grassroots Trust 2018 touch competition this weekend, two Queensland Māori teams have made their way back home to New Zealand to take part in the event. But, skillset took a back-seat, as the Australian-based Māori focused more on Tikanga than touch training.
The Under-16 sides are just as enthusiastic about learning their culture as they are about playing touch rugby.
The criteria, according to tour manager Mark Shepherd was not just based on skillset, “The selection process included them having to learn their pepehā, and understand their pepehā. It was part of the qualification.”
Under-16 girls captain Keysha Matenga (Waikato-Tainui) says, “Not many people in Australia know their culture if they're from New Zealand. This trip has actually helped the kids connect their roots back to New Zealand.”
The team was invited by Touch NZ to participate in the Grassroots competition this weekend. It is the first time a team outside of New Zealand will play at the tournament.
Says Shepherd, “We're certainly looking to come back and compete every year if we can. We'd like for this to be a tradition.”
For young players like 15-year old Brodyn Gudgeon (Ngāti Kahungunu), playing for the Queensland Māori team has provided him with opportunities he might not get elsewhere.
It's good to be home. [We get to] learn more about our culture, get some bonding with the team, and play some touch.
Culture and genealogy aside, the Queenslanders dubbed as Mozzies are out to win
“We're not here to show New Zealand that we are the best players in Aussie, but these are kids that want to be here,” says
The tournament gets underway on Friday, with the girls first up in the morning against a competitive Wellington side.