The NZ Māori Rugby League tournament for youth under 15 and 17 years kicked off this weekend. It's the first time the event has been held in Taranaki.
It's one of the most anticipated events on a Rugby League calendar.
Event organiser John Devonshire says, “It's about showcasing our rangatahi, giving them an opportunity to play in front of scouts and NRL clubs and celebrate being Māori and using rugby league as the vehicle.”
Last year more than twenty players were selected and signed with professional teams from the event. Also, an insight for scouts to learn about the significant role of history, heritage and culture within the sport.
Troy Pezert, scout for the New Castle Knights told Te Kāea, “I think it's just really important the boys see it as a cultural event, not just for a sporting event. I suppose for us from an NRL point of view it gives you a chance to see not just a footy carnival but it gives you an opportunity to see the other side of the boys as well, how much importance they place on their family and culture, I think that a really important part for us to have a look at as well.”
It's the first time the event has been held in Hāwera, home to Warrior's star Isaac Luke. According to Isaac's dad, George Luke, it's the pinnacle for young Māori boys aiming to follow in Isaac's footsteps.
“It's really great to see all the kids and all the tamariki out here playing today, and you know to reach that sort of high where Isaac is right now, this is a really good initial step for these young tamariki,” says George Luke from Ngā Ruahine.
Tomorrow the best of the best will play off in the finals.