After being absent for 15 years, Te Tai Tokerau has made a return to the National Touch Championships in Auckland. This year, the northern region has three teams entered, which is the most in their history.
Many of the former players from the early 2000’s turned out to Bruce Pullman park today and were excited at the return of their side.
Te Tai Tokerau Under-21’s Coach Joe Rau says, “15 years [not playing] at an open nationals [sic] is a long time. We're actively going at juniors and everything underneath. That's the seed, how we're just progressing, and that's been happening in the last five years.”
As well as the Under-21’s side, the region this year have entered also entered an Over 30’s Men’s, and an Over 27 & 35 Women’s squad. It’s been a challenge getting one team here, let alone three.
Rau says, “Just in our area - Te Tai Tokerau -, it's a big area. Getting the people from Kaitaia to Dargaville to, Whangārei all to meet, to train and to compete.”
“In tournaments like this, we never really have it up there, that's why we come to these sort of things,” says Under 21’s captain Amiria Te Iringa.
To put things into perspective, the majority of the young girls' side are teenagers and were not even born when the side last turned out.
Keti Marsh-Solomon was one of those players, “Yes, not born. Actually, my daughters playing in the under-21's team. So yes, it's been a long time.”
“Bringing our young ones from the under-16 straight up to 21's is good,” says Te Iringa.
Like many staunch supporters of touch rugby in the northern district, Rau is optimistic about growing the number of teams from Te Tai Tokerau to turn out at the national competition.
“That is our goal, to keep playing this beautiful game. If you get success, that's just the icing on the cake,” says Rau.
The region has enjoyed some success with their Under-21’s side winning two out of three games today. Tomorrow, they will take on a Canterbury side determined to rectify two losses on day one.