Aotearoa Māori has dominated at the Oceania Junior Tag Championships in Auckland to win the Under-14 Mixed final, 4-2.
They took on a determined Cook Islands, but in the end, were too good.
It was a final that was full of brilliant tries, dazzling try-saving tags, and determination from both sides, as the first ever final of the Junior Oceania Tag Football championships got underway today in Auckland.
Coach Shaundell Togiamua (Ngāti Porou, Ngāpuhi) says, “My heart is elated because this tag match was a tough one. This isn't an easy game to play.”
The tournament started on Friday and has been running for three days. Along the way, they've played Sāmoa, Tonga, and Niue. From the get-go, Aotearoa Māori had every intention of winning the inaugural title.
Togiamua says, “It's really significant for Māori because these guys are our leaders, and players of tomorrow.”
Brooklyn Timu, who had an outstanding game leading her side up the middle says, “I wanted to play like my pāpā (father) and it's so fun. I love tag, especially to represent Māori, it's special.”
Togiamua says the team had worked hard in the last few weeks at training. She believes that the defence was key to their win.
“I always say to my team that defence always wins the game. They've worked hard at that.”
Brooklyn acknowledged her side’s efforts, especially in the second half, “We really tried our best today, we put everything into it, especially our haka.”
At halftime, both sides sat evenly with one try a piece. However, the Māori side lifted the tempo in the second half to score a brace of tries.
“Some will now go to league, some to netball. It's like a warm-up pre-season,” says Togiamua.
With the tag season now finished, these players will move up to the Under 18's grade, with the aim to head to the Senior Tag Football championships next season.