Waipareira has made a return to the national Māori Rugby League tournament, after a 15-year hiatus from the competition. Organisers have tipped them as one of the favourites to win the Waka section.
They may favourites, despite returning for the first time in 15 years.
Waipareira Trust Chairman Raymond Hall say, “That puts a bit of pressure on our lads, but notwithstanding that, Waipareira is ready to face whatever is out there on the paddock.”
The original players from 1997 through to 2002 have since moved on. But, it's a chance for the next generation to start fresh.
“For us, it's basically about re-establishing ourselves back into the Māori Rugby League tournament."
Waipareira hooker Tuteauru Maipi says, “This is the first day of the competition, and a chance to grow.”
The last time Waipareira were at the tournament, many of these players, including coach Caino Oshea, were only young children, with many of their fathers, and uncles representing the West Auckland side.
Hall says, “He was the ball boy 15 - 16 years ago for the Whānau o Waiparerira trust league side. His Dads the manager, and a former trustee of Waipareira as well.”
Many of the players are just happy to be at the tournament, despite expectations of winning it.
“There’s excitement amongst the players because we’ve come from around the country to play,” says Maipi.
Waipareira has an uphill battle to stay in the competition after a tough encounter with Te Puaha o Waikato.