The Ngāti Tūwharetoa Marae Sports Challenge got underway today, despite torrential rain hitting Tūrangi in the last few day. The event is in its 15th year and will run over the next two days.
Not even the rain could deter these descendants of Ngātoroirangi from participating in their tribe's annual games.
Tūrangi local Karam Fletcher (Hīrangi Marae, Tokaanu Marae) says, “It's a good sign that the rain has stopped, to me that's a good sign. At the start of the match, the rain stopped. We are able to achieve what we set out to do.”
The Ngāti Tūwharetoa games began 15 years ago. Karama Fletcher says there have been many highlights.
Fletcher, a radio announcer for local radio station Tūwharetoa FM, says, “In the years gone by, many people have turned up to celebrate this event. That is one of the highlights for me is to see the many people regardless of where they're from, who they are, or where they live, they come home.”
Organisers expect over 3,000 of their descendants to turn up to Tūrangi Park. There are 21 Marae, with two of them (Mokai and Poukura) returning to compete again.
“Good to see all the Marae. Just like that proverb, although small in numbers, they're still treasured. There's a small crew of them (The two Marae) who have turned up to celebrate their Marae,” says Fletcher.
Old and young, for many, winning the Tūwharetoa Marae Sports Challenge isn't the number one goal.
Touch NZ Community manager George Jahnke, who has returned to facilitate the touch rugby, and representing Rongomai Marae says, “Tens Rugby's always a good one. They warm up with the touch, and then the big bodies come out the next day on the Saturday with the Rugby.”
“I would like for it to remain like this, peaceful, and to see all those aspects of camaraderie,” says Fletcher.
Action continues tomorrow with the touch and rugby finals getting underway.