Regional | Adam Blair

Former Warrior weighs in on Māori, Pasifika NRL body

Credit / Getty Images (Mark Kolbe)

Māori and Pasifika NRL players are forming their own representative body but it's already attracted some flak.

With almost half of NRL and women's NRLW players identifying as Māori and Pasifika, they have decided to establish an advisory group to help amplify their voices.

Up to 12 players from NRL and NRLW teams will form the group, set up by the Rugby League Players Association ('RLPA'), a Sydney Morning Herald report says.

"I’ve seen a lot of young Māori and Pasifika players either being too afraid to speak up or don’t realise what’s going on off the footy field in terms of manager and study payments that come with your contract," Tigers co-captain James Tamou told the Australian media outlet. "They’re just excited to train and don’t really think of those things off the field."

The Sydney Morning Herald says Tamou is one of the players who will sit on the inaugural advisory group. "I think this is a great initiative to give them a voice," Tamou said.

RLPA chief executive Clint Newton backed this up, telling the Sydney newspaper this was an "important moment" for current and future Pasifika and Māori players.

“They, like all players, are essential to our game, and the newly formed player advisory group will provide further opportunity for our Pasikifa and Māori players to be heard," he said.

A great move or segregation?

But former rugby league legend and Te Ao Toa presenter Adam Blair thinks that although it's great, the move could cause segregation as an RLPA has already been established.

“To be honest, I feel that there are people already in those positions that do have voices. I just hope it doesn’t segregate our Australian people, our other nations or our Māori and Pacific [players].

And if there was the establishment of a Māori and Pasifika body, it could mean that the NRL’s RLPA might not look after those players anymore.

“I remember a long time ago that Australia used to pay the Kiwis to play against the Australians. Why would they pay the Kiwis to beat the Aussies? So this could go down that way.”

Blair wants them to work as a collaborative body.

“Hopefully we don’t get into that position where it’s the Australian RLPA and the Māori & Pacific RLPA, and the Māori and Pacific RLPA are not getting looked after properly."

Blair is hoping the new NRL body will inform new recruits and young players what their contracts entail before they are signed, to protect them from future financial mishaps and the like.

“It’s going to be hard. Managers are out there to make money, and get the best deals for you but at the same time, when you’re a 15, 16 or 17-year old, people can take advantage of you as well.

“I’m really hopeful that this group can be the voice for our kids and our future, so that none of this happens."

The NRLW (women’s competition) is also part of the body, and more Māori and Pasifika women play in their competition than Māori and Pasifika men in the NRL.

“If you’ve watched some of the NRLW they’ve gone out there and done the best they can. They’re physical, they love the game, they’re passionate. It only keeps getting better.

“In the past couple of years, competitions were getting cancelled. No one was getting told that it was happening. These girls have jobs and play rugby league, they have kids, partners. But if there is nothing out there that’s going to help them and no one to speak on behalf of them, they’re going to find themselves in trouble.”