Sport | Australia

Te Kotahitanga takes on NRL development teams

A group of young Māori men are preparing to head to Australia to play league against NRL development teams. Their coach says it provides opportunities for the youth to be exposed to the best in the game.

“If we didn't have the Māori tournaments, we wouldn't be travelling over there. So for me, the biggest ups and appreciation will always go to Aotearoa Rugby League,” Te Kotahitanga coach Aaron Albert said.

Albert who is of Ngāti Hauā ki Tainui descent is holding a training camp at the Howick Hornets rugby league field in Auckland. He says whānau support has been a major contributor to their trip.

“One of the players' dad's company jumped on board, Oscar Dunn, and sponsored the track suits but it's costing roughly $3,000 a person.”

Twenty players have been selected to travel to Australia and play league against some of their equivalent NRL teams. Here is what some of the players had to say.

“It's just good to see all the Māori boys get together and getting given this opportunity to go out and play all the Australian teams is just massive for us.

“I think we're gonna need strong communication and good chemistry and trust between our players.

“It's quite exciting. Just grateful for the opportunity to go with these boys to Aussie.”

“Coming from New Zealand they probably think we're gonna be really slow, like try and slow the game down. So, they just probably going to attack us, just keep the ruck real fast but we'll try and slow it down and, hopefully, we can slow down the game and make them play to our pace.”

The team will fly out with eight supporters on Friday. The purpose of the trip is to connect the boys with other league teams and to create relationships.

Albert says, “Luckily, we've got a number of sponsors of the board, so the kids ended up having to pay half of it. So half of it is sponsored and the other half we've also had another organisation come on board at the last moment.”

The Kōtahitanga league team will return to New Zealand on July 7.

Public Interest Journalism