Sport | Māori Rugby

'Looking under every rock' to find rugby pounamu

Māori rugby development manager Patariki Edwards (Ngāti Raukawa, Whakatōhea) says he is in his dream job.

“To be able to go out, look at rugby and identify young Māori talent for 18 years is a dream job."

He was commenting as the New Zealand Māori Rugby under-18 camp comes up in Rotorua this weekend, with 44 kōhine and 44 taitama chosen to go in the hopes of being included in the final playing squads.

They were chosen from a pool of more than 500 rangatahi across the country who participated in regional camps. If selected at the end of the camp, they could potentially play against a Barbarians side later this year.

Edwards has helped bring forth the next generation of Māori rugby players for nearly two decades, and says his passion for helping develop rangatahi further their skills in the sport keeps him in the job.

“[We’re] just giving our rangatahi a view of what could be in the future.

'Middle of nowhere' players

"That’s been my dream. We encourage them to be the best that they can, whoever they might be and love them no matter what.”

Previous under-18 camps have produced some of the best Māori rugby talent, such as towering Crusaders prop Tamaiti Williams and code-switching rugby league centre Valynce Te Whare.

It was only three years ago that wāhine were also added into the camp, which Edwards says “absolutely had to happen”.

The scouting process goes across the country, from the best of the top schools to grassroots and rural areas. Edwards says no area in Aotearoa is out of reach to find the best-emerging rugby talents.

“Our motto is to look under every rock to find the pounamu.

“There might be one really good player holding up his team in the middle of nowhere, and, if we can identify and bring them through the system, put them into the window with the NZ Schools and NZ Baabaa’s (Barbarians), that’s what we’re about.”

Matches have been pencilled in against the Barbarians for September.

Public Interest Journalism