‘The pool’s packed’: First Māori Pasifika water polo tournament a hit with kids and whānau

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The first ever Māori Pasifika water polo tournament is underway in Mount Maunganui this weekend after getting away to an “outstanding” start on Friday.

“We had about 150 for the mihi whakatau yesterday at one of the local kura. Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Otepou supported the whole process. It’s been outstanding,” says tournament spokesperson Wayne Rickit (Ngāti Tarāwhai, Ngā Puhi).

“We’ve got just under 240 kids here and we’re at the pool today. We’re looking pretty good for a 7.30 start on a Saturday morning.”

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Rickit says seeing all their efforts finally come together has “exceeded expectations”.

“We’ve got some of our whānau that have come up from Te Waipounamu in their 50s who are playing. They’ve made the journey up. And we’ve got a lot of senior players who are in the water now playing. The pool’s packed. It’s absolutely incredible to see.

“It’s absolutely exceeded expectations. Lots of really good feedback from the whānau about how it’s been running. So that’s been our main worry to make sure it’s been a worthwhile event for them.”

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The mihi whakatau was a definite highlight, says Rickit, “And, I guess, if I’m being honest, it’s this morning to see that we’ve got all these senior players in the water.”

Rickit says there’s lots of excitement to take in at the Baywave Aquatic Centre.

“If you’re coming down to the pool or you’re interested, come and see the seniors play. There’s some really exciting physical and technical water polo. Most of the tāne and wāhine involved here play for our senior squads. So, it’ll be fun.

“And we’ve got the finals coming up, and I think it’s probably going to be an all-Tai Tokerau finals. They’re looking pretty tough.”

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This article has been updated to reference Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Otepou as supporting the mihi whakatau.