‘Proud of amazing cultural campaign’: Māori Touch All Stars beaten in Indigenous clean sweep

It’s been a clean sweep for the Indigenous All Stars this weekend, with the Māori Touch All Stars joining their rugby league whanaunga in also suffering defeat in Townsville on Friday.

The Indigenous mixed touch side pushed on from last year’s 10-all draw with the Māori in Rotorua to claim a convincing 7-2 victory in pouring rain ahead of the evening’s feature games in North Queensland.

The Indigenous handled the conditions better, leading 3-0 at the break and 5-0 late in the game, before tries to Kingston Lamberg (Ngāi Tahu) and Pihuka Berryman-Duff (Tainui) added some respectability to the scoreline.

“I think the rain was a bit of our advantage. We’re pretty good at our ball skills, so long balls, sliding-in was our main game,” Indigenous captain Rebecca Mi Mi said in an interview after the game.

“The Māori sort of lost their hand work with the wet rain - but they fought hard, they always fight hard.”

Indigenous teammate Keeron Hughes said their ball control in the wet conditions was a key factor.

“All week we’ve been training in the hot, in the sun. Coming today, changed a lot - you know, the way we had to play. Everything just today, more ball control I think helped us more,” he said.

Māori Touch NZ, which selects the Māori All Stars team, said it was a proud occasion despite the result.

“While the result wasn’t what our rōpū were aiming for, we are proud to have been part of an amazing campaign where culture has been at the forefront,” Māori Touch NZ wrote on Facebook on Saturday.

They said the special presentation and exchange of gifts after the game was “a moment we won’t soon forget”.

A key feature of this week for both the Māori and Indigenous Touch All Stars has been the whanaungatanga shown to them by their rugby league All Stars whānau.

It made a huge impression, certainly for Māori Touch.

“We want to mihi to our whānau at Aotearoa NZ Maori Rugby League for their Manaaki this week. We’ve enjoyed nothing but warm aroha and whanaungatanga since we arrived,” Māori Touch NZ wrote.

“Whether it was allowing us to share your space for hui and haka practice, welcoming us with whakatau, ensuring we were looked after at our accommodation, capturing photos for us as we were light on resource.

“Our team absolutely loved being included and acknowledged as part of your extended rōpū. Thank you.”

The Indigenous also described their welcome and inclusion as “incredible”.

“This year for the first time ever we’re here for a week and we get to be so included with the NRLW and the NRL guys,” Indigenous player Keely Silva said in an interview.

“I don’t know if they realise how grateful we are. We feel so little, being a little touch football team, but they really make us feel included and I think we’ll take away a lot from this week and hopefully pass it on and share,” she said.

In her post-game wrap-up, Mi Mi also expressed her joy at their inclusion.

“I just love that we’re really included now with the NRL team for both the Māori and Indigenous All Stars.”

Mi Mi said they were especially excited to be involved in the traditional dance before the women’s All Stars league match.

“When they told us we were able to dance with them, I think all five of us women players just got shivers.

“It’s a big opportunity for us to showcase our culture and our sport on the big screen.”