Sport | Netball

‘Great to be Māori together’: Whānau turn out in numbers for special tournament

Photo / Ira Vision Media Ltd / Aotearoa Māori Netball

Upwards of 2000 whānau are enjoying the best of Māori netball this long weekend as Waiariki hosts Aotearoa Māori Netball’s 37th annual tournament in Rotorua.

The major event on the Māori netball calendar began with Friday’s pōwhiri and today’s the second day of netball action.

“It’s been wonderful to have all our teams arrive,” says Parekura Cribb (Te Ātihaunui a Pāpārangi, Ngāti Pikiao), Aotearoa Māori Netball’s oranga healthy lifestyle national manager.

“In particular, one of our regions, Te Tai Rāwhiti, who post-Covid also had the challenge of dealing with floods and road washouts. They haven’t been able to attend tournaments in full force since 2018.

“So to have them here with four teams for the first time in five years is really nice.”

The celebration of Māori netball is “looking really exciting,” she says.

“There’s probably about 1500 to 2000 people here throughout the day.

“In terms of players, managers and volunteers, that’s around 600 to 700. And then there’s their families, of course.”

It’s been a busy time, she says.

“We’ve done a lot of hauora healthy lifestyles messaging in and around the courts, because that is the key kaupapa of the tournament - to promote healthy lifestyles to our wāhine and their families, using netball as the hook, as the vehicle.”

Cribb says Waiariki have been superb hosts.

“Our host waka Waiariki have been absolutely amazing to us to get everything ready, and just manaaki while we’re here in Rotorua.

“It’s really successful from that perspective.”

‘You feel the wairua’

Waiariki Maori Netball president Taneta Riki (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāpuhi) says it’s incredibly special for them to host this year.

“Waka get to host this event every 10 years because there’s 10 waka. So lucky for us, Waiariki get to do it this year. It’s an amazing tournament, it’s all te ao Māori. "

It’s also extra special that many of the wāhine who made Māori netball and this tournament what is today are still with us, she says.

“Lucky for us, we’ve still got our patroness with us and a lot of the kuia and our advisors that started this movement off are still with us. A lot of waka still have them.

“They’re treated like queens because they’re the reason why we have them [tournaments].”

What stands out for Riki about this year’s tournament is the joy of simply being Māori.

“The highlight for me is just the te ao Māori part – doing the pōwhiri, our prize giving is huge. It’s not just about giving out trophies.

“In the pōwhiri and prize giving, you’ve got haka tautoko, you’ve got reo Māori being spoken by tamariki right up to the ends.

“It’s just, you know, you feel the wairua as soon as you come in because you have to be, you’ve got to whakapapa Māori to be here, that’s the eligibility.

“It’s such a massive, massive opportunity for Māori. I know there’s a lot of Māori sports out there that are doing this same thing. And I suppose, we want to leave space around [it, that] it’s not just about the sports.

“It’s about the platform you use to grow Māori leaders, to grow healthy whānau, all of that. That’s the most important thing for us.”

In these challenging political times, Riki says it’s powerful to simply be Māori together.

“It’s good to really, in particular, now in the space that we’re in with the new government, it’s just so massive and a privilege to bring Māori together.”