Sport | Rugby league

Passionate Māori rugby league supporter gains NRL agent accreditation

Rangatahi rugby league hopefuls in Aotearoa now have a familiar face in their corner with a passionate supporter of Māori Rugby League becoming an accredited NRL agent.

Ngahina Capper (Te Āti Awa) received his official accreditation under the Rugby League Accredited Player Agent Scheme on last week. It means he can advocate and negotiate on behalf of players and their whānau.

“I’m excited because it’s indigenous-led, it’s Māori led. My ethos is driven by my values and connections to our culture. I’m excited about what that can bring to the sport sector, the rugby league sector in that space.”

There are more than 140 accredited agents, with a handful of Māori including the likes of former Kiwi players Tyran Smith and Bryson Goodwin but Taranaki-based Capper is believed to be the only Māori agent based in regional Aotearoa.

Capper believes that will help him work with whānau navigating their way through becoming a professional athlete, which often means having to leave home and move to large cities like Auckland, Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane.

“I understand regional people and people from the bush, from the country because we are uniquely different and I understand those big shifts to the big cities and everything that comes with that.

Whānau as important as player

“And so being able to be there for those who aren’t necessarily exposed to top-level footy all the time but have the raw ability and talent to take their game to another level, that can only be good for our whānau in the regions.”

While players are not required to engage agents to negotiate contracts with clubs, only agents accredited under the NRL scheme or close family members can negotiate on behalf of players.

Rising stars often attract interest from agents hopeful they have uncovered the next superstar and subsequent large payments.

Capper has more than 15 years’ experience in governance, coaching and managing rugby league teams and competitions in Aotearoa, Sydney and Perth, especially within Māori communities.

He hopes that familiarity will help young players and their whānau feel comfortable as they chase their dreams. He says the whānau will be as important in his dealings as the player themselves.

“Whānau centric, that’s being tikanga-led, values-led, being grounded in who we are, understanding how important our cultural connection is, regardless of wherever we go.

Personal experience

“It’s also about giving back like that kind of circular economy where we mahi tahi and it comes back and supports the next rangatahi that come through.”

Capper also has recent experience of dealing with NRL negotiations and player agents as his 18-year-old son, Kahu, recently signed with the Warriors.

“It’s very overwhelming because all of a sudden, out of nowhere, you’ve got everyone contacting you. Different clubs, different agents and it can be very overwhelming. We’ve been through the ebbs and flows that come with moving from Aotearoa to Australia, a young boy from Taranaki into Sydney City and Bondi and everything that comes with.

“Contract negotiations and stuff like that - a lot of our whānau aren’t familiar with that, so being able to be there and support them in those spaces is really important.”