Sunday, 27 June 2010

MAORI RUGBY - NEEDS MORE SUPPORT?

This week Maori publisher and commentator Derek Fox says in his weekly column in the Cook Island paper that its time there was more support for the Maori Rugby team


We think he is right and after the three crowd pleasing centennial matches, sponsors must see them as hot property.

Sealords can gain a lot from the partnership with the Maori team and there will be other Maori companies who must see their potential. And as Derek rightly puts it if the Rugby Union doesn't wake up to the opportunity , they may lose the crowd pleasing ass wooping boys and the money they must bring in.



Moe time over

The All Whites days under the African sun have ended; and despite the over-the-top, silly and repetitious clich├ęs used by the New Zealand media to describe them – their efforts were nonetheless truly gallant and well worthy of the highest admiration.

Back home Maori exponents of a game I’m more familiar with have shown skill and pluck too, and played three games of rugby, which they actually won. I’m talking about the Maori All Blacks who have just completed a three match series to celebrate a century of Maori rugby. In fact the one hundred years only marks the first time that the Rugby Union pulled together a Maori side in Rotorua in 1910; genuine followers of rugby will know of the 1888 New Zealand Natives team that played 108 games in this country, Australia, Egypt and the UK in 1888 and 1889. They toured for 14 months, won 80, lost 23 and drew five.

The 2010 Maori team has lived up to the proud record that previous Maori teams have left for them to follow, despite the paucity of support from the Rugby Union over the years. Even this three match series seemed ill organised. At first the rumour was that there would be three internationals against Wales, Ireland and England; but the Welsh team pulled out and a New Zealand Barbarians team was put in its place. The series only went ahead because Maori money propped it up with the Ministry of Maori Development putting in 200-thousand-dollars; and the Sealord fishing company putting in an obviously larger, but undisclosed amount, thus becoming the series sponsor.

The Maori team with a brand new coach – former Maori and New Zealand All Black Jamie Joseph - began the series a little shakily in Whangarei against the Baabaas, but won a seesaw match with a spectacular last minute try. In Rotorua they got away to a spectacular start then had a bit of a moe in the middle allowing the Irish to kick a few penalties and keep in touch. Then they woke up and played on to win.

England fresh from beating Australia was always going to be the toughest opposition and the game in Napier last Wednesday night turned into a cracker. This time the Maori had an early moe and were 13 points down before showing their impressive firepower, springing back with a quick ten points. Their open style game can also be high risk and after an intercept and try, England went into the lead 28 – 17 at the break. A mate of mine having a mimi at half time met a Pom who indicated the Maori were finished.

But he was wrong.

The final score was 35 – 28, three games and three wins. Like the young All Whites, the young Maori players now know they can foot it with the best players of other countries.

The individual All Whites and their coach will no doubt have tasty contracts dangled in front of them over the next little while.

But what of the Maori All Blacks whose flair and dash drew the crowds.

No one knows when the Rugby Union will deign to gather a Maori team again – they didn’t last year.

Maori might have to do it themselves – like they did in 1888-89. It seems Sealords might be in it for the long haul, and maybe with other Maori owned corporates will pull a team together to play here and overseas.

Overwhelmingly the crowds who watched the series were Pakeha. They came because they know that whenever a Maori team takes to the paddock, something special could happen, like last Wednesday night.

But if Maori have to fund these games themselves, then who should own the brand and collect the gate?

Maybe the Rugby Union needs to wake up from its moe.



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