It started 10 years ago with 40 kids playing the game at a school in Kerikeri.
Today it has 50,000 players in New Zealand, a dedicated playing field at Waitangi, and teams springing up in Europe.
The efforts of a Northland club driving the extraordinary revival of the traditional Maori ball game ki-o-rahi were honoured in the TrustPower Far North Community Awards this week, with the supreme award going to Ki-o-Rahi Akotanga Iho.
The judges singled out the development of a dedicated ki-o-rahi field at Waitangi with next to no money but with huge volunteer input from players, kaumatua and schoolchildren working side by side. Its carved boundary posts were donated by the Moerewa Carving School and decorated by children of seven Northland schools.
The awards were announced at the Castle Duo Cinema in Kaikohe. The winning group will travel to Southland in March 2014 to represent the Far North at the nationals.
Ki-o-Rahi Akotanga Iho founder Harko Brown, of Kerikeri, said the award would bring new opportunities for the Far North. "It'll also help bring more people into our kaupapa and it'll help promote the field, which is what we want. It's a gift to the nation."
Mr Brown said the club had more plans for the field, including a mosaic on the central rock and an official opening in December by Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia. The club was also determined to do the best job it could of representing the Far North at the nationals.
Mr Brown said the game now had 50,000 players nationwide and had created 51 paid jobs for instructors through Sport New Zealand. In 2010 the club was instrumental in organising the first international ki-o-rahi tour with tests and demonstration games in France and the UK. The game was taken to Europe by soldiers of the 28th Maori Battalion in World War II.
This year's Youth Community Spirit Award went to Springbank School head girl Abigail Foster. Charity events organised by the 17-year-old included Shave for a Cure, which raised $9000. She also helped organise two school balls, led the student group that created a walkway to Charlie's Rock, and coaches netball teams. She donated half her winnings to the Breast Cancer Foundation.
The category winners were honoured for transforming Paihia, one project at a time; taking disabled people surfing and building community gardens; bringing arts events to Kaikohe; building a sports centre in Waipapa used by 1000 people a week in 10 codes; and holding children's art classes in a gallery run by teens.
Heritage and Environment: Focus Paihia Community Trust; runner-up: Taipa Beach Improvement Society.
Health and Well Being: Nga Mahi mo te Tangata Trust (Kaitaia); runner-up: Kaikohe/Umawera St John; commendation: Foster Hope Northland.
Arts and Culture: Kaikohe Community Arts Council; runner-up: Ceili @ Mangonui; commendation: Nga Kaikaranga o Te Uri o Tai (North Hokianga).
Sport and Leisure: BaySport (Waipapa); runner-up: North Hokianga Junior Sports Club.
Education and Child/Youth Development: The Ones with Pencils (Kerikeri); runner-up: Kaikohe AP&H; Society.
Supreme Award: Ki-o-Rahi Akotanga Iho.
Youth Spirit: Abigail Foster, Springbank School; runner-up: Owen Peters, Kaitaia College; finalists: Vandana Bandi, Kaitaia Abundant Life School; Monita Skipworth, Okaihau College; Sian Morgan, Kerikeri High School.