This year's New Zealand Māori Rugby League Tuakana Tournament will not only be a vehicle to celebrate Maori.
The tournament, which will be played at Rotorua International Stadium on October 25 and 26, is expected to attract around 35 teams competing in divisions including the top open section, the rohe division, the waka division and the wahine toa division that will cater for the women's teams.
New Zealand Maori Rugby League (NZMRL) chairman John Devonshire says the tournament helps celebrate the Māori culture.
"It is unique for Māori and while it is not under the traditional lines of league registering, you can play for your iwi, hapū or whānau. The significant thing is celebrating being Māori and rugby league is the vehicle. There is passion and enthusiasm and they are representing who they are," Devonshire says.
"The games are hard and fast, you can play up to six games over the weekend and the rate of attrition is massive. We modify the rules so teams can use 20 players."
The two-day tournament will also feature a game between the New Zealand Māori team and an England under-20 side. The exhibition game will be played before the final.
Devonshire says teams can enter up to the week of the tournament and says it has great support from the One Foundation.
"I just want to see people enjoy themselves, we have stalls and it is a great environment. I love seeing the whanau come together to have a good time. That gives me the greatest satisfaction."
The Tauranga Moana Māori team will play in the waka division and will be coached by current Pāpāmoa Bulldogs coach Jock Nicholson, who has played in 10 Tuakana tournaments.
The Bulldogs and the Ōtūmoetai Eels play in the Waikato Rugby League competition, which concludes on August 10. The Coastline representative side is chosen from those two teams for games after the Waikato competition.
While it is fair to assume a fair amount of players from the Coastline team will play in the Tuakana tournament, Nicholson says it does depend on who is available. But Nicholson says he is confident he will put a good team together, and it may include some rugby players.
Last year's rohe winners were Raukawa Ki Runga while Te Puaha O Waikato were the waka champions. Te Arawa claimed the wahine toa title.
New Zealand Māori Rugby League Tuakana Tournament:
October 25-26, 2019.
Rotorua International Stadium