Reducing family violence in Northland will be the key message come kickoff tomorrow when the Taniwha take on North Harbour.
The round eight game, which begins at 4.35pm at Semenoff Stadium in Whangārei, is being used as a medium for Northland communities to stand up against family violence - an initiative organised by community rugby partnership programme Rugby For Life.
About 11 buses would be bringing about 500 people from Ōtiria, Ōhaeawai, Kaeo, Wellsford, Onerahi, Mid Western, Opononi, Russell, Mangonui, Waitangi and Paihia to the game to stand together and hold a minute's silence in recognition of the lives lost through family violence.
"Getting families involved in rugby can only be a good thing," Taniwha prop Ross Wright said.
Although family violence hadn't been a part of Wright's life, the Northland centurion was aware of how prevalent it was across Northland and New Zealand communities.
Wright, who has two young daughters Kaimarni and Rakaia, said he wanted to raise them in a community where family violence could be approached in an open, progressive way by role models in the community.
"I think as rugby players, we can help be those role models for people to look up to."
Tomorrow's initiative stemmed from a three-year contract Rugby For Life had entered into with the Ministry of Social Development, which outlined how Northland communities could tackle family violence through rugby.
The goal was to enable people in different communities to lead initiatives helping whānau through family violence and reducing its impact across the region.
"We are encouraging people to step forward in their communities to come on board with us as we lead change through innovative initiatives," Rugby For Life project coordinator Sharon Gibson said.
After a family violence seminar was held for the rugby community in August, Kaeo Rugby Club then formed its own initiative which involved a multi-sport day for children intertwined with education sessions on preventing family violence.
Interest in similar initiatives had been registered from Aupouri and Kerikeri Rugby Clubs also.
Gibson hoped by the end of the three-year contract, many rugby clubs and other community organisations across the region would be engaged in this work, supported by sufficient resources at a community and national level.
Although she acknowledged the complexity of family violence as a social issue, Gibson said Rugby For Life was committed to extending its work into the future and reviewing its practices to ensure their value to communities.
"These issues can't be fixed quickly, it does take time and commitment, so yes we want to commit to the longevity of this kaupapa," she said.
"The objective is to make it easier for people to talk about it, we will do whatever it takes to get the messaging out there and we want to motivate all sectors in our community in shifting our attitudes and behaviours regarding family violence."