Despite the Tai Tokerau Rugby League being cut short due to Covid-19, there were still plenty of reasons to celebrate the end of the football season last week.
Following last Tuesday's announcement of Northland remaining in alert level 3 until at least 11.59 pm tonight, the 2021 Taitokerau Rugby League Grand Finals went from being postponed to cancelled.
The Hikurangi Stags and Pawarenga Broncos were declared joint winners of the TRL Championship Cup, with the Ōtangarei Knights and Waipapakauri Bombers declared joint winners of the TRL Premiership Shield.
A post on the TRL Facebook page from CEO Hone Harawira said due to the ongoing threat of Covid-19 to everyone involved in the TRL, it was best to make the right decision for all concerned.
"I feel for the four clubs involved and for everyone else in the TRL, but we're announcing early so everyone knows what's going on," he said.
"So again, sorry to all our clubs, players, supporters, sponsors and our wider TRL whānau, but keeping our whānau safe comes first."
Despite the abrupt end of the season, clubs were still able to virtually celebrate another important TRL competition, namely the inaugural 2021 Mana Whānau TRL Tu Haka Competition.
The Ngāti Kahu Sharks were named the winners on Thursday, thanks to a total of 460 likes and 7884 views on Facebook for their team haka.
The inaugural competition was a challenge for each club to compose and choreograph their own haka, which needed to highlight the mana tupuna, mana iwi and mana whenua of each club in a two-minute video.
The video was then uploaded to the TRL Facebook page for people around the world to view and like.
The team with the most likes was declared the winner.
Four out of 12 teams took part in the competition - Waipapakauri Bombers, Moerewa Tigers, Whangaroa Marlins and Ngāti Kahu Sharks.
Waipapakauri Bombers received more views than the Ngati Kahu Sharks, reaching 11,764 hits, but lost out in the "like" category, receiving 384 thumbs up.
Moerewa Tigers was third with 6779 views and 372 likes, and Whangaroa Marlins placing fourth with 3345 views and 227 likes.
The haka competition even grabbed the attention of national media, with TRL executive member Tarei Patuwairua and Waipapakauri Bombers captain Conor Watene-O'Sullivan interviewed by TV1 Breakfast host John Campbell.
Patuwairua said while it was disappointing the finals weekend was cancelled, the Tu Haka Competition had been an awesome way to round off the season.
"For me, the haka competition was about building a culture within each club and an opportunity not just for players, but for whanau members to also build a connection to their club," Patuwairua said.
"I want to see all of our clubs doing haka at every game, as 94 per cent of our players are registered as Māori, so it's important.
"Unfortunately, Covid-19 had an impact on more clubs participating as we had five others who wanted to perform their haka, but couldn't due to the lockdown.
"We were also waiting to see the clubs do their haka at the finals weekend, but again that got cancelled."
Patuwairua said despite this year's events, clubs and players were keen to continue the haka competition and had a few other things tucked away for the next season as well.
"We will definitely hold this again next season and for those who have composed their haka already, they'll be ready to do it next year," he said.
"Our clubs relate their haka back to the area of the mana whenua of their area and are passionate about showing where they come from."