Join the rolling maul Northland sporting clubs and earn $10 per Covid vaccination during an ambitious push to have at least 90 per cent of the region's population fully vaccinated by Christmas.
In a New Zealand first, Northland's rugby community has teamed up with eight Māori health providers and other sporting codes to boost the uptake of the Covid-19 vaccinations, with a primary focus on hard-to-reach Māori and Pasifika communities.
The Take 2 for the Team initiative was launched yesterday with participating sporting groups earning $10 per vaccination for every person they can encourage to be vaccinated and $20 per head for the full course of two Pfizer jabs.
There are currently 4896 Māori and Pasifika club rugby players in Northland across all age groups and if just three members from each whanau are vaccinated, along with the 2843 players over 12, it would result in more than 17,500 vaccinations.
The Rugby for Life programme is leading the initiative, using its Northland Rugby Union and the Northland rugby network to create health, education and employment opportunities across the region.
Māori health providers participating in the Take 2 for the Team initiative are paid by the Government for every vaccination they administer and include Hokianga Health, Ngāti Hine Health Trust, Te Ha Oranga, Te Hau Awhiowhio o Otangarei Trust, Te Hauora o Ngapuhi, Te Hiku Hauora, Te Runanga o Whaingaroa and Whakawhiti Ora Pai.
Twenty-four of Northland's 52 community rugby clubs and one school, Kerikeri High School, are enrolled in the initiative so far.
Other sports may also come on board, with Rugby for Life in early discussions with Northland Hockey, Northland Rugby League and TaiTokerau Rugby League. These clubs also stand to profit from the same amount as the rugby clubs.
Awanui Rugby Club senior coach Pops Arona said it would be a win-win situation if Maori and Pasifika players, administrators and their families received the vaccination from Te Hiku Hauora vaccinators.
"We'd be excited if we can get 100 people fully vaccinated. There's a lot of history behind Pasifika and Māori players in Awanui and it's often a lack of access and not having a clear pathway of what to do and when to do it," he said.
Captain of the Southern Rugby Football Club in Te Kopuru, Chris Fyfe, welcomed the initiative and said a better uptake of the Covid vaccination meant less time in lockdowns and the chance to see their favourite teams in action.
"Pacific and Māori players are highly involved in the kumara fields, meatworks, and in rugby clubs and a lot of them sustain businesses in Kaipara."
Rugby for Life trustee Martin Cleave said club rugby was an ideal vehicle to reach Māori and Pasifika communities.
"Māori health providers help to deliver medical shots in the arms of people in remote parts of the region, rugby clubs get the financial shot in the arm they desperately need, and communities get a social shot in the arm with all the cool things clubs will be able to keep on doing.
"We believe this is something worth trying to achieve and we ask all Northland sporting clubs, regardless of the code, to join our rolling maul and help get us over that line."
Cleave said the vaccination programme was also open to the wider Northland community when attending sporting club functions and the region's most high-profile sporting events.
"For instance, club rugby games and other functions will easily attract anywhere between 50 and 500 people, so we will be there with our Māori health provider partners, encouraging people to do the right thing," he said.
"We've seen the appointments system just doesn't work for these hard-to-reach groups, so we'll be inviting, urging and encouraging people simply to walk over to us at a rugby match, a hockey match, a netball game or wherever to get their jabs."
Far North Mayor John Carter is encouraging everyone to get involved in the initiative.
"We know it can be a challenge for residents of our more remote communities to access medical and other services and this can be even more difficult for young people," Carter said.
"Ensuring that our young people get vaccinated will play a big part in helping the Far North reach our 90 per cent vaccination goal.
"We are told that getting the final 10 to 20 per cent of the population vaccinated can be the hardest, but not impossible."
Carter said many Far North businesses were hurting as a result of the Covid-19 restrictions and getting 90 per cent of the population vaccinated was the best way to restore certainty to the economy.
"Key events that support our tourism and hospitality industries have been cancelled and other industries are suffering from supply issues and general uncertainty.
"Council staff were doing all they can to help build connections between agencies and community groups so our vaccination rollout is a success."
Rugby for Life is calling for any commercial organisations keen to support the Take 2 for the Team initiative with donations of cash or products, to get in touch.
Donations can be targeted at a specific club or distributed evenly among all participating clubs.
For more information about Take 2 for The Team, visit www.take2fortheteam.kiwi.