Back in 2017 a potential partnership between Te Wānanga o Raukawa (TWoR) and the Central Pulse was brewing.
In the three years since, a special relationship has formed between the two organisations.
Hailed the 'smallest university in the world' with two students when first established, TWoR is a tikanga Māori education provider based in Ōtaki.
Initially cautious and unsure about how a relationship between the organisations would work when first approached by Pulse management, Te Wānanga o Raukawa chief executive officer Mereana Selby said they have now found a synergy that is mutually beneficial.
"When we were first approached by the pulse we weren't convinced because we were an education institution but when they started to talk about their core kaupapa and tikanga we started to see some alignments about what we do."
Attracted by their shared core kaupapa of health and wellbeing, a relationship began to form.
"We realised that we do cross over quite a lot with what we do, there were synergies we hadn't initially identified."
Fully embracing Māori culture this season, the TWoR Central Pulse started with a traditional pōwhiri and camp along with hosting a preseason tournament at TWoR and have continued to visit, hold training sessions for youngsters and be involved in the community.
"The first year was just about getting to know each other.
"What we see now, three years later, is a day-to-day implementation of kaupapa Māori and expressions of kaupapa that in the first years were very foreign to them as a team and organisation.
"They have embraced Māori language and culture well in the last three years.
"I do have to admire the non-Māori players and staff in the way they have embraced our language and expectations of TWoR.
"I feel like they enjoy it now, they no longer look like visitors at TWoR but walk around with ease."
After winning the ANZ Premiership Grand Final 52-48 against the Northern Stars the TWoR performed a spine-tingling haka on court in front of a packed out crowd.
"We are thrilled they won the competition.
"Seeing them embrace the haka, they did it with pride and carried the haka well."