Fast-paced rugby and Māori flair are on the menu when Te Hiku o te Ika rugby tournament gets under way at Rotorua International Stadium tomorrow.
With multiple age groups in action, the aim of the tournament is to create pathways for young Māori rugby talent to succeed.
This weekend, tournaments are being played in Whangarei, North Shore, Counties Manukau, Hamilton and Rotorua. The Rotorua event will see Waiariki battle it out with Tainui at the Rotorua International Stadium starting with a whakatau (welcoming) at 10am and the first of four games kicking off at 12pm.
Waiariki Under-15 and Under-17 tāne taking on their Tainui counterparts on Field One and Two respectively.
Eastern Bay of Plenty regional rugby manager Mark Seymour said he wished the tournament was around when he was playing rugby.
"I never really got the chance to do this when I was playing rugby. In hindsight, it would have been cool to be involved. I think the opportunities that are starting to be created through Māori rugby is great. It's not just the rugby component, it's about getting our kids connected with where they are from more than anything."
Seymour said it would be a great opportunity for whānau and supporters to get along and watch some talented rangatahi (young people) show-off their talent.
Entry to the event is free and he was grateful for the support from Events and Venues Rotorua.
Waiariki has three tāne teams; under-15,under-17, under-19 and an under-18 wāhine team competing this weekend.
Seymour said making a connection to the culture was just as important as training and preparing to play rugby.
"Having that ability to connect with who you are is a little piece of the pie that we use to help them understand how important their culture is to their character and what makes them special."
He said Rotorua was the heart of Māori rugby.
"This tournament recognises the importance Māori rugby plays in the Bay of Plenty and it's a stepping stone to what the future holds for our kids."
Te Hiku o te Ika, Northern Region Māori Rugby Draw:
Waiariki Under-15 vs Tainui Under-15, Field One, 12pm
Waiariki Under-17 vs Tainui Under-17, Field Two, 12pm
Waiariki Under-18 Wāhine vs Tainui Under-18 Wāhine, Field One, 1.30pm
Waiariki Under-19 vs Tainui Under-19, Field Two, 1.30pm.
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