Touch is a family-orientated sport. At most major tournaments you will see brothers, sisters and cousins playing with and against each other.

There is no better example of that than Rotorua's Hudson family. Steve and Noelani have six children, plus another one due this week, who are all as mad about touch as their parents.

Kiani, 18, and Jordan, 17, have been playing for Bay of Plenty sides since they were in the under-9 grade. Grace, 12, has represented the Bay in multiple Northern Interprovincial Series, and Ricoh, 8, Teina, 5, and Ariki, 3, are all well on their way to touch stardom.

You would not bet against the newest addition to the family having a ball in their hands in due course either.


Luckily for the Hudsons, who spend much of their time travelling between different practices and games, Rotorua is fast becoming the go-to destination for major tournaments, greatly reducing their travel costs.

Already this year Rotorua has hosted the Northern IPS tournament, which Grace played in, and, at the weekend, the Touch Junior Nationals. Jordan played in the BOP U18 boys' team, coached by Steve and managed by Noelani, who finished fourth.

Steve said it was the most competitive edition of junior nationals he had seen.

"We lost to Counties Manukau in the semifinals. The calibre of the teams this year was mean, I think out of the nine teams, seven could've made the semis, it came down to for and against in the points.

"Usually you only worry about Auckland, Counties and Waikato, but this year all the teams were really strong.

"It was just the one per centers that cost us in the semifinal, we didn't quite finish things off. We drew with them in the round-robin 3-all, I think if we'd beaten Counties we would've won it."

Steve coaches most of the teams his kids play in, as well as some he doesn't have any of his own kids in, and player/coaches the Bay of Plenty men's 40s team who will play in the senior nationals - also being held in Rotorua - at the start of March.

"I've been coaching since the kids were under-9s and pretty much all the way through. I just love the game, I've played it my whole life. It's the camaraderie - the friendships I've made over the years with different people is unbelievable.


"Coaching definitely helps with my own game, you're a lot calmer and read the game better. If anyone doesn't have a coach, I'll coach. I tell them I'm busy but if they need me, I'll do it."

Steve's Bay of Plenty side have built a fierce rivalry with Canterbury during the past decade. Making the rivalry more interesting is the fact that Steve's best friend - Noelani's cousin - is the player/coach for Canterbury.

"It's a big rivalry, there's heaps of banter on the field. He's had bragging rights for a long time though - we played 30s men's and we only won in 2007. We've had nine silvers behind Canterbury."

While Steve coaches, Noelani manages most of the kids' teams as well as the 40s men. Making sure everyone is in the right place at the right time is a major operation, but Noelani says everyone chips in.

"There's a lot of communication involved. Quite often Steve has all the kids in the van with him and I just pick them up afterwards.

"The older ones help out. When we did IPS, Steve and I would leave at 6am to the stadium, with Grace who would get ready there, then the big ones would bring the younger ones to watch her.

"The kids are playing, so we might as well be involved. We enjoy it," she said.

Steve said he enjoyed watching the kids develop the same love for the game that he has, just through being around it so often.

"They're at touch every day with me. I think the two little ones just want to go for the ice cream and doughnuts. They all love it though, they all want to play."

Bay of Plenty results

Under-18 Mixed: 1st
Under-18 Boys: 4th
Under-18 Girls: 6th

Under-16 Mixed: 3rd
Under-16 Boys: 5th
Under-16 Girls: 15th