Rugby: Maori celebrating 30 years

Maori rugby in Otago will be celebrated on Saturday with a skills session and get-together for a group hatched 30 years ago.

One of the organisers of the celebration, Raymond Te Huki, said Maori rugby in Otago had come a long way since it first started in the early 1980s.

The celebrations would be held both on and off the field on Saturday, centred around the North Ground, the home of the Alhambra-Union club.

There will be a skills sessions for promising young Maori players from about 10am to mid-afternoon on Saturday taken by New Zealand Rugby Union Maori development manager Tiki Edwards.

It is also hoped some Maori rugby trophies and displays which were on show at the Rugby World Cup in Auckland may be shipped down from Wellington and shown.

At night there will be a dinner and get-together to talk about the past 30 years of Maori rugby in Otago.

Te Huki said Maori rugby had started with a loose group of people around 1982 and had become more formal as it gradually grew ties with the Otago Rugby Football Union.

Members of the Haua family had been the catalyst for the early Otago Maori sides.

Te Huki said it had been a fairly loose arrangement to start with as teams were made up on the day to take on other representative sides.

The Maori sides would take on Otago representative sides such as Otago B or Otago Colts.

The side had a strong link with the University of Otago and many students new to Dunedin enjoyed playing in Maori teams, Te Huki said.

Three Otago sides - senior men, senior women and colts - have played in a South Island Maori tournament over the past few years and will line up in the tournament in Timaru next month.

Sides from Canterbury and Marlborough will also play in the competition.