Rugby: Importance of Maori culture stressed

Buck Shelford at the Brighton Rugby Club rooms on Saturday. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Buck Shelford at the Brighton Rugby Club rooms on Saturday. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Staying true to whakapapa was a core theme of a workshop in Dunedin for 40 Maori rugby coaches from throughout the South Island over the weekend.

Keynote speakers included Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph, former New Zealand Maori coach Matt Te Pou, Maori rugby development officer Tiki Edwards, former Black Ferns coach Kiwi Searancke, New Zealand Maori manager Peter Potaka, cultural adviser Luke Crawford and All Black great Buck Shelford.

Joseph was the first speaker to meet the group, when it visited Forsyth Barr Stadium on Friday.

He spoke to them of the importance of mana, motivation and culture in the Maori team.

The delegates regrouped at Brighton Rugby Club on Saturday morning, with Te Pou, Shelford and Potaka talking about the importance of building team culture at all levels of the game.

Te Pou spoke of the huge changes the professional era had brought to the game, and the role coaches now had to play in order to get the best out of their teams.

"The environment is going to be the key to winning," Te Pou said.

"What you do off the field has a huge impact on the field."

Te Pou referenced the success of the 1888-89 New Zealand Native team, which played 107 games in 14 months.

"We are the custodian of those traditions and that legacy, like the All Blacks today, who picked up their stuff from the All Blacks yesterday. The Highlanders do the same."

Te Pou spoke of every Maori player wanting to be an All Black, drawing on the legacies left by Thomas Ellison, the first captain of the national team, George Nepia, Sid Going, Tane Norton, Waka Nathan, Shelford, Taine Randell and Carlos Spencer, and the leadership, values and principles they carried.

He informed the group that while such legacies were important for the players, coaching was a further extension, where a problem solver, mediator and motivator was key to the success of a team.

Shelford spoke of coming back from Japan in 2006 and returning to his roots at the North Shore club, where he coached its senior team to its first championship victory in more than 10 years.

He hadn't been in involved with his club since 1991 and had to work with 40 players he knew nothing about.

"It's about how you start from nothing and then create something," he said.

"The team hadn't performed for years, so I decided to keep it simple, stupid. We won the first game and drew the second."

The wheels fell off when members of the team asked for a game plan, but Shelford instilled self-belief into players, throwing responsibility back on to them.

He then set about changing attitudes to teamwork, dress code, time management, binge drinking, food, hydration and the importance of joining the opposition team in the clubrooms afterwards.

Most of the coaches who gathered in Dunedin are preparing Maori teams for the South Island tournament in Timaru at the end of next month. From this, South Island (Te Wai Pounamu) teams in senior men, senior women and colts will be selected to contest a national competition in March against the two North Island regions, Te Tini (lower half North Island) and Te Hiku (upper half), with prizes such as the George Nepia Trophy at stake.

 

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