'Special': NRL Indigenous and Maori All-Stars exchange traditional welcomes at Rotorua marae

'Special': NRL Indigenous and Māori All-Stars exchange traditional welcomes at Rotorua marae

Always good to see the respect going both ways.

Aotearoa and Australian indigenous cultures were both on full display to welcome some of the NRL’s best players to NZ yesterday. 

The NRL Māori and Indigenous All-Star men’s and women’s teams were welcomed to Te Papaiouru Marae in Rotorua with a pōwhiri ahead of their match at Rotorua International Stadium this weekend. 

Members of the marae took part in waiata, a wero and a haka. A taonga pūoro was also played at the same time as the traditional Aboriginal instrument, the didgeridoo. The Indigenous All-Stars also responded with a traditional ritual. 

Tania Tapsell, the Mayor of Rotorua, gave a welcome speech at the event that focused on how far indigenous cultures have come over the years. 

“Some of our elders wept as you walked onto our sacred marae today,” she said. “As indigenous people, we share many things - dance, songs, the arts - but we also share the history of dealing with colonisation.”

“And the tears you saw this morning are the tears of acknowledgement and of hurt that we know your people have also been through… We greet you, we see you, we hear you and we feel you. Welcome to Rotorua.”

Former NRL Superstar Greg Inglis was attending with the Indigenous All-Stars and told Aukaha News that to see the oldest and youngest living cultures on earth come together is “special”.

“Even though we’re from different parts of the world, we’re still connected,” he said. 

He added that seeing how Aotearoa has embraced the Māori culture over the past years is somewhat bittersweet for him.

“It’s amazing you guys still teach the language and songs in schools all through the country. It’s sad on my side that we’re just starting to pick [Aboriginal culture] up in different areas in Australia.”

Saturday will be the first time an NRL All-Star game has been played on Kiwi soil. The women’s teams kick off at 3:30pm, and then the men’s at 5:45pm.