Southland schools are preparing for what will be one of the country's biggest ki o rahi tournaments, with up to 300 players taking part in the event next week.
The tournament, which will be held on December 4 and has attracted 30 teams, highlights what has been a popular introduction of ki o rahi - a traditional Maori game - to schools Southland-wide.
Sport Southland kaiwhakahaere ki o rahi Shontelle Dixon is delighted with the reaction to the tournament and says it comes after a successful year of delivering the sport to schools.
"The sport has been so popular with the schools, I've been in demand all year," she says.
"I think the biggest thing that makes ki o rahi so popular is that it's different and the kids can relate to it. It's more than just a game, because they are learning the legend behind it."
Dixon has been spreading the sport to primary, intermediate and secondary schools, teaching up to 1000 schoolchildren how to play the game, which merges the main skills from touch, rugby, football and netball, as well as the legend behind it.
She has also taken development sessions for teachers and upskilled senior pupils at different schools, enabling them to pass those skills on to junior pupils.
Next week's tournament will be co-ordinated by Sport Southland, with the support of Te Wharekura o Arowhenua.
Students from Te Wharekura o Arowhenua and Sport Southland staff will referee the day's games, which will include round-robin play in four sections - primary mixed, intermediate/secondary girls, intermediate/secondary boys and senior mixed - before finals at the end of the day.
Peter Noanoa, of Rangitahi Tu Rangatira - a national organisation charged with promoting traditional Maori games to encourage physical activity - says the Southland tournament will be among the biggest in the country.
"Apart from Auckland, this will be the biggest tournament, as well as being one of the only tournaments to incorporate all levels - primary, intermediate and secondary," he says. "Shontelle has done a fantastic job and really showed some initiative."
Dixon's position has been created because of a c collaboration between Sport Southland and nga Runaka/Runanga ki Murihiku; a relationship that seeks to build capacity within the Maori community by increasing participation, leadership and the revitalisation of sport and traditional physical recreation.
Next Tuesday's tournament will be at the Waikiwi Rugby Grounds, between 10am and 3pm.
HOW IS IT PLAYED?
The team game is played between two sides – Kioma and Taniwha – on a large circular field. Teams alternate between the roles of Kioma and Taniwha at each quarter. Kioma scores by touching pou (poles spread out in a circle around the outfield, te ao) with the ki (ball), then running the ki through the middle zone (te roto) and running it into/placing it down in the inner zone (pawero). Once the ball is pawero, the points gathered from touching the outer poles are awarded to the Kioma team. Taniwha scores by hitting the tupu (large drum in centre of field) with the ball. Ki o rahi can be played with tackle, touch or "rippa" versions. Ki o rahi is based on the legend of Rahitutakahina saving his wife.
- The Southland Times