For New Zealand Maori captain Liam Messam, knowing some te reo Maori has proven a real competitive advantage on the rugby field.
Messam, who also plays for the Waikato rugby team and the Chiefs, said a decision to use Maori to issue lineout calls in games against England and Ireland earlier this year was a great success. "They had no idea what we were saying and so they had to rely or watch where we were jumping or throwing. It was really good."
He said the strategy also meant that some of the team had to brush up on their Maori words. This week was Maori Language Week and Messam encouraged everyone to use te reo Maori as often as they could. Messam, who is of Tuhoe descent, cannot speak the Maori language fluently but he is proud of his Maori heritage and enjoys being able to spend time with the New Zealand Maori. "We've got the same blood so we are all whanau (family)."
Whenever in camp the team also spent time learning te reo Maori, tikanga (protocols), waiata (songs) and haka. He also said the team would always enjoy at least one hangi during each campaign.
The team's haka, Te Timatanga, has proven to be a big hit with the fans but Messam said they had to know its meaning before they were allowed to perform it.
He said the haka was calling on Tumatauenga, the Maori God of war, to prepare them for the challenge ahead. "It is just for us to help with our kaupapa (reason) and it is really about where we come from."
Messam will take the field tonight for the Mooloos at Waikato Stadium against the Bay of Plenty Steamers. He was looking forward to the game because he had a lot of mates in the Bay of Plenty team.
- © Fairfax NZ News