Iwi set to take the pitch for annual Taranaki Māori Rugby League tournament
The Albert Falwasser Cup will be put on the line this weekend as local iwi battle on the rugby league pitch in the annual Taranaki Māori tournament.
Manaia Domain in Manaia, South Taranaki, will play host to the tournament which will showcase some of the best rugby league talent from around the province.
And, for the first time, the tournament will feature teams from all eight of the region's iwi.
Ngāti Tama, Ngāti Mutunga, Te Ātiawa, Taranaki, Ngāruahinerangi, Ngāti Ruanui, along with newcomers Ngāti Maru and Ngā Rauru make up the majority of the teams competing.
Puke Ariki, a New Plymouth team from within Te Ātiawa boundaries that caters for players who live here but descend from whakapapa outside of Taranaki, close out the nine-team draw.
Taranaki Māori Rugby League chairman Wayne Capper said the growth of the tournament in recent years had been outstanding.
"The interest and eagerness of the players at present is at an all time high. Players locally, nationally and internationally are making the journey to Manaia to represent their iwi in what will be an exciting tournament."
Last year's champions Te Ātiawa will again be tough to beat, along with hosts Ngāruahinerangi who will be eager to impress their vocal local crowd.
Te Ātiawa have the benefit of playing the Taranaki Sharks and Manawatu earlier this year and will be hoping their form from those matches carries over into the tournament.
The side came close to upsetting the Taranaki representative side, and proved to be too good for the Manawatu side.
Ngāruahinerangi also had a match against the Sharks earlier in the year and will be hoping to build on from that outing.
While Te Ātiawa are looking to defend their title, last year's beaten finalists Ngāti Tama look to be the early favourites, and newcomers Ngāti Maru and Ngā Rauru could surprise a few.
The tournament will kick off at 10am on Saturday with the finals taking place from 10am on Sunday.