Playing for Taranaki Māori, Trip to Wellington and Historical Parallels With Canada and New Zealand
by Noah Bain
Kia Ora koutou, hello everyone, and thank you again for tuning in to BCRN, Article 6 of A Player’s Perspective. I cannot believe my blog writing career has made it this far and we are still going strong! I never saw myself doing something like this but look where we are now. To start us off here, there is TONS of test rugby to look forward to. At the time of writing, the Canada boys have not played yet, so good luck in these upcoming matches against Tonga. What an amazing opportunity ahead to test yourself against some extremely renowned players and for some, obtain their first cap. The recent Bledisloe Cup and Summer Test Series matches were a treat to watch along with most international sides naming their World Cup squads in the coming days. Lots of rugby happening and lots more to come with it being a World Cup year.
Switching code, the 7’s men and women have a massive tournament ahead over in Langford in about a week and a half from now. Get your tickets, get out, and support August 19th-20th for the Olympic Qualifiers! Both teams have been putting in the work over the past few weeks and I am sure there will not only be some very exciting rugby played, but some great festivities as well. Exciting times ahead for Canadian rugby and hopefully it’s not too smoky over there in BC!
Carrying on, we are well into winter here in Taranaki and it even snowed in some areas of the province this past week. It always baffles me that rugby is a winter sport anywhere you go in the world. However, the North Island doesn’t get nearly as cold as the South Island, and it’s not that bad here. I feel like I have been fortunate as I have essentially just skipped Canadian winter, and the bright, sunnier days are just around the corner. Rep season is also underway, with more to come on that later.
Lots has happened in the past few weeks. To start, I had a weekend off and got a wonderful opportunity to head down to Wellington for the weekend. Since I have gotten here, I have been wanting to visit the capital quite badly on some strong recommendations from peers and personal research, but unfortunately/fortunately (depending how you look at it) have had most of my weekends taken up with rugby. When my friend invited to take me along with him on a weekend trip down there, I jumped at the chance and was pumped to go on a bit of an adventure.
We left Taranaki after work on Friday evening and my mate dropped me at the Kapiti Line in Paraparaumu. I then took the train down and arrived in Wellington around 10pm, met my other mate, and we checked into our hotel. We were hungry and eager to explore, so we headed out to find a place to eat and grab a drink. Even though it was late and pouring rain, the city was still buzzing with people, music, and lights, and we really felt the contrasting energy to New Plymouth. Wellington is known for a vibrant and diverse culinary scene, and we were spoiled for choice. We ended up grabbing a drink at El Horno and getting some J&M’s fried chicken along the main strip before heading off to bed.
The next day, we woke up early, grabbed a coffee, and walked along the harbour. We then made our way into the city and walked along Cuba street, which reminded me of Robson Street in Vancouver, browsing the shops and observing the art scene along the way. We grabbed a quick lunch on the go then made our way over to Te Papa, the national museum of New Zealand, where we spent a few hours exploring some of its amazing exhibits (free of charge!). During my time there, I got to learn a good amount about the history, culture, and nature of New Zealand: From its geological origins in being a part of the Pacific Ring of Fire (like British Columbia, Canada), to legends of the now extinct Moa (a massive bird that used to walk these lands, look it up), to other parts of contemporary NZ society. I was particularly in awe of the Pacific Island Nations exhibits, showing the origins of migration practices the island nations here in the Pacific. I learned that there are many similarities in the Polynesian language family, which was quite interesting to me.
As I have discussed in previous articles, I also saw a ton of historical parallels with Canadian and New Zealand Indigenous peoples as subjects of British colonialism, and as partners in reconciliation. Both groups have experienced historical and ongoing injustices that have affected their health, education, culture, and rights. Both groups have also resisted oppression and have asserted their identity through various forms of activism, negotiation, and cooperation. One of the main similarities between the Māori and the Indigenous peoples of Canada is their relationship with the government. Both groups have signed treaties with the British Crown that recognized their rights and interests over their lands and resources. However, both groups have also faced breaches and violations of these treaties by the colonial, and later, the settler governments, who imposed policies and laws that undermined their autonomy and authority. I encourage you to look more into New Zealand’s Treaty of Waitangi, signed in 1840 by representatives of the British Crown and various Māori Chiefs. It was largely ignored by the colonial government and resulted in confiscated Māori lands, suppressed Māori culture, and wars against Māori peoples. Similarly, the number of treaties signed between 1871 and 1921 by representatives of the British Crown and various Indigenous nations in Canada, were often disregarded by the federal government, who imposed the Indian Act, created residential schools, and restricted Indigenous rights.
Following our visit at Te Papa, we drove up to the summit of Mount Victoria, overlooking the entire city, to watch the sunset. We got there just in time to watch the sunset over the harbour, which was beautiful, but also very windy. We quickly learned why Wellington is nicknamed “Windy Welly,” as I almost lost my jacket (Arc’teryx please sponsor me) and whole head of hair in the process.
We then headed back down the mountain for some dinner and drinks and continued to explore the lively nightlife scene that Welly had to offer. I followed some recommendations from mates back home and had an absolute blast, ending the night at Shady Lady. It is important to note, with Wellington being one of the host cities of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, there was a large international presence in the city, and it truly was something special. I was sad and grilled by work colleagues that the Canadian women could not advance as I’ve talked a lot of s*** here backing them up.
Reflecting as I headed back home the next day, I really had a wonderful time in Welly. I feel fortunate that I got to explore a little bit more of the North Island and am stoked that I had gotten to do so much in just 2 days. Wellington almost reminded me of Vancouver, with its diversity, culture, and progressiveness. It was nice to have a weekend down in the big city, which was a change from the quiet, more rural New Plymouth. I would love to go back someday and see with more time of what Wellington has to offer.
The following week, I got the call to play for the Taranaki Māori, against King Country, in a Heartland Cup preseason match. This was such an honour for me. Of everything going on leading into the weekend, I was the most stressed about remembering the words to my first haka that I would perform with the squad. I did not know this before, but there are regional hakas throughout different Iwi, or what we would call tribes, in New Zealand. It was cool in the haka we performed, that we reference Mount Taranaki with the actions and words. There is a lot of significance of the mountain to both Māori and Pakeha lore, here in the province. When it came time to perform, I tried to stay a bit hidden in case I forgot some words, but it all ended up working out anyway. You get the most incredible feeling performing a haka before playing a game and I was so grateful to experience this. The match was a level up from club rugby as the Heartland competition is just a step below the renowned Bunnings NPC competition. I played at outside centre and had a blast. We ended up losing, but it was an amazing experience to be embraced by another cultural group in this way and will cherish it as one of the proudest highlights of my rugby career.
The weekend after, I had another match playing for the Taranaki Trojans vs New Zealand Marist. New Zealand Marist is a collection of all the Marist clubs here in NZ, which are essentially the Catholic clubs. They are a select side that do a tour of New Zealand every year. Following the game, we had our Spotswood Prize Giving afterwards, which ended up being a large night, if you know what I mean. I had the honour of winning Try of the Year and had some great times with my club mates through the evening.
I am really enjoying that the rugby brand/style of play here is so unstructured and lets you express yourself from anywhere on the field. You can see this translate all the way to the highest level, watching the level of freedom that the All Blacks play with. I am re-iterating this from previous articles, but I really do enjoy this characteristic of New Zealand Rugby and am excited to bring that in my toolbox back home one day.
To conclude, Thunder Rugby is arriving in the next few weeks, and I am so excited to show them a bit of where I have called home for the past few months. They will be playing scrimmages against Francis Douglas Boys High School and Sacred Heart Girls High, which will be great rugby exposure for the kids and an awesome opportunity to showcase Canadian rugby talent.
I don’t have much else to say, but again, I very much appreciate your support on reading these articles if you’ve made it this far and will continue to update you as the days go on here in Taranaki.
So, for now, up the Wahs. Thank you, and peace out.