Ki o Rahi – NZ Secondary School National Champions

Our combined Westlake Girls & Westlake Boys won the National Ki-O-Rahi Championships during the school holidays winning 8 of 8 games. They defeated Turanga Wahine/Turanga Tane 14-7 in the final.

From Coach Kathleen Beckett.

National champs, even saying it, we still can’t fully believe it. The most common question people have asked us after the tournament is if we ever expected to do as well as we did, and the simple answer would probably be no. We had absolute faith in the ākonga and their skills but the hard part of joining two kura together is finding the time to truly gel and create the team environment needed to win. Watching the final back a couple days later, I heard the commentators say that the distinguishing difference between the teams was that Westlake seemed to really play as a team and I would have to agree. 

People often ask what the game is about. There are not many sports that have two distinct game plans depending on if you are attacking or defending. This tākaro provides another opportunity for our ākonga to be immersed in Te Ao Māori. Ki o Rahi first started in NZ and the Māori Battalion took it across the world, teaching it to others in World War 2. Like any sport, it has continued to evolve and develop over time, and it has been a privilege to be a part of this kaupapa. 

We have been fortunate to have amazing individual athletes spanning across multiple different codes but would sometimes struggle to fit training into everyone’s already busy schedules. One of the most beneficial things for us has been being able to attend regional competitions and learn from playing dominating schools like Ngā Tapuwae. Every tournament we have attended has provided us with a new perspective on the game and challenged us to look at how we can get better. This year we have really focused on adding in minor elements; like the introduction of set plays and moving the ball to create space when on Kioma (attack) and relentless man on defence and the ability to rip to gain a turnover when in Taniwha (defence). These are the things that we maintained throughout the tournament and got us the win in the end.

It is always an amazing feat to be able to play a variety of kura across the country and represent our kura at a national level. Going into nationals, we had only ever played teams in our region and I think that was a contributing factor towards our success. We solely focused on what we could do and offer as a team and didn’t get in our heads too much. This tournament we had a distinctive game plan of having a Kioma (attacking) team and a Taniwha (defending) team. We had the ability to pull from 16 players which meant that we were able to rest and rotate players as needed. Walking away from the tournament with 8 wins from 8 games was a great achievement. 

The beauty of Ki o Rahi, is that it brings everyone together in a co-ed game. Our wahine stood up just as much as our tane and it was wonderful to watch their skills on display and them working together. Every single one of our kids can play kioma because they have speed, skill and all want to move with the kī. I found myself praising our Taniwha players this tournament because their excellent defence and pressure throughout every game allowed our Kioma to move with confidence on attack.

A massive tautoko must go out to our kura, our organisers to get us to Nationals, our Whānau and supporters both at home and with us at the tournament, and our kaitākaro (players) who I have no doubt will continue to be ambassadors for Ki o Rahi in the future. 

Well done to our amazing team:

Isaac Murray-Macgregor, Reimana Saunderson-Rurawhe, Benji Wilton, Wynyard Saunderson-Metekingi, Manaia King, Trey Brown, Ezra Morgan-Tafeat, Ezra Johnson-Smylie.

Jayah Lee, Ariana Hebden, Maia Maxwell, Madisyn Yee Joy, Kalei Morgan-Tafea, Jarrah Campbell Fraser, Harmony Huston, Tylah Huston.

Congratulations to Ariana Hebden and Isaac Murray-Macgregor for making the NZ Secondary Schools Ki o Rahi team. Isaac was also named Male MVP of the Tournament.