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Maori Touch Stars Battle For Top Honours

Maori Touch Stars Battle For Top Honours

New Zealand's top young Maori touch players will compete for the chance to represent their country at this weekend's 5th National Maori Touch Tournament (Nov 30-Dec 1).

Supported by the Smokefree brand, Auahi Kore, the annual event is hosted by Maori Touch NZ at Hopuhopu near Ngaruawahia on the first weekend of December.

National co-ordinator Sue Panapa says a squad of 30 players from the youth grades will be selected by Maori Touch NZ for development leading up to the 2004 Youth World Cup to be held in Australia.

Another four rohe (regions) have entered the competition this year - Ngati Pikiao, Waipareira, Tai Tokerau, and Raukawa ki Waikato/Tokeroa - and a total of 22 rohe, iwi and waka will be represented at the tournament.

"We're preparing for one of our biggest events ever this year," Sue Panapa says. "We have 60 teams entered - an increase on last year - so the standard of play will be fast and exciting."

Last year's winners were Tamaki-makau-rau who took out the masters and senior mixed while the open men's winners were Hokianga who came up against Mataatua. Open women's winners were Te Rohe Potae and the open mixed winners were Te Arawa.

The U21 boys grade was won by Te Matau a Maui while Counties Manukau hold the U21 girls title. Tainui were the U21 mixed winners while the overall winner of the tournament was Raukawa ki Runga.

The competition caters for nine grades - Masters Mixed 35/40 and Senior Mixed 30/30; Open Grade Women's, Men's and Mixed; U21 Youth Males, Females and Mixed; and the new grade this year, U16 Mixed.

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