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Maori Touch NZ Selects Youth Development Squad

Maori Touch NZ Selects Youth Development Squad

New Zealand's most promising Maori touch talent is already gearing up for the 2004 Youth World Cup in Australia.

A 30-strong development squad was selected from the youth grades at the 5th National Maori Touch Tournament held recently at Hopuhopu near Ngaruawahia.

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

More than 800 players competed at this year's Maori touch tournament which attracted an estimated 3000 spectators over two days. Sixty teams represented 22 regions and ranged from the under-16s through to the masters.

National co-ordinator Sue Panapa says the event provides opportunities to educate and train Maori in the management, administration, performance, coaching and refereeing of the sport.

She says this was one of the biggest competitions in its five-year history and the calibre of talent this year was extremely high.

"The natural skill level of the players made for entertaining and exciting games, and the pride of playing for their rohe or waka added to the fierce competition," Sue Panapa says.

"I'm especially astounded by the positive reaction by participants to the healthy lifestyle messages of being Smokefree and alcohol free at both the sport and social venues."

The winner of the 2001 open men's grade, Hokianga, retained their title after holding out an up-and-coming team, Ngati Tuwharetoa. Key players for Hokianga were Bruce Kake and Darryn Smith.

Hokianga beat Te Rohe Potae in the final of last year's open women's grade but this year, Te Raki Pae Whenua triumphed over Mataatua. Key players in Te Raki Pae Whenua were player of the tournament, Mere Kingi, and Black Fern Dianne Kahura.

In the open mixed grade, Waitakere lost to Counties Manukau.

Sue Panapa says the focus is now on the Youth World Cup.

"Our youth grades are our future and these up-and-coming players will keep the game alive - without them, the game will die."

Other upcoming events supported by Auahi Kore include the Maori Golf Championships in Rotorua from January 5 to 10, and the Smokefree Waka Ama Nationals at Lake Karapiro, near Cambridge, from January 13 to 18.

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