First Multicultural Rugby Festival in NZ Driven By a Vision
The First Multicultural Rugby Festival in New Zealand Driven By a Vision
The Pōneke Football Club’s vision to grow the first All Black and Black Fern from migrant communities who is not from the South Pacific, Europe or South Africa has drawn incredible support from the Multicultural communities of the Greater Wellington region.
A vibrant, noisy, colourful celebration of rugby as a way of binding communities in New Zealand together is being held at Pōneke Football Club, Kilbirnie Park, on the afternoon of Sunday 8 September (15 September a reserve day).
“Our communities are very excited to become part of New Zealand’s national game. All migrants (even recent ones) love the All Blacks, the Black Ferns, the Hurricanes, the Lions and the Pride, but this is a chance to get off the couch and play the game too. We are grateful to the Poneke Football Club for hosting this inaugural event” said Pancha Narayanan, President of the Upper Hutt Multicultural Council who is one of the drivers of this event.
“By 2020, 1 in 5 New Zealanders will be non-European and non-Polynesian”.
“There is no better way of integrating into New Zealand society than joining a rugby club, and we’re doing our bit by working with the three Multicultural Councils across the Wellington region to organise what will become an annual Multicultural Rugby Festival at Pōneke” says Kevin Jenkins, Chairman of the Pōneke Football Club.
“We’re confident that once they get a taste of rugby by playing touch, they’ll be keen to sign up for full rugby next year.”
“Pōneke has a long history of welcoming players and supporters from migrant communities. In the early 1900s the Italian Calcinai family was one of the pillars of Pōneke, producing an All Black and many rep players. After WW2, Pōneke recruited new Greek migrants, one of whom became President of Pōneke”.
“Fast forward to 2013 and, as well as All Black Dane Coles, Pōneke fielded players originally from South Africa (Hurricane Reggie Goodes), Japan, China, Korea, India, Thailand, Somalia, Ethiopia, Nigeria, USA, France, as well as the UK and of course the Pacific Islands”.
“Rugby offers grades to suit everyone. The U85kg grade is attractive to many migrants because it’s very fast, skilful, and matches their physical dimensions”.
Junior rugby is also weight graded so there is a team for kids of all shapes, sizes and abilities.
“We want men, women and children from every community to come and play rugby at Pōneke”.
The Multicultural Council of Wellington, Lower Hutt Multicultural Council, Upper Hutt Multicultural Council, The New Zealand Federation of Multicultural Councils, The Anbe Sivam Trust, The Settling-In Programme of the Ministry of Social Development, The Office of Ethnic Affairs, the New Zealand Police and the Wellington City Council have come together to support this festive event and also to field men’s, women’s and children’s teams.
Teams from more recent migrant communities, as well as other communities who have not traditionally played rugby, will play touch. To encourage the visitors for the day, Pōneke teams will play several demonstration games of 7s – men, women and under 13 junior players.
The day kicks off at 12.30pm, with awards and a bite to eat for participants from 4.00pm. There will be music and ethnic food available throughout the day.
Entries are still open, but already there are teams from Upper Hutt, Porirua, Lower Hutt, Wellington, a Muslim team, a Filipino team, as well as teams from NZ Police, the and WCC.
“Pōneke will be the home of the first ethnic All Black, and the first ethnic Black Fern” said Kevin Jenkins, Chairman of the Pōneke Football Club.