NEW ZEALAND RUGBY - PASIFIKA STRATEGY LAUNCH
On Friday the 24th of November, New Zealand rugby together with the Tausoa Fa'atasi Pasifika Advisory Group* launched the 2024 - 2029 Pasifika Strategy - a historic moment for the Pasifika rugby communities.
Their vision: To enable, embrace and empower positive outcomes and experiences for Pasifika at all levels of rugby.
It is the first time New Zealand rugby has put in place a dedicated plan to create more equitable opportunities for Pasifika within rugby.
The organisation acknowledged that Pasifika have made an immense contribution to rugby in New Zealand, particularly on the field but that the under representation of Pasifika in off-field roles was a significant focus for the Pasifika strategy.
"Creating opportunities for on-field and off-field development empowers Pasifika within the game" said Tausoa Fa'atasi Co-Chair Pauline-Jean Luyten
"Embedding these pathways within the rugby system and involving Pacific peoples in decision making and design processes from the start will require sustainable funding and pathways that are dedicated to enhancing Pasifika capabilities, influence and leadership."
NFL legend, Four time Super Bowl winner and former San Francisco 49ers Offensive Guard Seiuli Jesse Sapolu was the Key Note Speaker at the launch and shared a few of his experiences as a player and as the co-founder of the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame and the Polynesian Bowl (the only high school All Stars game chosen by the NFL to be televised nationally on the NFL network).
He described the Pasifika players in the NFL as a true minority and said his journey as a player was not easy. He shared how he had held out three times in his 15 year career to get a fair market contract that was worth his value to the 49ers. He realised he needed to push the envelope as far as he could in order to make it easier for the generations following behind him.
As a minority in the NFL, Seiuli & Ma'a Tanuvasa have been able to create a platform via the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame honouring legends of the game, mentoring current NFL players and creating pathways for the next generation through the Polynesian Bowl.
Seiuli said there should be no doubt then, that the accomplishments of our Pacific Island rugby players deserve to be recognised when they make up the highest proportion of teams in Black (All Blacks and Black Ferns) players.
"Growing up loving the game of rugby, it is without a doubt our Pacific Islands players contributions to rugby have been under appreciated." he said
"We have a long line of rugby stars with great pedigree, some of the very best players in the history of rugby have been Polynesians and Pacific Islanders. We're not asking for special favours or to be treated in a special way, we just ask or want our story installed properly as part of the great legacy of rugby here and around the world."
NZR Pasifika Engagement Manager Saveatama Eroni Clarke said now is the time to improve the experiences of Pasifika by ensuring rugby environments will properly support the growth.
“For many years Pasifika have made a significant impact towards on-field success and I am thankful for our trailblazers who have paved the way. I’m so proud of this achievement, it’s a historic moment for our Pasifika rugby communities. I am excited to witness the outcome of this strategy and see our people pursue their aspirations.”
* Tausoa Fa'atasi Pasifika Advisory Group
Pauline-Jean Luyten (co-chair), Maualaivao Jack Kirifi, Tauanu'u Nick Bakulich (co-chair), Pakilau o Aotearoa Manase Lua, Eric Nima Nabalagi, Fonoti Seti Talamaivao, Savae La'auli Sir Michael Jones, Seiuli Fiao'o Fa'amausili, Arizona Leger, Wayne Marsters, Vania Wolfgramm and Saveatama Eroni Clarke
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