So where’s the Maori?

Central Leader - - News -

A Samoan led the All Blacks’ open­ing haka of the sea­son in last week­end’s test match against Ire­land.

Not that I have any­thing against Samoans, or those that lead our haka, like Kevin Mealamu.

But it must have been the first time in years that Maori have had no rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the start­ing All Black 15.

My old dad would be turn­ing in his grave.

Grow­ing up in the 70s, I’ll never for­get my dad count­ing the num­ber of Maori in the team be­cause many play­ers un­til 1970 were vic­tims of racism.

The New Zealand Rugby Union left Maori play­ers out of teams that went to South Africa be­cause the South African Union said it would play against the All Blacks only if Maori play­ers were omit­ted.

To their eter­nal shame, the New Zealand Rugby Union con­ceded to that racist de­mand.

What many for­get is that Maori weren’t only dis­crim­i­nated against in the years All Black teams toured South Africa, but also in the years be­fore, since there was no point se­lect­ing Maori who couldn’t go to South Africa a few years later.

A few still man­aged to get se­lected, but it was gen­er­ally thought by Maori that those who made it had to be two or three times bet­ter than their Pakeha coun­ter­parts.

Far too many great Maori play­ers missed out, like Al­bie Pryor, Maunga Emery, Teroi Tatau­rangi, Muru Wal­ters, Jim and Manu Ma­niapoto, Jim Taitoko and Howard Pa­iaka.

All were leg­ends of Maori rugby but ig­nored by the New Zealand se­lec­tors.

I said a few years ago in NZ Rugby World mag­a­zine that Maori were en­ti­tled to an apol­ogy from the union for those shame­ful years and I stand by that com­ment.

I’m not ac­cus­ing to­day’s se­lec­tors of racism. I’m sure they picked the best avail­able play­ers.

Heck, there were eight Samoan play­ers in that first test team.

But if they could just find one or two more Maori, maybe Piri Weepu or Troy Flavell, then I’d be happy and I’m sure dad would be too.

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