Taunted first XV aban­dons haka

‘Cy­ber­bul­ly­ing’ be­hind team’s de­ci­sion to ditch chal­lenge, writes Matthew Rosen­berg.

Sunday News - - FRONT PAGE -

RANGITOTO Col­lege’s First XV has aban­doned its pre-match haka af­ter a so­cial me­dia back­lash.

Such was their dis­tress at neg­a­tive com­ments dur­ing the week that left the team ‘‘emo­tional wrecks’’, the boys re­fused to do their much-loved haka yes­ter­day.

Martin Cleave (Te Rarawa, Ngati Wai, Tainui), the fa­ther of Rangitoto Col­lege’s First XV act­ing cap­tain Te Ngaio, said the team had been shamed by neg­a­tive feed­back on a Face­book post ahead of the re­match with old ri­vals West­lake Boys.

‘‘I don’t think the crit­ics re­alise, they’re ac­tu­ally deal­ing with kids here ... they don’t know how to deal with this,’’ Martin Cleave said. ‘‘The neg­a­tive im­pact has been enor­mous. I’ve asked the boys and they’ve said they will never do a haka again.’’

The bar­rage of crit­i­cism fol­lowed a Face­book post by Haati Grass­roots Rugby last month show­ing the pre-game haka be­tween West­lake Boys and Rangitoto Col­lege First XV’s with the cap­tion ‘‘the wero [chal­lenge] laid down’’.

But many dis­agreed the per­for­mance qual­i­fied as a call to bat­tle and pub­lic crit­i­cism rolled in on a video that quickly racked up 95,000 views.

‘‘Leg­end has it the boys laid the chal­lenge down so fiercely, they drew from the mana of their dad’s credit cards and Ralph Lau­ren polo shirts,’’ one user com­mented in re­ac­tion to the af­flu­ent schools’ at­tempt.

Martin Cleave said the ‘‘cy­ber­bul­ly­ing’’ meant cul­tures other than Ma¯ori would be afraid to par­tic­i­pate in kapa haka, some­thing that was ‘‘noth­ing short of a na­tional tragedy’’.

‘‘I speak Ma¯ori. I amMa¯ori. I’m proud to be Ma¯ori. But I just love all the cul­tures com­ing to­gether,’’ he said.

His son Te Ngaio said the events of the past week had left his team de­pressed and in a bad head space.

Com­ing off the back of a USA tour where the haka had been well re­ceived, they were ex­cited to bring the team’s re­vived pre-match tra­di­tion back to their own shores. They felt blind­sided by the crit­i­cism.

‘‘The feel­ing is not great ... you think you’ve done some­thing re­ally good but you hear ‘you’ve done a ter­ri­ble job … never do it again’’’, Te Ngaio said.

‘‘It took us by sur­prise that peo­ple would be bru­tal and mean.’’

With team cap­tain Sam Ashby out due to in­jury, Te Ngaio was the only Ma¯ori player on the team, and both felt pas­sion­ately about what the haka meant. ‘‘Our cap­tain is emo­tion­ally hurt as well ... it’s hit close to home.’’

Former All Black Ian Jones sup­ported both schools, say­ing he was dis­ap­pointed to hear the crit­i­cism had left a neg­a­tive im­pact on the play­ers.

Although he was ‘‘no ex­pert’’ in Ma¯ori pro­to­col, the haka was an op­por­tu­nity to per­form in front of whanau and ‘‘some­thing spe­cial’’ had been taken away from the play­ers, he said.

‘‘It [the haka] is done to the best of peo­ple’s abil­ity, and the best of peo­ple’s abil­ity is all we can ever ask.’’

‘ It took us by sur­prise that peo­ple would be bru­tal and mean.’ TE NGAIO CLEAVE


Te Ngaio Cleave, the act­ing cap­tain for Rangitoto’s first 15 rugby team with his fa­ther Martin Cleave.

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