Taunted first XV abandons haka
‘Cyberbullying’ behind team’s decision to ditch challenge, writes Matthew Rosenberg.
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
JASON DORDAY/ STUFF
Te Ngaio Cleave, the acting captain for Rangitoto’s first 15 rugby team with his father Martin Cleave.