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Waratahs show Maori and Pacific Island links

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waratahs.com.au and James Mortimer     26 Mar 2013     Getty Images

Celebrating its 30th anniversary, the cultural festival entitled Taki Toa, meaning ‘the challenge that brings us together’, was packed with cultural activities including the annual open rugby and netball tournaments, food stalls, and a haka challenge.

Taking over the reins from his father who conceived the festival, Maori organiser Manu Sutherland, says the event uses sport to integrate a number of cultures together. “My father came up with the idea and carved the shield over 30 years ago and then passed it over to me.”

In celebrating the cultures, rugby seemed to be the key denominator, as Manu says. “The festival is a means of getting Kiwis and Polynesians together and rugby was the key link.”

Palu and Polota-Nau spent the day at the festival, getting involved with all that was on offer. They were a big hit, especially with the kids, as they handed out mini footies and awarded a number of ticket prizes to forthcoming HSBC Waratahs home matches. The day was particularly symbolic for Polota-Nau, as he was on home ground having represented the Merrylands-based Parramatta Rugby Club since his junior days.

The Festival began early with a traditional welcoming ceremony by the Maori elders, known as a powhiri. This was followed by a powerful Haka challenge, which excited the crowd, preparing them for the fierce competition ahead.

After the netball tournament, the event’s main attraction – the Taki Toa Rugby Tournament – got underway. The Te Moana -Nui-a-Kiwa rugby team were the eventual winners of the prestigious Taki Toa Shield, which was formally presented at the end of the day.

Last year’s winners, Merrylands Rugby Club, hosted the event to great success with a few thousand people, young and old, turning out for the huge day-long festival of culture and all the activities.

The day also marked the beginning of an important new union between the HSBC Waratahs and the Taki Toa Festival, which looks set to continue in future years with the successful establishment of this sporting and cultural festival.