Moana Pasifika’s 7s Cup a pathway for future rugby stars

On Saturday, 9 December in the heart of South Auckland, at the Otahuhu College Memorial Grounds, Moana Pasifika hosted its inaugural 7s Cup.

Over 300 kids from 22 teams competed in either Under 18 or Under 16 representing Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Niue, the Cook Islands and New Zealand.

Red, blue, white and yellow flags fly high. Pacific Island beats fill the air. The stage is set.

Mums, dads, aunties and uncles lined the sidelines, cheering, laughing and screaming. They were there to watch rugby but they knew it was about more than just the game.

“This is what 7s is all about. It’s a community, it’s a festival and it’s culture. These are the types of events that we want to get involved in,” New Zealand Cavaliers U16 boys coach Lucky Smythe said.

In between matches spectators were treated to dance battles between some of the young players and members of the Moana Pasifika squad.

Julian Savea and Pepesana Patafilo were up first. The kids’ faces lit up at the chance to meet and challenge their rugby heroes.

Coach of the New Zealand Fiji Schools U16 Boys team, Chae Muller says it was an opportunity for his side to embrace who they are.

“There’s a few characters here. I think as soon as you say dance it’s gonna happen. I don’t think you’ll have one team that doesn’t have at least one or two,” Muller says.

“We’ve only got ourselves, so it’s pretty important to us to rep that out there.”

Dance was just one aspect of the day where Pasifika kids were able to express themselves.

What started as an idea for Moana Pasifika became a reality with a vision to break down barriers for Pasifika youth to participate.

This included providing a free physiotherapist, free t-shirts, water, ice, and marquees.

“Moana Pasifika 7’s Cup allowed us to be amongst our people and our community. It’s all about the laughter, the dancing and coming together to celebrate our heritage and culture, the Pasifika way,” Tournament Director Sera Mika says.

On the field, speed, finesse, and flair were on full display. The kids showcased why the future of rugby is in good hands.

“As long as the kids are enjoying themselves and learning new things along the way that’s the key,” Coach of the Tongan Barbarians Under 16 Girls Tony Alatini says.

Despite teams representing different nations, they all united with a common goal of bringing Pasifika together and building a future where Pasifika are succeeding physically, mentally and spiritually.

They were able to see what’s possible and aspire to achieve their own dreams.

“This is empowering our own people to have something of our own which is good. This is time for us to celebrate the skills of our kids and push our kids to be the future stars of Samoan and Moana Pasifika,” Coach of the Samoa U18 Girls Alaiunu Sao-Taliu said.

The New Zealand Cavaliers took out the top prize in the Under 16 Boys and Under 16 Girls categories. While Tonga also recorded a sweep with their Under 18 Boys and Under 18 Girls also winning in their respective groups.

After receiving their medals, one by one each player took turns getting a photo taken holding the trophy. Proud, relieved and happy after a long day.

Fiji have got a girls team in the works and hope to bring them along for future tournaments.

And Moana Pasifika is already planning the next event to be held in February 2024.

Coach for the Cook Islands U16 Boys, Fred Goodwin says these events are a way to prepare our youth for what’s to come.

“It’s all about development and keeping our kids in the sport and making sure we’re nurturing our kids in development and gaining confidence for the future,” Goodwin said.

“Hopefully you see superstars come out of this team and this event.”

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