Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Moana Pasifika: Creating pathways for pacific rugby

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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Neueli Mauafu | Reporter

After its first season as a registered franchise last year in the Super Rugby Pacific competition, Moana Pasifika placed at the bottom of the ladder, with 2 wins from 12 matches.

It was a tough start for the newcomers, who had suffered disruptions to their pre-season preparation block and season start. From head coach Aaron Mauger’s perspective, it was a season filled with many missed opportunities. 

“Most of our games last year, three of them got away from us, but for most we were competitive and we managed to tip up a couple,” he says.

The couple he was referring to, were the wins over the 5th placed Hurricanes and the 4th placed Brumbies, who were the Australian champions. It was a clear sign that Moana had the capability to cause havoc among the bigger teams.

However, most people have forgotten why the team was even created in the first place. With an increasing percentage of rugby players of Pacific descent in New Zealand, Moana Pasifika became a gateway to create more opportunities for upcoming players. 

It was a format which All Blacks great Tuifa’asisina Sir Bryan Williams alluded to as a “waka” or boat, in which the Pacific ancestors voyaged on many years ago.

In early December last year, that opportunity became a reality when local Samoan rugby player Miracle Fai’ilagi was signed for a two year contract. Fai’ilagi, who hails from the village of Vailele, played for his village club and also the Lauli’i Lions rugby club in Samoa. 

The young loose forward/lock also made appearances for national representative teams including the Manu Samoa Sevens and Manuma Samoa. His inclusion in the Manuma team earned him a spot at the Pacific Rugby Players combine where he caught the eye of Moana Pasifika coaches.

Alongside Fai’ilagi’s selection an additional five players were also given preseason contracts by Moana Pasifika.

With only a couple of days out till the start of their second year, Moana Pasifika are delivering on the promises and goals they set out with from the start. Pathways have been developed for not only New Zealand players but also for players from the islands. 

An Under 20’s team is also in the works for the season, capturing upcoming talent across the country from a young age.

Moana will open their season by hosting the mighty Fijian Drua this Saturday. It is a repeat of last year’s all-Pacific clash which promises some more entertaining rugby. The midfield pairing of Danny Toala and Levi Aumua will partner up once again, hoping to gel together to get the win. 

Making his debut will be Jonah Mau’u earning his start at number 8. Mau’u who is currently signed on a wider squad contract will hope to make an impact against a mighty Fijian Drua forward pack.

“Yeah Jonah is in the wider squad making cover for our players like Jack Lam and Penitoa Finau who are currently injured at the moment”.

For every point scored for Round 1 of this season, $500 will be donated to those affected by Cyclone Gabrielle. It is something that Mauger is making sure that his team understands its importance. 

“We have some of our players’ families who have been affected by the cyclone the past few days,” Mauger said. 

“We have let them know that we are here to support them especially during these times”.

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