Tagata Pasifika The Pacific voice on New Zealand television since 1987

Burnham Chevaliers: Serving on the battle and rugby field.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
Burnham Chevaliers 2022 Team. Photo: Facebook
Burnham Chevaliers 2022 Team. Photo: Facebook
Neueli Mauafu | Reporter

For rugby league fans in Christchurch, the Burnham Chevaliers Club has always been known as the team with the army soldiers from the Burnham Military Camp.

The Chevaliers and its ties with the camp go back nearly 40 years to 1985 and it is regarded as the first-ever army rugby league club to be established.

Junior Maiava who is currently in his first term as President for the Chevaliers, also serves as the Company Sergeant Major (CSM) of Delta Company which consists of up to 90 soldiers within 2/1 RNZIR Battalion at Burnham.

Hailing from the villages of Puipaa and Faleula in Samoa, Maiava flows naturally within the two roles due to the similarities between them both.

“Sports itself has always been with the army in general. Most people play sports due to the bonds and fellowship they don’t get at their workplace,” Maiava says.

“Back at the army, those bonds and brotherhood fellowship are already with us in our duties carried out in the military making us adapt to on-field performance swiftly.”

Migrating from Samoa to New Zealand at a young age, Maiava says his career in the military is a mirror of his father’s service in the Marines in the United States. Being taught to serve and protect through his cultural values, family and culture became the pillars for Maiava and his journey in the New Zealand Army.

Raised in the Samoan culture, he believes that there is a need for more Pacific islanders to aspire to join the military. He says young Pacific people easily adjust to military life through their normal upbringings in their families and community.

“There has been a massive increase of our Pacific brothers and sisters joining, but I do recommend more to sign up. I do believe that our cultures bring or add some value within the New Zealand Army,” Maiava says.

“We grow up looking after each other as family, living and growing up together. There is a need, and I do wish there is more, for our younger Pacific generation to join, and I recommend them to jump on.

“The New Zealand Army is making changes that enable our Maori and Pacific soldiers to grow and be in a safe place whilst being proud of their heritage.”

With another Anzac Day upon us, it has come as a timely reminder for Maiava of the importance of his duty to serve in the army and also his commitments to rugby league.

“Anzac Day is the one day in the year that I get to reflect on where I am now and celebrate the people who have enabled me to be here right now. I hold it real dear to my heart and its importance as a public holiday,” he says.

“For the Burnham rugby league club, it’s a time to kick off the season as we head into our own battles with our opposition or rival clubs. It is almost like we are soldiers in war, but on the rugby field.”

Heading into the rugby league season, Maiava is hopeful that the club is able to achieve top results this year under his leadership as club president. He may have hung up his boots, but he definitely wants to achieve more off the field as well as lead the Chevaliers to a successful season.

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