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Haka: Sports and politics do mix

Natasha Hill

Former MP and Black Fern Louisa Wall says sports and politics have always gone hand in hand.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Former MP and top sports player Louisa Wall says sports and politics has always mixed.

She was commenting after the Hurricanes Poua’s second haka in the weekend saw a flood of criticism including from Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters.

The Wellington wāhine rugby team made headlines after they performed a rewritten haka used in their season opener two weeks ago calling out the government.

The team should be praised for how culturally competent it was to be able to change its haka rather than the negative reactions from people, Wall said.

“The haka can be seen as expression and social commentary.

We’ve certainly seen that in Te Matatini and, within the context of rugby, haka has been used and is being used to by every single team as they prepare for the battle that lies ahead.”

‘Wāhine toa should be applauded’

She said the initial reaction from the public to the Poua’s haka on the government could have been avoided if there had been involvement of management earlier on.

Wall said there shouldn’t be further debate with the team after the players amended it in consultation with Hurricanes chief executive Alan Lee.

“From the Hurricanes perspective, the Poua perspective and the players’ perspective, it’s not for us to have an issue about how they choose to express their ability to go out and perform on behalf of their team.”

She remembers being banned from rugby as a five-year-old once they realised she was a girl.

“If you think about who can access sport, the fact is it’s a public good. The fact is that through the years there have been issues to do with gender. There have certainly been issues to do with indigenous rights. The reality of sport is that they have been governed by politics.”

She said the wāhine toa should be applauded for their ability to use their voices and platforms to represent their communities.

“What the Poua are demonstrating is that they have the competence to be able to change their haka every week if they want to.”

Other teams will be inspired to think about how they can leverage their platform to share and represent their own communities, she said.

“For people to say that sports and politics don’t mix, I think that is the naïve comment. It’s always mixed.”

Hero Image: Louisa Wall has represented New Zealand as a sports woman and a politician. She believes there is a place for sport and politics to mix.

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