Pacific support for league could outstrip that for rugby

first_imgDamon Salesa, an associate professor of Pacific Studies at Auckland University, said rugby should have more Pacific people involved in its decision-making.Fifty years ago there were 56,000 people described as Pacific living in New Zealand but by 2013 that figure had increased to almost 300,000.In Auckland, more than one in four babies is Pasifika.During the recent Rugby League World Cup, two Pacific nations, Tonga and Fiji, made the semi-finals, while the Kiwis missed out.Damon Salesa said better decisions would be made by sports bodies if they had the input of Pacific people.”If there were Pacific people on the New Zealand Rugby Union, do you think they’d make the same decisions for instance, to admit a Japanese team to the Super 15 and not a Pacific team, to admit Argentina and not a Pacific team to the rugby championship.”They would actually make different decisions, and I think they would be better decisions.”Last month, about 1000 Tongan league fans marched down Queen Street in Auckland after fans said a decision by the referee during the Rugby League World Cup semi-final against England robbed Tonga of the win. While an online petition calling for a review of the same decision to disallow a late try to Tongan player Andrew Fifita gathered more than 50,000 signatures.Mr Salesa said the Tongans’ ability and power to organise a major parade through Auckland should make people wake up to the potential of these communities.”In order to organise the Christmas parade in Auckland you spend months and probably get sponsored by AT to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Tongans organised almost as bigger parade in Auckland in a few hours on social media.”Mr Salesa said he found it moving that many players opted to play for their countries of heritage.He said former Kiwis forward Jason Taumalolo was called a ‘traitor’ and a ‘turncoat’ when he played for Tonga rather than New Zealand.He said New Zealand rugby and league has been built on the assumption that the team of choice will always be Australia or New Zealand, even for those Pacific players who only have fleeting relationships with these countries.”These guys showed that actually no, the place they were dreaming of playing for was Tonga and actually what we’ve seen is going to pose a real threat to the global rugby codes because now a whole lot of players look at what Taumalolo and Andrew Fifita did and their only regret is they didn’t do it too.”Mr Salesa said it raises questions of eligibility for rugby and league as sport is one of the last places where you have to choose between nations.He said it was possible to have a Samoan and Tongan passport, or a Samoan and a New Zealand passport but it was only possible to play for one rugby team now due to the eligibility rules, particularly in rugby union.last_img read more