In an historic stride for cricket and cultural inclusion, New Zealand’s first national Māori women’s cricket tournament is now underway at Cornwall Park in Hastings. This pioneering event represents a significant milestone in recognizing and promoting Māori women’s cricket.
Diversity and Inclusion Lead at New Zealand Cricket, Andrew Tara, believes that this tournament will significantly elevate the profile of Māori women’s cricket. He expressed his enthusiasm for the strength exhibited by the participating teams.
Over the weekend, five teams will compete for the Rona McKenzie Taonga cup, named in honor of the former Māori White Ferns captain. Rona McKenzie led the team in seven test matches for New Zealand and was recognized for her service to women’s cricket in the 1975 New Year’s Honours List.
Central Districts captain, Georgia Atkinson, found it “surreal” to lead the team, representing Ngāti Kahungunu. She’s been working on her personal interests, including playing the guitar and delving into her cultural roots. Despite the geographical spread of the team across Manawatu, Hawkes Bay, and Wairarapa, and their inability to train together as other teams have, Atkinson remains confident in their performance.
Tāmaki Makaurau Māori captain, Skye Bowden, sees this tournament as a remarkable opportunity for Māori wahine (women) to engage with the sport. As a Ngāti Hine and Ngāpuhi player, she found the tournament enabled her to connect with her culture in ways other sports did not.
Andrew Tara emphasized the importance of players’ connections to their whakapapa (genealogy) and cultural identity. New Zealand Cricket has been focusing on fostering these cultural connections, such as having the players stay in marae during the tournament, where they can engage in traditional practices like powhiri, waiata, communal meals, and shared accommodations.
In a broader scope, New Zealand Cricket aims to open doors for the Pasifika community to become more involved in the sport. Their initiatives began with the Rangatahi Cricket Festival earlier this year when Māori and Pasifika secondary school cricketers had the chance to participate.
Andrew Tara acknowledges that while there’s been progress, there’s still a long way to go for Māori and Pasifika growth in cricket, describing it as a generational process but one that New Zealand Cricket is committed to for the long term.