North vs South showcase exceeds expectations

Ki te Tonga Wahine celebrate a goal. Credit: Māori Football Aotearoa
Ki te Tonga Wahine celebrate a goal. Credit: Māori Football Aotearoa

The Māori Football Aotearoa North vs. South showcased the high calibre of talent among the pool of Aotearoa New Zealand’s pool of indigenous players.

The event was set up in response to the closed borders forcing the cancellation of the annual Trans-Tasman Clash of the Cultures which sees Māori Football teams play their counterparts Australian First Nations.

In the U-16 division, the North triumphed 5-2 in a come from behind victory following an impressive opening goal from the South.

Unfortunately for the South their defences crumbled after Hannah Langsbury scored the opening goal, allowing Ruby Nathan, Neve Darlington and Te Aroha Ford to put the North 3-1 up at the half-time break.

Pepi Olliver-Bell was able to pull one back with an impressive goal in the second half, however a penalty scored by Nathan before a wonderful solo effort from Danica Ulrich-Beech ensured victory was with the North.

To rewatch the match, check out the livestream here: The goals were scored at the following time codes: 0-1: #3 South; Hannah Langsbury 15:59, 1-1: #10 North; Ruby Nathan 17:12, 2-1: #15 North; Brooke Barclay 43:36, 3-1: #7 Te Aroha Ford 47:30, 3-2: #9 South; Pepi Olliver-Bell 1:26:02, 4-2: #10 Ruby Nathan (PEN) 1:28:02, 5-2: #13 Danica Ulrich-Beech 1:46:43.

In the senior women’s match the encounter was much more one-sided with a stacked South team boasting numerous former and current Canterbury Pride players, as well as Futsal Fern Britney-Lee Nicholson, among their ranks proving too tough a task for their Northern counterparts to undo.

Nicholson was the author of eight goals in the 15-2 rout, with Jayda Stewart, a former New Zealand youth international, also proving prolific in front of the goal to earn herself a hat-trick. Pepi Olliver-Bell was among a handful of U-16 squad members who earned a call-up to the senior side following her outstanding performance earlier in the day, she scored South’s tenth goal of the day, and her second after earlier scoring in the U-16 encounter.

With experience on their side, South controlled the game with relative ease, but the players from the North never gave up, constantly applying pressure before eventually breaking down their opponent twice. Lauren Henry was first on the board making it 5-1 in the first half, before Kalani Walters Hewson took the match to 9-2.

Rewatch the Wahine encounter here: The goals were scored at the following time codes: 0-1: 10:09 Jayda Stewart, 0-2: 13:38 Britney-Lee Nicholson , 0-3: 19:49 Britney-Lee Nicholson (PEN), 0-4: 29:45 Britney-Lee Nicholson, 0-5: 31:24 Renee Baker, 1-5: 32’26 Lauren Henry, 1-6: 33:21 Britney-Lee Nicholson, 1-7: 35:38 Jayda Stewart, 1-8: 38:44 Britney-Lee Nicholson, 1-9: 45:00 Britney-Lee Nicholson, 2-9: 1:15:27 Kalani Walters Hewson, 2-10: 1:16:38 Pepi Olliver-Bell, 2-11: 1:19:05 Britney-Lee Nicholson, 2-12: 1:25:08 Jayda Stewart. 2-13: 1:29:56 Chelsea Whittaker, 2-14: 1:42:51 Renee Baker, 2-15: 1:54:05 Britney-Lee Nicholson

Māori Football Aotearoa chairman and kaitiaki Phill Parker said the event was aimed at showcasing football, and showcasing that Māori are actually good at it.

“But it was also to bring these two sides [North and South] together and from that we will create one team, which will be announced in the near future.”

For the Wahine head coach, Asher Trotter, the event has been a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with the players once again.

“Fierce, powerful, beautiful; that’s what I get to work with every day and I love it,” Trotter said of the North and South squads.

“We’re a progressive country, female football is growing, but we still have a long way to go. I am an advocate for female football, and what I love about Māori Football is we’re providing a platform for women too. As long as we continue to advocate, as long as we continue to push, we’ll be able to continue growing female football.”

The organiser also expressed that the week-long camp and subsequent matches were about much more than football, saying the camp experience was “50 per cent football and 50 per cent connecting with your iwi and culture”, an approach which adheres closely to Māori Football Aotearoa’s core values:

  • Tikanga Māori – centres on Maori Customs and Traditions;
  • Whakapapa – centres on Genealogy, History and Connectedness;
  • Manaakitanga – centres on supporting Relationships and Networking;
  • Kapa Haka –centres on Creative Arts.

While Parker and his colleagues are looking forward to taking on the Australian First Nations again, and organising further international matches, they’re equally excited about building a new tradition which sees the North vs. South become a regular fixture on the Māori Football Aotearoa calendar.

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