A group of 100 Vodafone Warriors fans converged on Mount Smart Stadium to send a spectacular tribute to the Vodafone Warriors.
The NRL squad and staff have now been based in Australia for eight weeks due to the Covid-19 pandemic, initially in quarantine in Tamworth and then in their surrent base in Terrigal on the Central Coast.
Biosecurity restrictions initially meant teams had to play n stadiums without spectators and, in some cases, not playing at their home grounds, most notably the Vodafone Warriors who have returned to action away from Mount Smart and their army of supporters.
To highlight that their fans are there in spirit, if not in person, major sponsor Best Foods organised a 100-strong haka at Mount Smart Stadium to wish the Vodafone Warriors luck ahead of their battle with the Melbourne Storm, now being played at Netstrata Stadium in Sydney tomorrow night (June 26) after being moved from AAMI Park in Melbourne.
Best Foods worked with Tāpeta Wehi, CEO of Tāmaki Makaurau kapa haka group The Haka Experience, who created a bespoke performance that charts the trials and tribulations of the Covid-19 pandemic. It conveys how New Zealanders united to overcome the pandemic as well as paying respect to the Vodafone Warriors for the sacrifice they have made by playing in Australia.
As an important part of Māori culture steeped in honour and tradition, it was essential that the haka was executed with respect and mana. It was led by The Haka Experience kapa haka group, and supported by local performers and Iwi, resulting in a meaningful display of support from more than 2000km away from the venue for the match against the Storm.
Wehi commented: “It has been an honour performing for the Vodafone Warriors. This unique haka tells a powerful story of national unity following the Covid-19 pandemic and demonstrates our support for the team all the way from Aotearoa.”
Matt Rigby from Best Foods added: “We want to promote national support for our team playing in Australia. Our goal is to stand with the Vodafone Warriors and let them know the team of five-million back home are behind them 150% - if we can’t be there in person, we will be there in spirit.”
Vodafone Warriors GM commercial Glenn Critchley says this performance means the world to the team.
"With the boys having left their friends and whanau behind for the season and not having the physical support of fans on their home turf in New Zealand, seeing an incredible performance like this has truly lifted everyone’s spirits.
“Although we aren’t playing in front of fans at Mount Smart Stadium, the players know New Zealand is backing them. It will be a tough game against the Melbourne Storm this week, and the boys truly appreciated this gesture from Best Foods.”
Wehi added: “Haka is a sacred treasure that has been passed down to us by our ancestors. We use haka to tell and share our stories, to share tribal knowledge, tribal stories, recite genealogy and pass oral history onto the younger generations. Haka is used to address issues or challenge issues, whether they be political, environmental or even social issues.”
The haka performed by the 100 participants reads as follows:
Maranga mai e te iwi e
Tukitukia, werowerohia te mate urutā
Rere ana te mataku, rere ana te wehiwehi
Ka mate ka mate, ka ora ka ora
Tu mai nga tama toa,
Kia kaha, kia toa, kia manawanui e
Ahakoa he tawhiti te whanau,
Kore kore rawa e tu mokemoke
He matenga poto, he oranga roa
Tu mai nga tama toa, Kia kaha, kia toa
Kia kotahi tatou
Ka mate, ka mate ka ora, ka ora
Aotearoa it’s time to rise up!
We are being tested by this pandemic
The unknown causing apprehension and fear
Will we perish, no we will live
Rise up the warriors
Be strong, be determined and be brave
Although you are far from your families
You have never been alone
A short sacrifice for long term benefit
Rise up warriors, be strong, be brave
We are in this together
Will we perish, no we will live, we will live
- Despite moving to level one under New Zealand’s Covid-19 alert system, the haka was produced under strict health and safety regulations. All participants were required to sign a health disclaimer, sign in for contact tracing, regularly wash hands and practise social distancing.
- Best Foods has undertaken numerous activities to show its support for the Vodafone Warriors during Covid-19. It implemented ‘Come Digitally Dine with Me’, a socially-led competition giving Vodafone Warriors fans the opportunity to have lunch with their favourite players via Zoom as well as the Vodafone Warriors x Comedy Festival mash-up, a digital content comedy series featuring Vodafone Warriors players as talent.