Milestone for Maori rugby celebrated

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The researcher and author behind an illustrated history of Maori rugby had his humanitarian efforts acknowledged in a special ceremony at the Universitys Manawatu campus last week.

Malcolm Mulholland, who wrote Beneath the Maori Moon, was acknowledged by Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres and former Race Relations Conciliator Gregory Fortuin, for the part he has played in ending the controversy behind the New Zealand Maori rugby team playing in South Africa next year.

Where previously the South African rugby union had declined the teams request to play its national side based on its policies against racially selected teams, Mr de Bres delivered some welcome news at the ceremony via a message from the union.

He read a message from the president of the South African Rugby Union, Oregon Hoskins, who thanked Mr Mulholland for his help in clarifying the purpose behind the Maori team and its purpose.

It was important for us in South Africa to know that the Maori team is not an ethnic based team. It is rather an expression of people trying to acknowledge their colourful past for its positive contribution to rugby and human dignity, Mr Hoskins wrote.

It is a quest to signify that oppressed people should have their history and culture celebrated and recognised forever. We look forward to hosting the Maori in South Africa.

Mr Mulholland was also instrumental in seeking an apology from the New Zealand and South African rugby unions, delivered earlier this year, for the historical treatment and exclusion of Maori players.

He says Maori players in general bore the brunt of the bad relations between South Africa and New Zealand.

It seemed appropriate to me, that as we mark the 100th year of Maori rugby, that this healing could take place.

Prior to 1970 Maori players werent allowed to play there at all; from then until 1976 they were permitted to tour, but only as honorary whites. Todays announcement is a huge milestone, and I look forward to seeing them play next year.

Mr Mulholland grew up with the stories of great Maori rugby players, in a rugby mad family in Linwood, Christchurch, and is a relative of Kingi Matthews, a renowned player of the 1940s. Beneath the Maori Moon is his third book.

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