Rugby's friendly rivalry
RUGBY, camaraderie and a celebratory spirit will come together on the sporting field this weekend for the annual Emerald Waitangi Day men's and women's rugby carnival.
Hosted by Emerald Rams Rugby Union Club, the Waitangi Rugby Day is expected to attract about 300 people.
Emerald Rams Rugby Union Club treasurer and coach Cameron Heath said the gates at McIndoe Park would open at 4pm tomorrow with the junior age groups Sevens games getting under way from 4.30pm.
He said there would be a jumping castle and music as well as entertainment after the men's game, and the singing of the national anthems and the haka.
Traditionally, Waitangi Day is celebrated on February 6 to acknowledge the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand's founding document, with the local rugby day kicking off in 2007 in a bid to honour the region's New Zealand population.
"Traditionally it's a big family-friendly day and it's to recognise and pay tribute to the New Zealand influence in our community,” Mr Heath said.
"It's a great day to bring everyone together and celebrate their roots and thank them for their involvement in our region.”
Teams include a women's and men's New Zealand side with New Zealanders from throughout the Central Highlands including Moranbah, Blackwater and Capella taking part.
The New Zealand teams play The Rest of the World teams, comprising players from nations including Fiji, Australia, Tonga and England.
"Traditionally the New Zealand teams have been taking away the most wins but last year in the men's game, the Rest of the World had a fairly strong win so we're expecting the NZ team to come out this year and sort that out.” Mr Heath said.
Maria Wiringi, who has played for the NZ women's team since 2015, said she was looking forward to the day.
"It's an exhibition match, Ms Wiringi said.
She moved to Emerald from New Zealand in 2010.
"It's a good idea because it brings people closer and creates bonds.
"I have to give the Aussie girls a bit of a plug and say they have won three out of three games.”
She said the New Zealand team would be ready to take them on again this year in the battle with their "frenemies” to take home the trophy.
"It's good for New Zealanders to come together and to be given an opportunity to play a sport that we love, and it's good that our Aussie girls put their hands up and want to be part of it as well.”
She said some of the players on the Rest of the World team would play club league with her during the year and they would be Emerald Tigers teammates during the season.
She said this weekend's 'friendly' match was all about getting involved "however you can”.
"We have people running water, and there's first aid.
"It's not just the players you need on the field, you need everything else to come together to make it happen,” she said.
"We've got young girls singing the national anthems for us so it's giving opportunities to people who might not have an opportunity another time.”