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Posted by RLPA

February 21, 2024

Mana Group to strengthen Pasifika and Māori voices in elite rugby league

The Rugby League Players’ Association is celebrating the launch of the Mana Group, the Association’s new player advisory group that will enhance and strengthen the voices and advocacy of Pasifika and Māori players.

The Mana Group was established to empower Pasifika and Māori players by giving them the opportunity to utilise their voices, provide feedback, and engage with stakeholders on matters directly affecting them and their communities.

In Māori and many Pacific Islander cultures, the term ‘mana’ refers to the spiritual life force, status or authority ascribed to people, places and objects. Mana was chosen by the eight foundation members and is a fitting name for the influence and direction of the newly established player advisory group.

Foundation members of The Mana Group includes six current players from the NRL and NRLW competitions, and two former players taking up the role of Independent Advisors:

  • Zahara Temara
  • Simaima Taufa
  • Siliva Havili
  • Shellie Long
  • Junior Paulo
  • James Fisher-Harris
  • Feleti Mateo (Independent Advisor)
  • David Mead (Independent Advisor)

The Mana Group aims to:

  • provide consistent growth in the number of players of Pasifika and Māori heritage represented across the NRL and NRLW.
  • promote Pasifika and Māori players into leadership roles and give them the ability to be a voice and act on behalf of the playing group through the establishment of a designated leadership structure.
  • have an environment where players and stakeholders will have the opportunity to talk with and discuss any matters involving Pasifika and Māori players.
  • provide support and guidance of the RLPA as their player representatives.

Quotes from members

Zahara Temara

“We all know what type of impact the RLPA, playing group, and delegates have had. It’s important our Māori and Pasifika players have a vessel to discuss and promote change to better our people, communities and nations within the game.”

Zahara was born in Rotorua, New Zealand and her iwi are Ngāpuhi, Te Arawa and Ngāi Tūhoe.

Māori greeting: Kia ora

Simaima Taufa

“We’re representing our Pasifika and Māori brothers and sisters, building strategy plans that will create pathways and opportunities for our people.

“We will be engaging with stakeholders and providing feedback in matters that directly affect Pasifika and Māori our communities, ensuring that our feedback is taken into consideration before decisions are made.

“That we continue to have a say in what decisions are made for us and building and nurturing the next group of leaders to continue the Mana Group.”

Simaima’s family is from Tonga, her mother from Lavengatonga and her father from Lapaha.

Tongan greeting: Mālō e lelei

Siliva Havili

“Our game brings a lot of opportunities for our people. We’re very talented in this space and will continue to grow which is important we have a voice so we can stand up for our little nations.

“We agree with a lot of what the NRL throws at us, but with certain decisions there is less understanding.”
Siliva was born in New Zealand and his parents are from Tonga.

Tongan greeting: Mālō e lelei

Shellie Long

“Almost 50% of players within the NRL and NRLW are of Pasifika and Māori heritage, and for this reason it is important to provide a safe place for their voices to be heard. The Mana group will also help build stronger relationships between players and clubs as well as within our communities.

“I would love to be more present within the Māori and Pasifika communities to build a stronger relationship between the players, NRL and RLPA.

Shellie’s family is from Daru, an island in the Western Province of Papua New Guinea.

Papua New Guinea greeting: Gutpla Morning

Junior Paulo

“We need a voice in today’s game. In a day and age where it’s such a culturally diverse game, it’s the right time for us to have a voice. To voice our opinions and to have a say, and to create a foundation for the next generations.

“I want to be part of the movement that created the foundations for the Mana Group to have that voice in today’s game. I feel that it’s a space that hasn’t been unlocked yet in the game, and to be part of the Mana Group allows us to be that voice so we can unlock that next chapter for the next generation of Pasifika and Māori players.

Junior’s family is from Samo, his mother from Satui-mulufilufi and his father from Safotu, Savai’i.

Samoan greeting: Talofa lava

James Fisher-Harris

“The Mana Group will lead our way. It will show our people that we are leaders and encourage our youth on and off the field.”

James’s family is from Aotearoa (New Zealand), specifically Hokianga and Kohukohu.

Māori greeting: Kia ora

Feleti Mateo

“The Mana Group is important so that our players have a voice, and a choice. A goal of mine is to help build the players’ voice and see more of the different cultures represented in the game.”

“Having the game embrace culture and showcase it will make the players even prouder of where they come from and what they represent.”

Feleti’s father is from Ma’ufanga in Tonga.

Tongan greeting: Mālō e lelei

David Mead

“We are a voice for a group that shares similar beliefs, values and challenges. We want to help improve the current standard of assistance from NRL to Pasifika and Māori rugby league communities on and off the field.”

David’s family is from Papua New Guinea.

Papua New Guinea phrase: Mauri auka be ba goada balaheni (Be strong in the face of adversity)

Available for interview

Nita Maynard, RLPA Player Operations Manager
Tinirau Arona, RLPA Player Operations Manager

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