19 Apr 2012

Ancient Maori ball game being played internationally

9:30 am on 19 April 2012

A player of the ancient Maori ball game of ki o rahi says the sport is gaining international popularity, with more teams playing competitively in France, Australia and the Pacific Islands.

Ki o rahi is played on a circular field with two teams. One team tries to score points by throwing the ki or ball at the centre post while the other tries to win by throwing it at all of the posts around the circle.

During colonisation, missionaries banned the game and replaced it with rugby and rugby league, which drew some of the components of ki o rahi into rugby.

Ki O Rahi Ki Whanganui Action group member Jay Rerekura says New Zealand teams have recently competed with a team from France, where the game was introduced by the Maori Battalion during the First World War.

Mr Rerekura says test matches have been played against France and Pacific Island countries.

He says ki o rahi is also played in the United States, where more than 33,000 schools have introduced it into their curriculum - but sadly the uptake hasn't been so good in New Zealand.

Mr Rerekura says most primary and secondary schools in Whanganui are familiar with the game and there are plans to introduce it in more schools around the country.

He says the game has also taken off in Australia.