High School pupils take part in the Ki o Rahi Festival at Caroline Bay on Wednesday (November 22). The sport is a Maori tradition, combining skills from touch rugby, basketball and dodgeball.PHOTO: ALEXIA JOHNSTON

Ki o Rahi fans are hoping to bring the traditional Maori sport to Timaru – permanently.

The sport, which combines skills from touch rugby, basketball and dodgeball, was played at Caroline Bay last week as part of an interschool tournament.

Timaru’s Ki o Rahi Festival was a joint initiative between Wave, Sport Canterbury and Arowhenua Whanau Services.

Harko Brown, a teacher at Kerikeri High School who attended the tournament, recalled his earlier years playing the sport in Timaru.

He also shared his vision to make it a regular feature on the district’s sporting calendar.

“Our objective here is to get a permanent field,” he said.

Ki o Rahi is a fast-running contact sport, played on a circular field, involving imaginative handling and swift interpassing of a flax woven ball, known as “ki”.

He said Timaru offered plenty of scope for a permanent field.

There is only one other field in the South Island, in Christchurch.

A field in the North Island, established at the Waitangi Treaty Ground, was made possible by seven schools and Mr Brown hoped a similar initiative would go ahead in Timaru.

“Just by luck seven schools said they would do it, which included carving the posts for the field,” he said.

Mr Brown hoped the sport would soon make a permanent return to Timaru.

“We used to play this game down at Caroline Bay in the 1980s. We used to mark the field out with diesel. The council didn’t really like it,” he said.

Mr Brown’s passion for the game meant he was prepared to cross some boundaries in his earlier years to make sure he could play it with his mates, including his late cousin Tracy Brown.

“In those days we didn’t have cones. If you did, we couldn’t afford them.”

Mr Brown’s association with the sport, which was now all done legally, has seen him develop connections all over the world, particularly in France.

In 2010, a New Zealand Ki o Rahi team, which included Mr Brown and former All Black Buck Shelford, among others, played in a tournament in France. A New Zealand team also competed in France in 2015 to “keep the connection” going, Mr Brown said.

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