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Packing down . . . Former All Black Keven Mealamu (centre) sets an informal scrum with local Pasifika players (from left) Siaosi Moimoi (14),TK Waqaliti (15), Michael Kotobalavu (16, at back), James Wacokecoke (16) and Petelo Faha (14) in Timaru on Friday. PHOTO: CHRIS TOBIN

by Chris Tobin

The first step in creating a new understanding between the Pasifika and wider rugby community was taken in Timaru last week.

Pasifika Talanoa Day was held at Alpine Energy Stadium on Friday, March 8, with special guest New Zealand Rugby ambassador and former All Black Keven Mealamu.

“In the end we had 120 people there, evenly split between the South Canterbury rugby clubs and Pasifika players,” South Canterbury Rugby Union chief executive Craig Calder said.

“Everyone said it was great for both cultures to listen to one another.”

Mr Mealamu said he was delighted to attend.

“I feel privileged to be coming here and taking on this,” he said shortly before the evening began.

“I didn’t realise there was such a big Pacific Island community here.”

He said it was important to open lines of communication and to have good cultural awareness.

Newly appointed South Canterbury coach Nigel Walsh spoke of the expectations, commitments and behaviours expected of all players on and off the field and a panel discussion was held with players Matt Fetu, Penieli Latu, Sioeli Tuiaki, Viliame “Bill” Logavatu and referee, Mike O’Brien.

“Each of the players spoke of their experience coming to New Zealand,” Mr Calder said.

“One key is that each culture have to show respect to each other and communicate better between each other.”