Tasman Rugby Union’s referees from Nelson and Marlborough gathered in Rai Valley on 11 April for a very special unveiling and blessing of referees’ new apparel, featuring a design carrying the mana of the eight iwi of Te Tauihu – Ngāti Rārua, Ngāti Koata, Te Ati Awa, Ngāti Kuia, Rangitāne, Ngāti Toa, Ngāti Apa, and Ngāti Tama.

Taylors Contracting sponsored the referees’ apparel as part of its ongoing and significant contribution towards supporting grassroots rugby. The sponsorship, valued at $25,000, was very meaningful for Taylors Contracting, said CEO Charlie Taylor.

“We like to see our support going towards participation in and the development of the game,” said Mr Taylor. “There’s no game without a referee and well-trained referees make all the difference to the experience of the players and spectators.

“I was particularly humbled to be present at this occasion and to hear kaumātua Barney Thomas talking about the deeply symbolic nature of the design on the referees’ jerseys.”

Mr Thomas said during his remarks before blessing the kākahu (apparel) that Taylors Contracting itself also carried the mana of the eight iwi of Te Tauihu because the company’s logo was centrally placed on the jerseys in the middle of the new design.

Mr Thomas was present at the event supported by other members of the Te Tauihi o te Waka a Maui Māori Rugby Board.

He explained that the purakau (narrative) for the kowhaiwhai in the design features the mangōpare (hammerhead shark) know for its tendency to fight to the death. The design also features a koru representing the eight iwi and a niho, or tooth. “If you had a shark tooth, which were very sought after, you were considered to be a chiefly person,” said Mr Thomas. “In providing this element in the design, we acknowledge that our referees uphold chiefly qualities in the way that they conduct themselves in their role in the game.”

Tasman Rugby Union CEO Lyndon Bray, himself a former international rugby referee spoke about the importance that the union placed on acknowledging the status of its leading referees as being at the same professional level as its Mako players and in encouraging young people to see refereeing as a viable and highly-regarded participation pathway in the game.

“We want to bring referees into the whānau in the same way as we do players and to have them refereeing in the same gear as champion players,” said Mr Bray.


Kaumātua Barney Thomas