Call to play rugby final on day of Matariki labeled ‘culturally insensitive’

Wellington Rugby announced on Sunday the Wellington women's premier grand final will be on the day of Matariki day.  (File photo)

Dominico Zapata/Stuff

Wellington Rugby announced on Sunday the Wellington women’s premier grand final will be on the day of Matariki day. (File photo)

A last minute decision to hold a Wellington premier women’s rugby grand final on the day of the inaugural Matariki public holiday has gone down like an eye gouge in a rolling maul, with players and supporters criticizing organizers for their cultural insensitivity.

The 1pm Friday kickoff for the Tia Paasi Memorial Trophy final between Marist St Pats and Northern United was announced late on Sunday.

Northern United player-coach Aimee “Axe” Sutorius​ said the finals had been held on Friday evenings in the past, but never during the day – and certainly not on a public holiday.

Sutorius, a former Black Fern, said the situation was “a bit of a shambles”.

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The women’s season had to be re-jigged after one of the clubs couldn’t start in the planned week and that led to the final being bumped back. The final is on the Friday because the Wellington Rugby Pride camp (the women’s NPC team) starts on Saturday.

Columist and rugby player Alice Soper says the decision to hold a final in the middle of the day on Matariki is culturally insensitive.

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Columist and rugby player Alice Soper says the decision to hold a final in the middle of the day on Matariki is culturally insensitive.

“We’d been given the heads-up it might be on Friday, but everyone was thinking it’d be a night game. No-one thought it’d be a daytime final. That was a total surprise,” Sutorius said

“Girls work, obviously, and that’s our biggest concern. They haven’t taken the needs of the players into consideration.”

At least three players in the Northern United’s team were going to be working on Matariki.

“It’s a hard ask … four days out from a public holiday, asking your boss if you can take the day off,” she said.

“There’s no way they would have done this for the men. Absolutely not. They do treat our grade a bit differently.”

The decision has been drawn ire from many over social media.

Player and columnist/commentator Alice Soper voiced her criticism in a Soapbox piece, where she said it was not surprising Wellington Rugby had made the “culturally insensitive decision to hold a final in the middle of the day on Matariki”.

“This is the same crew who regularly make the decision to hold a final on a Sunday, which inevitably ends up with players having to withdraw because of their faith,” she said.

LAWRENCE SMITH/Stuff

Black Ferns squad announced for June’s Pacific Four Series.

“Matariki is not just a day off and the first public holiday takes on a special significance for whānau around Aotearoa. Like many different days of celebration, the day off for the community at the center turns into one of the busiest day of their year as they pitch in to mark the occasion.”

The game is scheduled to be held at Rugby League Park in Newtown.

Wellington Rugby has been contacted for comment.

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