Sport | Rugby

Pakilau Manase Lua: ‘NZ Rugby can go get f*****’

A Tongan has stepped down from NZ Rugby’s Pasifika Advisory Group in frustration that there are no Pacific people on the NZ Rugby Union Board.

The late Jonah Lomu (2015), Iga Tuigamala (2022), and Joeli Vidiri (2022) are among the Pacific rugby players who helped put Aotearoa Rugby on the global map.

Yet no Pacific person sits on the New Zealand Rugby Union Board (NZRUB) despite the Pacific people’s contribution to rugby.

Pakilau Aotearoa Manase Lua, who has just stepped down from New Zealand Pacific Advisory Group (PAG) doesn’t feel it’s right.

In a social media post, he wrote “NZ Rugby can go get f*****” but was asked by the PAG Engagement Manager Saveatama Eroni Clarke to take it down.

“I said to the brother, Sorry bro, I’m sticking to my guns and the post is staying up’.”

“I think his superiors asked him to tell me to take it down. I’m no longer a PAG member, I’m doing this as the troublemaker that I am, Pakilau, and I think I have every right to be irate on behalf of the many, many people who’ve bled for the game.”

NZ Rugby can go get f*#cked! 😡😡😡😡😡 I am sick of being nice. You know full well how our Pasifika people have literally...

Posted by Manase Lua on Thursday 21 March 2024

Over 40% of the All Blacks team last year were of Pacific heritage and adding Māori raises it to almost 60%.

PAG is one of the groups under the NZRUB that helps with the engagement with Pasifika in Rugby in Aotearoa.

The only Pasifika person who previously sat in board meetings in her emerging director’s role (now ended) and co-chair of PAG is Pauline-Jean Luyten.

But she had no voting rights, though a common practice in that role.

“This is a lawyer, a very smart woman with multiple degrees, and also a president of a provincial union (former member of the South Canterbury Rugby Board), she knows rugby inside out. Yet they gave her a nonvoting, observe- only seat.”

“Basically trainer wheels. How disrespectful is that,” Pakilau says.

New Zealand Rugby’s Pasifika Strategy was launched last year and it showed that 26% of players in the Super Rugby Competition are of Pacific heritage and 30% are represented in Super Rugby Aupiki.

Bailey Mackey and Dame Farah Palmer are the two Māori who sit on the rugby board and Pakalani is glad to see that.

With crucial members of the All Blacks squad including Ardie Savea (Samoa), Richie Mounga (Tonga/Samoa), and Reiko Ioane (Māori/Samoa), he feels more than ever the Pacific deserves just one seat on the decision making table.

“We shouldn’t be begging for it given our massive contributions with Māori, so I’m hoping that Māori see this as supporting their kaupapa and their journey as well because this is a battle that they must face all the time and the good thing with Māori is that you got Te Tiriti, you’ve got the right as the first indigenous people here.”

“Pasifika often have to ride on the coattails of Māori often but for this thing here I think we should have to lead the charge here for once.”

A New Zealand Rugby statement says NZR acknowledges the huge contribution of Pasifika on the field and recognises that this is not reflected in equitable representation across non-playing roles, including governance. “NZR is currently supporting its voting members through a process of reform, which will see a modern governance model for rugby that reflects greater diversity across gender, background and ethnicity.

“The NZR board is committed to seeing culturally diverse voices at all levels of this governance model,” it says.

“NZR has recognised Pasifika as a priority area for the organisation and launched a Pasifika strategy in November 2023 to enable, embrace and empower positive outcomes for Pasifika in rugby. The implementation of a year one action plan is already underway and reflects a long-term commitment.”