Story: Māori and sport – hākinakina

Page 5. Notable Māori sportspeople

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While Māori have featured more strongly in certain sports than in others, successful Māori sports people can be found across a variety of sports.


Maia Lewis played for the White Ferns (the national women’s cricket team) in the 1990s and 2000s, and was captain of the team. The first Māori male to play a test for the Black Caps was Adam Parore (wicket keeper and batsman) in 1990. Other important Māori players have included Darryl Tuffey (bowler), Shane Bond (bowler) and Jesse Ryder (batsman).

American football

Riki Ellison (Ngāi Tahu) is a former linebacker who played in the NFL (the US professional National Football League). He was the first Māori and first New Zealander to do so. He won three Super Bowls while playing with the San Francisco 49ers. David Tukatahi Dixon was the second Māori to play in the NFL, playing for the Minnesota Vikings from 1994 to 2004. Both Ellison and Dixon are members of the Māori Sports Hall of Fame.


Simon Wi Rutene competed in four Winter Olympics, the first in 1984. He was the New Zealand flag bearer at the 1988 Winter Olympics at Calgary.


Farah Palmer captained the Black Ferns (national women’s rugby team) in the first three of New Zealand’s wins in the Women’s Rugby World Cup (1998, 2002 and 2006).

Other rugby greats include George Nēpia in the 1920s and 1930s, and Wayne ‘Buck’ Shelford (who, as captain of the All Blacks from 1987 to 1990, never lost a game).

Rugby league

Renowned Māori rugby league players have included Hugh McGahan, Howie Tamati, Tawera Nikau, Stacey Jones and Benji Marshall.


Margaret Matangi, Margaret Forsyth and Waimarama Taumaunu were all significant international netball players.

Water Sports

Rangitāne’s John (Hoani) MacDonald won gold in the fours and silver in the eights at the 1930 Empire Games, and was a member of the eight which finished fourth at the 1932 Olympics, in which he was New Zealand’s flagbearer. In 2012 he was the only rower to have been inducted into Te Whare Mātāpuna o Te Ao Māori / the Māori Sports Hall of Fame.

Lisa Carrington (Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki and Ngāti Porou), a flatwater canoeist, won gold at the 2011 and 2013 World Championships, and also won gold in the women’s K-1 200 metres at the 2012 Olympic games. Storm Uru (Ngāi Tahu) won the gold medal along with Peter Taylor at the 2009 World Rowing Championships. He also won a bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics, rowing with Taylor.


Perhaps the two best known Māori tennis players are Ruia Morrison (Te Arawa) and Kelly Evernden (Ngāti Porou).


Gina Weber was one of the great players of the White Sox national women’s softball team. Robert ‘Chubb’ Tangaroa was a pitcher in the Black Sox national men’s team.


Pero Cameron captained the New Zealand team from 2000 to 2010. Perhaps the most significant achievement for the Tall Blacks while he was captain was finishing fourth at the world championships in 2002.


Leilani Rorani (née Joyce) is a former world number one squash player, who twice won the British Open.


Millie Khan (Ngāti Rangitihi) won 12 national bowls titles and a silver and bronze at the Commonwealth Games.


Wynton Rufer was voted the Oceania player of the century. He played professionally overseas before returning to New Zealand and is one of New Zealand’s football greats.


One of the most significant Māori athletes actually competed for Australia. Jai Taurima won a silver medal in the long jump at the 2000 Olympics.


Earl Parariki Hauparoa Nikora (Ngāti Maniapoto, Tainui), nicknamed ‘The Rock’, was described in the 1960s as the greatest Māori boxer and was a challenger for the British Empire middleweight title. He was also holder of the New Zealand middleweight and lightweight titles, and the Australasian middleweight title. Shane Cameron (Rongomaiwahine) won the New Zealand heavyweight title in 2004 before embarking on a successful professional career.

How to cite this page:

Basil Keane, 'Māori and sport – hākinakina - Notable Māori sportspeople', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 29 May 2024)

Story by Basil Keane, published 5 Sep 2013