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Seafarers Sevens team image

The Seafarers, sporting their new uniforms, competed at the Larry’s Cup tournament and the women’s and men’s teams took third and sixth place respectively.

As another successful rugby sevens season draws to a close, Seafarers’ coach Scotty Opetaia is proud of the big, and fast, strides made by the Otago-affiliated club this year.

Both Seafarers teams recently took first place at the Kaiviti Southland Fijian Sevens tournament, and at their final tournament of the year last weekend, the women’s and men’s teams took third and sixth place respectively.

It is the holistic growth of the players and of the collective that Opetaia says has been the most fulfilling aspect of the year to witness.

The Seafarers are a rugby sevens club mostly made up of University of Otago students. While they are an affiliate of the Otago University Rugby Football Club, they welcome players from all clubs around Ōtepoti.

Since their establishment in 2013, the Seafarers have developed players who have gone on to become the best in the business, including All Black prop George Bower, Canturbry utility back Rosie Kelly and Chiefs first-five Joshua Ioane.

Seafarers founder Jekope Maiono started the club while he was still a student at the University of Otago.

The Seafarers’ coaching and management team this year are an in-house production, with coach Opetaia and manager Tameti Teweti working as Pacific Students Transition Officers for the University’s Pacific Islands Centre, and Maiono working as an Academic Tutor for the Otago Business School.

Creating learning and capacity-building opportunities for tauira has been a priority for leadership this year.

Opetaia says tauira from all disciplines are encouraged to apply their knowledge towards improving the performance of the team.

“We have students that are studying to become nutritionists and physios who bring their knowledge and academic prowess to trainings, plus some students providing strength and conditioning coaching as part of the training system."

“When you are able to put that on your resumé, it’s an opportunity for everybody.”

  • Seafarers

    Seafarers’ coach Scotty Opetaia (left) and team founder Jekope Maiono (right) in Christchurch for a sevens tournament.

  • Seafarers

    Early sketches: The tohu included on the uniform features wildlife native to Dunedin and represents the power, speed and agility needed to play rugby sevens.

  • Seafarers

    Law and International Business tauira and Seafarers back Niwa Rickard (Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāti Porou) with his teammates.

Being a part of the University workforce has allowed Seafarers leadership to be sensitive to student needs.

“Pastoral care is massive,” Opetaia says.

“We’re always checking in with them about their study, and when a student comes to me and says ‘I’ve got a lab’ or ‘I’ve got an exam’. Sweet. See you next week.”

Knowing the student experience well also led to their decision to postpone their trip to the land of sevens – Fiji – to allow more time to fundraise so that the students would not need to pay their way.

The Seafarers take their commitments to their community very seriously. The team chooses a social cause to contribute towards annually and have also recently changed their uniform to better reflect their sense of place and the diverse community of which they are a part.

Law and International Business tauira and Seafarers back, Niwa Rickard (Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāti Porou), has been on the men’s squad for five years and helped facilitate kōrero between Otakau Marae and the Seafarers’ leadership after the process was initiated by Maiono.

“The Seafarers are originally from Fiji, but Dunedin is our base, so we wanted to represent mana whenua, while also being inclusive of the people and cultures around us,” Niwa says.

The tohu included on the uniform features wildlife native to Dunedin and represents the power, speed and agility needed to play rugby sevens.

Behind the Mangopare design (smooth hammerhead shark) shows the Roimata Toroa design (tears of the albatross) with whakarare, a design symbolising movement, and ahu ahu mataroa, a design symbolising talent.

“While the head of the Toroa is simply drawn, it shows the potential and growth of each member, the Seafarers’ connection to Dunedin and the travel from afar to call this place home,” Niwa says.

Kōrero by Keilah Fox

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