The Great Britain Rugby League Lions squad received a traditional Maori welcome ahead of their opening game of their tour this Saturday in Hamilton, New Zealand.
Led by captain James Graham and Head Coach Wayne Bennett, the squad visited Turangawaewae Marae in Ngaruawahia. A very significant marae, it is the official residence and reception centre of the head of the Māori King, Tuheitia Paki.
The Powhiri ceremony began with the group being met at the front gate or 'Waharoa', before being called in by a female caller or 'kaikaranga'.
The squad then slowly made their way into the marae to be met by a group of maori warriors before making their way to in front of the meeting house or wharenui. Then, the formal part of the ceremony, the whaikorero, begins with speeches from both parties and a song or 'waiata' from each.
The formal proceedings concluded with each member of the squad performed the hongi with representatives. In the 'hongi', the ha (breath of life) is exchanged and intermingled. The breath of life can also be interpreted as the sharing of both party’s souls.
The group then got involved in some traditional maori games and a meal in the Whare Kai, or dining hall.
Commenting on the visit, James Graham said: “It is important as part of a trip like this to experience different cultures and ways of life. It was a first time experience for all of us in the squad and fantastic to receive such a warm welcome.”