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Global rugby will be the lesser without the continued development and support of Pacific rugby.
These are the words of one of rugby’s greats, a living legend of the game and Pacific island leader and businessman Sir Michael Jones.
No stranger to the Cook Islands, Sir Michael is back on the island for what he describes as a relationship building visit in both business and rugby.
In business, Sir Michael is the strategic relationships manager for Matson Shipping and along with the company’s South Pacific general manager Gregory Chu will be meeting key sponsorship organisations the week at both the government and local business levels.
The focus is to form new partnerships and strengthen the company’s 140-year history in the Pacific region and 7-years of providing vital fortnightly shipping services to Rarotonga.
“It’s important for us Pacific Islanders to meet face to face to better understand and strengthen our relationship in a more valuable and meaningful way,” says Sir Michael.
Matson Shipping provides crucial sponsorship for a number of key national sporting events which in turn support the economy through sports tourism and positive social development.
Matson Shipping is the major sponsor of the annual outrigger paddling festivals Vaka Eiva and Motu2Motu in Aitutaki as well as the Pacific Voyaging Society.
In fact, the rebirth of traditional Vaka Marumaru Atua after a fire destroyed one of the hulls is thanks to the support and shipping service provided by Matson.
The common theme in all the events is the ocean – the highway that connects all Pacific peoples and a lifeline to the islands.
“We have as a people a strong relationship with the ocean and Matson is proud to be a sponsor to support and add value to these events,” says Sir Michael.
Off the water and onto the field, Matson Shipping is also the major sponsor of the Cook Islands Rugby Union and in particular the main sponsor of the national rugby team.
Sir Michaels talks passionately about the “great game of rugby” and the key role Pacific islands rugby plays in world rugby.
Sir Michael was named by Rugby World magazine as the third best All Black of the 20th century after Colin Meads and Sean Fitzpatrick.
John Hart, who first selected him for Auckland, called him "almost the perfect rugby player".
His gentle and soft persona contrasts his damaging tackles on the field and with steadfast Christian faith that has been tested over his career is without a doubt a pillar of inspiration for Pacific peoples.
But it has been his work off the field with Pacific youth that earned him a Knighthood which goes hand in hand with his Samoa Matai chiefly title.
His Mana is unmatched.
While the Cook Islands won’t be on the world stage at this month’s Rugby World Cup in Japan having let opportunities to do so slip by at qualifying events, Sir Michael says that’s no reason for Matson not to sponsor Cook Islands Rugby.
“All Pacific island nations shoulder the same challenges and it’s important to continue to support the work the local union is doing with emphasis on developing pathways to provide opportunities for every boy and girl.”
Sir Michael adds that it’s important investment and world rugby support be optimised in all areas of the game in the Pacific islands in both men’s and women’s rugby.
With northern hemisphere nations including second and third tier teams now reaping rewards on the field through increased development, Sir Michael says the game of rugby will be worse off, “if world rugby drops the ball.”
“There is just sheer talent in the Pacific and if we want to be good we have to do more and this is why we support rugby in the Cook Islands especially around governance.”
However Sir Michael says the number of Pacific teams in this month’s Rugby World Cup is a barometer that rugby in the islands is in pretty good health.
To future Cook Islands rugby stars or All Blacks, Sir Michael says dream big.
But he adds that having talent is not enough.
“Being talented and working hard go hand in hand,” he says.
“You have to work hard to develop your talent – have grit and never give up!”.
SOURCE: COOK ISLANDS NEWS/PACNEWS
Pacific Islands News Association
Who & What is PINA?
International News Safety Institute (INSI)
Media Helping Media