By Te Karere

As the ASB Tennis Open heads into its final stages, competition is heating up. And for the first time the competitors won’t be competing for just a trophy and bragging rights, a taiaha will also be up for grabs.


Tournament organiser Karl Budge says, “It’s something we're really keen to integrate into the tournaments in as depth and meaningful way that we can. I think for the players coming in, it's something they will be keen to learn about and something a little different.”


It’s a first for the ASB Classic and came from the organisers wanting to represent the uniqueness of the Māori culture.


Budge adds, “For us, it's something that separates us from anywhere else in the world. I think celebrating our Maori culture is something we should do as a tournament. I think for these guys walking past now it's something that they can only experience here when they're here in New Zealand and play the classic so it's something we really want to showcase and celebrate.”


The organisers decided to reach out to the iwi of the area and Jamie Cook of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei says they are humbled to assist with this competition, “Miharo katoa ana a Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei ki te hāpai i tenei kaupapa, kia kawe hoki ngā tikanga Māori ki te ao.”


Carver Dennis Conway carved this taiaha as a trophy for the winner of the competition; he is a renowned carver of the region


Cook also says, “Ko te tūmanako a tona wa ka kite he kanohi Māori, he toa Māori e mau ana i ngā taonga nei.”


The goal is to include more aspects of the Māori culture into the competition in the years to come with Budge saying, “I think gradually we're trying to do a little bit more whether it’s a haka pōwhiri on the court, whether it's some of the blessings that we do beforehand. I think really trying to integrate our New Zealand way into the tournament is something really cool and as they say, it is unique and I think it provides a different talking point for these guys.”


The finals will be held tomorrow and there we will see who takes the taiaha as theirs.