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Ngāti Toa Rangatira Women's Hockey Club

1930 –

This essay written by Tania Rei and Nicky Birch was first published in Women Together: a History of Women's Organisations in New Zealand in 1993.

1930 – 1993

Toa, as it became commonly known, was the first hockey club formed in the Porirua area, and competed in the Wellington hockey competitions from the time it was founded in 1930 at Takapūwāhia marae. Before the team was formally established, the young women of Ngāti Toa taught themselves to play by joining their friends training in Johnsonville. Two of the founding members, Wikitōria (Kātene) Whatu and Hautonga (Te Hiko) Love, recalled going down to the bush to find pine branches shaped like hockey sticks.

The founder of Toa and its first coach, Alfie Pene, organised a training regime, then entered the team in the Wellington competitions. Every morning at 6 am, the bell at Takapūwāhia marae would be rung and the women would run up over the hills at the back of the marae and back down to the sea. There were no official playing fields of any kind in Porirua; the team used the front of the marae to practise, until the old people said they were spoiling the lawn. At low tide, they trained on the beach with the rugby players, who formed a team for the women to practise against. Alfie Pene's encouragement and support was reciprocated by the dedication and enthusiasm of the players.

The elders of Ngāti Toa gave the club its name, and chose its colours of red and white. Toa maintained its tribal significance: the players were sisters, cousins, mothers and aunties, the trainers and managers were brothers, cousins, fathers and uncles. The team's struggles were Ngāti Toa's struggles. Toa started in the Depression, when resources were severely limited; yet uniforms were made and fundraising events held to cover registration and travel costs. Every Saturday, players and supporters would crowd into someone's truck for the trip to Wellington. From the 1930s to World War II, Toa's toughest rival was the Porirua Hospital team, composed of nurses and the wives of the hospital attendants.

Hockey club members
Ngāti Toa Rangatira Women’s Hockey Club, winners of the Junior B Championship, 1930. Back: B. Parata, E. Wineera, L. Arthur, A. Pene (coach), P. Wineera, M. Pene, W. Parata. Seated: Mrs Love, E. Martin, K. Wineera (captain), H. Te Hiko, Mrs Wineera (club Captain). Front: W. Kātene, H. Wineera.

The strength of Ngāti Toa was reflected in Toa's determination. In their first season, the team won the junior B championship, in their second they won the junior A, and in their third they made the senior A grade, only to lose the semi-finals to Wellington College Old Girls by one goal. Many new young players were coming through by then, and another team was formed. At that stage most of the original members moved aside for the new generation of Toa players, except for women such as Ehu Martin (later Davis), Francis Warren, and Polly Hippolite, who played alongside their whānau until 1951.

Toa continued to make the championships, and had a steady flow of players achieving the representative teams. By 1944 it was fielding three teams, coached by Joe Solomon and Dodi and Alex Wineera. Players as young as seven were being taught by their older sisters and cousins, and by the age of eleven or twelve were playing at senior level. The older players guided and protected their younger team mates until they were confident. In 1944 Maraea Kātene, then in her early twenties, and Olive Kenny, who was only twelve, were selected for the Wellington Māori Women's Representative Team, to play in the national women's K Cup hockey tournament; Olive was the youngest in the team by ten years. But 1944 also brought losses: both Alfie Pene and Baker Parata, a referee for four years, passed away.

By the 1950s and 1960s, teams were travelling four times a year to tournaments around the country. Once a year the senior team played Ngāti Raukawa for the Raukawa Shield. To raise the money for these trips, the club held weekly stalls. Coaches such as Girlie (Solomon) Hippolite, Olive (Kenny) Arthur, Jane (Kenny) Edwards, Tūtari (Solomon) Salzman, Paul Pōhatu, Peter Edwards, Ōtaki Rōpata, Tai Paewai and others took the club into the early 1970s.

Toa continued to be a community endeavour through the 1970s, although times were changing. Wellington's Māori women's team was no longer playing, and gradually the tournament trips decreased. Other sports such as netball, softball, basketball and rugby became popular, attracting the women and men of Takapūwāhia. At the same time other hockey clubs were forming, such as Tawa. In 1977 playing grounds were at last established in Porirua, at what is now Elsdon Park. That year, Tina Edwards became the last senior A Toa player selected to represent Wellington. The two senior Toa teams survived without coaches from 1977 to 1980, and continued coaching the junior team. In 1980 four of the junior players (Tania Noble, Te Iringa Solomon, Trini Rōpata and Elaine Elisara) were chosen for the Wellington primary schools team to play in the national tournament in Canterbury. Toa had given them the experience of playing in the fifth grade, against women in their early twenties.

Four generations after it was founded, the Toa Hockey Club was still entering its team in the hockey competitions. The determination, self-confidence and pride bred in its members from the outset had been passed on to the new generation of players.

Tania Rei and Nicky Birch

1994 – 2018

In 2018, 88 years after Ngāti Toa Rangatira Women’s Hockey Club was founded, it was still the only hockey club in the Porirua area competing in the Wellington hockey club competitions.

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, the club experienced an era of their junior teams doing extremely well, including winning the Wellington hockey junior grade over a number of years. The strength of Toa was evident in the nature of their play, with high levels of determination being displayed at a young age. This enabled junior players also to play in the Toa senior women’s teams, which meant they were playing alongside their aunties, older sisters, and sometimes even their mothers. Generations of Ngāti Toa continued to flow through the Club, also providing strong hockey teams at Mana College, located in Takapuwahia / Elsdon, which the majority of Toa girls attended.

Toa junior and senior teams continued to travel to games on various grass hockey fields throughout the Wellington region, including Karori Park, Wainuiomata, and Newtown Park. In 1984 Wellington’s first artificial turf hockey field, known as the National Hockey Stadium, was opened in Newtown. The introduction of artificial turfs revolutionised the game, and made epic encounters on muddied grass fields a thing of the past.The game became faster, demanding higher levels of fitness, passing accuracy and skill.

The introduction of artificial surfaces came at the perfect time for the Toa junior teams to be able to change and develop their game. This meant playing as many games as possible on artificial turf to enhance their game, while still practising mid-week on the grass fields at Takapūwāhia.

Toa members continued to enjoy looking after one another and coming together to play hockey. The club was never short of coaches and volunteers, with aunties, cousins, and mothers always willingly offering to take on various roles. Toa continued to grow in numbers, and by the mid-2000s was fielding at least two junior and two senior teams.

During the 1950s and 1960s, the teams had travelled throughout the year to participate in tournaments for the Ruakawa Shield and also the Polly Hippolite Cup. The Cup was an annual event played between Whakatū (Ngāti Koata in Nelson) and Toa, and these clubs would alternate hosting.However, it ceased to be played for around the start of the new millennium. In 2012, after more than ten years without Cup contests, the fixture was reintroduced by Whakatū as the hosts, with the game taking place in Nelson. Toa travelled down with two teams, including an open women’s team and a masters’ team. 

Toa won this fixture on that occasion, and brought the Polly Hippolite Cup back to Porirua. The Cup has since continued to be played for on an annual basis, including a special year in 2015, when Toa celebrated its 85th Jubilee. The iwi was invited to a celebration dinner held at Te Rauparaha Arena – a wonderful night.

In 2018 Ngāti Toa Rangatira Women’s Hockey Club continued to participate in the Premier One grade of the Wellington Club Hockey Competition, and hoped to go on developing its youth in the junior grades. The Club was looking forward to hosting Whakatū for the Polly Hippolite Cup in 2019, and strengthening iwi connections.

Lisa Bishop

Unpublished sources

Birch, Nicky, interviews with Wikitōria Kātene Whatu and kaumātua of Ngāti Toa Rangatira, Takapūwahia, July 1992

Rei, Tania, interviews with Olive and Janey Kenny, Takapūwahia, 1993

Published sources

‘Toa Hockey Club 50 years old’, Kapimana News, 23 September 1980