Kiwifruit team looking to reverse result

RSE support day gets added star quality





TRUGBY wo ex-all Blacks will turn out to represent the kiwifruit industry in a game against the Parliamentary rugby team in Te Puke next month. The “home” team will be hoping to avenge last year’s loss to the Parliamentary team in this year’s Zespri sports fundraiser. The game is part of an afternoon of sport and and culture at Murray Salt Stadium on July 8 to support Recognised Seasonal Employers scheme (RSE) workers and their communities. The match will cap a day of rugby and netball games, cultural activities and a charity auction, the proceeds of which will help Pacific communities grappling with the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and associated travel restrictions. Last year the kiwifruit team was beaten in a match to raise funds for the families and victims of 2019’s Whakaari/white Island eruption. The kiwifruit team lineup will include ex-all Blacks, Ma¯ori All Blacks, Crusaders, Chiefs and BOP Steamers veteran Tanerau Latimer and ex-all Blacks, Highlanders, Chiefs, Crusaders and Steamers legend Mike Delany. Also on board will be ex-ma¯ori All Blacks, Japan and Steamers player Steve Milne — who featured in last year’s team — and ex-all Blacks 7s, Steamers and Northland star Matt Clutterbuck. “It’s a social occasion played in really good spirits, but it’s always more fun if you win so we’ve bolstered our line-up a bit this year to try and keep up with theirs,” says Zespri’s head of global public affairs Michael Fox. “Bringing a bit of star power into the lineup should also help generate a bit of interest in what’s a really important cause and we’re hoping to see a good turnout and to raise some funds for those communities.” Local grower and kiwifruit team member Scott St George said RSE workers were a critical part of the industry. “RSE workers are a really important part of our industry. Travel restrictions due to Covid-19 have limited their ability to travel from the Islands which has reduced the earnings they can send back to their communities. “This is a great way to stand by them and show how much we value their contribution to the kiwifruit industry. The Parliamentary team will include MPS Mark Mitchell, Kieran Mcanulty and Simon Watts. Ex-all Black Piri Weepu and his brother, exmanly Sea Eagles player Billy Weepu, will be stars for the Parliamentarians, alongside former Super Rugby, Ma¯ ori All Blacks and New Zealand 7s rep Matua Parkinson. Parliamentary team co-captain Mitchell says the Parliament team was ready for the challenge. “After last year’s victory for the Parliament team we expected the kiwifruit industry to pull its socks up a bit but we’re ready for them again this year and are really happy to support a good cause.” Mcanulty says the matches were always played in good spirits. “While it’s always competitive we’re all there to support our communities and after last year’s fixture we’re really looking forward to the day and the opportunity to support the RSE community.” Fox says the event is part of the industry’s ongoing support for RSE communities. “RSE workers are an incredibly important part of the New Zealand kiwifruit industry. Recently they’ve faced challenges not only from the pandemic, but also events like the Hunga Tonga-hunga Ha’apai volcanic eruption in Tonga. This is a great way for us to bring the whole community together to show our support.” The fundraising day will also feature U-18 girls’ and boys’ rugby matches between Ma¯ori and Pasifika teams, an industry netball v Parliamentary netball team clash, fundraising activities, Pacific music and food, and fun family events. Funds raised will support projects in the home countries of RSE workers through the Kiwifruit Industry Community Support Fund. Curtain-raisers start at 2pm. Entry is free and donations can be made at the event.