Fri, Dec 15, 2023 9:49 AM

League Navigators showing the way


Peter Jones

Rugby league is navigating a bold new path in Marlborough.

After many years with little or no league activity in the region the Marlborough Navigators, a community-initiated sporting organisation established in Blenheim by Nav Pasifika Marlborough, have reinvigorated the sport at grassroots level.

In mid-November, the Marlborough Navigators crew headed down to Christchurch for the annual South Island Pacific Series rugby league tournament. Fifty-two Navigators youngsters were involved - along with a team of supervising parents, coaches and managers.

Charlie Tikotikoca, one of the main drivers of the organisation, said the Navigators were formed “to keep our youth occupied, physically fit and socially engaged”.

“Using sports as a vehicle to mentor our youth with life skills, we envisage a generation of young men and women equipped with self-confidence, positivity and initiative. Hence the decision to play rugby league. Something most are not familiar with and will have to adapt to.”

This is the second outing for the Navigators, having initially participated in last year’s tournament, which was “a baptism of fire”, according to Charlie.

“This year saw our contingent turn up with a purpose and a mission to showcase our talent. We managed to field under-12, under-14 and under-16 teams, who showed a lot of talent, heart and determination to come away with a few wins across the three grades.

“The trip was entirely self-funded through the hard work of our kids with their sponsorship fundraiser.” Charlie also acknowledged sponsors, Woodbourne Tavern, Marlborough Glass, Marlborough Security, MTF Finance, E & E Vineyard Contractors, The Barber’s Chair, Dodson’s, Pak n Save, plus RNZAF base Woodbourne Pasifika Group for their resources and professional support.

Although the trip south involved plenty of work and organisation, Charlie says the group plan to raise the bar in 2024.

“We intend to fill in the gaps in our sporting calendar starting with a Tag module this summer, the Pasifika 7s in February, Marlborough Youth 7s in March and back to rugby league after the rugby season next September.

“Our mission is to create more interest among our youth and to use these platforms to expose and promote the talent we have in the region. We never know who’s watching.”

There has already been some interest in Marlborough players from those in higher places. Vilikesa Nawaqavonovono represented the New Zealand Fijians U15s league team at the NZ Warriors-organised Pasifika Youth Cup, Sam and Josh Vularika were selected to represent the New Zealand Fijians U16s at the Moana Pasifika 7s while Jairus Tikotikoca helping his Renwick school team become the first Marlborough school to win the Simon Mannering Cup (Tasman primary schools rugby league tournament) in Nelson where he was named player of the tournament.

“We hope that our communities can come together and support this initiative, which will give our kids an opportunity to establish themselves, especially when sport is also a career nowadays,” added Charlie.

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