The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) team will debut a new haka when it competes in the 2017 Invictus Games in Toronto this week.
The Invictus Games is the only international adaptive sporting event for wounded, injured and ill active duty and veteran service members.
This year’s event will be the largest yet, with 550 ill and injured servicemen and women from 17 allied nations – including 24 from the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) – competing in 12 adaptive sporting events.
NZDF Invictus Games team manager David Pilgrim said a lot of planning and discussion had gone into creating a haka for the team.
“The willingness of the NZDF cultural advisors and Māori community to help was amazing, and we all agreed it was the athletes who must have a say in the words and actions, because it was to be theirs,” he said.
The Invictus haka has been especially written for the NZDF team, with the inspiration coming from the Invictus poem written by William Ernest Henley in the late 19th century.
“Ngā Mātātoa (Unconquered) just says it all, and it is an honest description of the athletes who have had their passion reignited by being a member of the Invictus team. It tells their story,” Mr Pilgrim said.
New Zealand Army Chaplain Major Darren O’Callaghan, an NZDF Invictus Games team member, wrote the haka and said it was a real privilege.
“I had never written a haka before, but I thought it would be good coming from someone on the Invictus journey. I got some help from our cultural advisors, NZDF and Army,” Major O’Callaghan said.
“The whole team has embraced the haka, which shows us sharing our identity as Kiwis. It is also a unique opportunity we and our families have in representing our country and the Defence Force and shows who we are and our values.
“The haka is very special to me, and my hope is that it can be used by anyone on their own Invictus journey.”
The NZDF team is sponsored by the Auckland RSA, Christchurch Memorial RSA, Fulton Hogan, BLK and Offlimits Trust.