Islander camp helps quiet achievers find their voice

Leadership role … Lote Tuqiri says young Pacific Islander players often suffer in silence because they are taught not to question authority. [Newcastle Star]

They possess physiques that can dent brutal defensive lines and rattle opponents with crunching tackles, but the NRL has also acknowledged the need to empower its growing number of Pacific Islander players with a voice.

This week 35 senior players and a handful of team officials, all of Pacific Islander heritage, will participate in a three-day NRL leadership camp. They'll learn how to help young players of similar backgrounds cope with aspects of the code that conflict with their culture - such as questioning club leaders.

It's expected the attendees, dual international Lote Tuqiri included, will appreciate the need to occasionally act as the liaison between the young, shy players and their club's coach or chief executive.

A similar camp was held for players from the bush last year and the organiser, Nigel Vagana, a former Kiwi international of Samoan extraction, hoped this one would be equally as successful.

He appreciates the significance of it. Statistics show 30 per cent of first-graders are of a Pacific Islander background as are 34 per cent of the NRL's under 20 competition players.

''Those numbers represent a large percentage of a particular workforce,'' he said. ''Ultimately you want a happy workforce and this camp can help achieve that.''


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