Nicholas Thompson-Eyre: Kaitākoro Ki-o-Rahi

I used to like to hide in the shadows. I got bullied quite badly at intermediate school, so when I got to college I didn’t want to put myself out there. In P.E. I just hung back, even though I was pretty good at sports.

But then one day, Whāea goes to me “come and play Kīorahi”.

I said, “nah.” But she goes “hurry up and get on the field!”

I found the rules a bit confusing at first, but with some training, I picked it up. When I was in year 10, we went to Nationals. That was pretty cool. In the final I got taken out by this girl, she just hit me out of nowhere! Kī-o-rahi is an equal sport like that. It’s brutal, and fast.

One year, I did a presentation at a National hui for kī-o-rahi. I talked about how the game has shaped me as a person. It’s not just the game itself, but the team aspect. I found myself becoming more confident in the group first, and then that confidence started to come out on the field.

If I hadn’t been introduced to kī-o-rahi, I would probably still be the same introverted person who doesn’t talk to anyone, just keeps everything bottled up inside. Kī-o-rahi smashed down all the doors and barriers I had built up within myself. These days I help Whāea out coaching and mentoring the juniors, and I’m a ref as well.

Sometimes, I think kī-o-rahi is pretty much the only reason I stayed at school til year 13. I’m the first one in my family to stay at school this long. This week is my last week of school and I’m gutted. I’m not sure what I’m going to do next year. Probably get a job and then move to Auckland. I want to go to University.

I wish I could keep playing kī-o-rahi. When I have kids, kī-o-rahi is the first game I’m going to teach them.