Jason, who has played professional rugby in New Zealand, Australia, France and Italy, is a member of the Linwood Rugby Club, and the committee’s unofficial Pāsifika cultural advisor.
The club, which is in Christchurch’s eastern suburbs, is one of the oldest in Christchurch, having been established in 1886.
Ensuring everyone feels at home
Despite its proud history, it was obvious the club needed to do more to support its growing number of Pāsifika players.
“What has worked for many in the club for years
doesn’t work for everyone – it’s about recognising that and making everyone
feel at home,” says Jason.
“These days guys want more than just to play rugby
and have drinks after the game. They want to be able to be themselves and not
have to try to be something they’re not to fit in.”
Small, meaningful changes
Jason says changes don’t have to be big to be
“Just having your name pronounced correctly is
massive. As soon as this was pointed out to our coaches and managers they’ve
really made the effort to get it right.
Jason says celebrating the incredible contribution
Pasikfa players have made to the club has also been important.
“As part of celebrating our Pacific success we’ve
framed jerseys of those who have played for Manu Samoa or the All Blacks or the
Sevens team, and these are now the first thing you see you when you walk in the
“Our people are seeing themselves and being
themselves. They’re celebrated for who they are and what they’ve done. We want
it to help inspire current and future players.
A place that feels like home
Jason says the traditional rugby club drinking
culture can be a real turn off for some of our young Pāsifika players.
“Many of the younger players prefer not to drink –
and for some, they want to better prepare themselves for the coming games but it
could be that they’ve got church commitments, or that they feel uncomfortable
drinking in front of other family & community members.
When you ask the young guys what they actually want, we have a great facility for all to be welcomed. So they’d like a place where they’re proud to bring their family – a place that’s fun, non-threatening and feels like home.”
Jason says the club has made a big effort to celebrate
diversity unique Pacific values and customs but their also universal values.
“The great thing is that our non-Pacific players love it when they get to experience the Pacific culture. They love the food, togetherness and energy.”
Leading with empathy
Creating a new, more diverse environment at Linwood is paying off and the communication lines with coaches and athletes are more open.
“In the past, some of our younger players have been really uncomfortable telling the coach if they couldn’t get to practice because of a family or church or work commitment, so they’d tell a teammate who might not turn up either - then there’s the breakdown of communication.
"Now we’re giving young players a voice by having informal forums by sharing food and involving our Pāsifika leaders to facilitate good open conversations. There’s much more understanding about where they’re coming from and how we communicate with each other.”
“Ultimately, we know that if we want to generate good players, we need to keep growing good people. By leading with empathy and understanding we can make our club and community better for everyone.”