New Zealand Sevens star Joe Webber of Ngāti Ranginui and Tainui, has hung up his boots for a year to chase another dream, learning the Māori language.
Webber first started for the All Black Sevens in 2011, winning silver at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.
Now he has enrolled in Te Tohu Paetahi at The University of Waikato, where he fulfills a dream that his koroua had for him.
“There were three things he wanted me to do. One was to make the All Blacks, the second is to move back to our papakāinga and three was to learn the reo.”
Joe Webber’s reo Māori journey kicks off.
But convincing New Zealand rugby and sevens coach Clarke Laidlaw to let him take a year off from rugby?
“I had to beg the coach actually. After the last Olympics, we were talking about my contract through to the next Olympics and I expressed to him how much it will mean to me and my family and how much I really wanted to do this.”
“It’s all over the TV now. It’s everywhere you see. Everyone’s just so keen to reconnect. But I think it’s hard for rugby players to commit to courses to learn.”
While Webber hasn’t accomplished the three goals his koroua had for him, he has represented the Māori All Blacks and moved on to his papakāinga in Tauranga and, with a young family immersed in te reo, it was now or never.
“Our baby is at kohanga reo and another two kids at rūmaki at Bethlehem Primary and my partner is a kaiako at Te Wharekura o Mauao. So if I didn’t learn it now, bro, I’m gonna get left behind.”
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