Australian Warrior Blake Ayshford says, “It’s always something you want to do as a family. It was an appreciation of my wife’s culture." Photo/Supplied.
Blake Ayshford had a special reason to enjoy the NRL indigenous round this weekend at Mt Smart Stadium after embracing his wife’s Māori heritage for a family photo.
The second rower, who played in the Warriors’ reserve grade side’s 20-6 win over the Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles on Saturday afternoon, says that while his wife Maria Hahipene always wanted something like this, he was a bit nervous.
“We’ve got three lovely kids and I wasn’t going to jump in at first, to be honest. But I was sat down and had what I’d be wearing and what I’d be doing explained as if I was to come to their land. I’m glad I took the photo now.”
“It’s always something you want to do as a family. It was an appreciation of my wife’s culture, it was big," he says. “I don’t know the proper words for things, but it was all very traditional. I got a couple of history lessons along the way.”
The embracing of a culture, an incredibly powerful expression of aroha. Aysh, who is Australian, standing alongside his whanau, celebrating their identity as Māori. ❤️😭— Vodafone Warriors (@NZWarriors) May 24, 2019
Today we celebrate #NRLIndigenousRound at our whare 👉 https://t.co/8YVyHVffjd pic.twitter.com/8APiv4qXkC
Ayshford says that doing this was something he never thought he’d do while he was growing up in Sydney.
“I thought I’d stay in Botany my whole life. Coming over here has been good for our family, I think we’ll end up staying in New Zealand.”
While he’s played four seasons for the Warriors now, and he has a hint of a Kiwi accent creeping in, Ayshford says it’s a step too far to consider himself a New Zealander.
“I’m always Australian, through and through. I love this country though, it’s helped me raise the kids in a fun lifestyle. It’s always good to get down to see the wife’s family, down the line on the East Coast.”
Ayshford is a strong supporter of the NRL indigenous round, which has seen teams wear themed jerseys and honour the indigenous players and culture involved in rugby league.
“It’s a great round. We celebrate the Aboriginal culture and over here the Māori culture and I think it’s something we need and should support a lot more. It’s very important that everyone gets more socially aware.”