While Matt Ratana moved to the UK in 1989 and served with the Metropolitan Police for 30 years, he was born in Hawke’s Bay and was of Māori descent. He served in New Zealand with the Auckland City and Counties Manukau police, and the British High Commission Wing. In Matt’s honour, the Foundation has been adamantly supporting charitable organisations in New Zealand who similarly believe in the power of rugby to develop community values and stimulate progress.
New Zealand has one the highest rates of child poverty among rich and developed nations. As of 2021, estimates suggest 21% of children nationwide live in income poverty, while 13% live in material deprivation. The most deprived populations can be found in the country’s northernmost regions such as Auckland and Northland. The Matt Ratana Rugby Foundation has been working with Northland Rugby Union and Rugby For Life(RFL) in their efforts to “enrich the lives of all Northlanders”. This past year has been widely productive as RFL expanded its reach and gained national recognition for their efforts during the pandemic.
On September 14th, Rugby for Life was honoured at the NZ Marketing Awards for the amazing “mahi” and achievements of Take 2 For The Team. The award recognises the immense effort of mobilising Taitokerau Northland communities, saving lives through health education. The program involved the coordination of 224 events and succeeded in the delivery of 11,000+ vaccinations. Moreover, RFL distributed $111,000 to local rugby clubs to ensure they could continue their programmes. The value of this contribution is immeasurable, particularly in the context of decreasing rugby participation rates across New Zealand.
As rates of rugby participation have fallen in NZ, RFL’s Grow The Game campaign has shone, illuminating areas of significant deprivation and highlighting innovative methods for rugby to spur positive change. Grow the Game was an extraordinary success as it helped the Northlands become the only NZ region where rugby participation rates grew. RFL was able to distribute $84,000 back to clubs and create an average growth of 22% in Junior player participation throughout fully engaged clubs.
Significantly, programmes such as Grow the Game also provided young adults with educational pathways around health and well-being, training, and employment. RFL works to position educational pathways for individuals and communities that likely never believed higher education to be an option. Particularly considerable is the 47% increase in female participation, which means not only are more women playing rugby, but they are also gaining access to the educational opportunities provided by RFL.
Rugby For Life is a catalyst for progress throughout New Zealand and the mahi of those involved is inspiring. The charity has built a strong community base and is exploring opportunities for expanding into the UK. RFL is now into its 4th year and is beginning to see real generational impact. With help from a strong network in the UK, the next phase is to push forward and position RFL as a stable and sustainable charity model. RFL continues to adobt Rugby as a critical force for good and at The Matt Ratana Rugby Foundation we are honoured to support this cause as our own.