COVID-19 hits sport: Codes unite for Super Saturday 'Vaxathon' to keep NZ healthy

Sporting codes have been doing their bit to help ramp up New Zealand's vaccination efforts during the Super Saturday 'Vaxathon'.

Mandating vaccines is an issue that's already transcended sport, with several high-profile athletes actively discouraging the jab.

In South Auckland, rival sporting codes are united for a common cause, with Papatoetoe Rugby and Otara Rugby League clubs joining forces to help tackle COVID-19, and they had some high profile support. 

'We've been living the last two years with COVID-19 and we've finally got a possible solution," NZ rugby league legend Honey Hireme-Smiler tells Newshub. 

Former NZ Warriors captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck was also on hand to share the importance of not sidestepping the jab.

With Maori and Pasifika vaccination rates still low, sport hopes to be a driving force to boost numbers. 

"If we can really push those positive messages, and even if it means us going along and picking up people, or whatever it might be to take them to get vaccinated, sometimes it's just that support role," Hireme-Smiler says.

For All Blacks lock Patrick Tuipulotu, it's a simple message. 

"It's quite easy to fall into the trap of conspiracy theories about vaccinations and what it's done in the past, but we've got to believe the facts," Tuipulotu tells Newshub. 

That's already proved beyond some. NZ Breakers released Tai Webster, because he refused to get the vaccine, meaning he couldn't play in Australia, while the NBA's Brooklyn Nets have sidelined superstar Kyrie Irving for the same reason. 

Tuipulotu feels athletes have a responsibility to their communities to set a positive example. 

"You've got to think of the other side - how can I affect other people, if I don't?" Tuipulotu says. "We've seen the facts, we've seen the science."

To help, some teams are upping the incentives - the Chiefs and Canterbury rugby teams are rewarding those getting vaccinated with free match tickets.

For Fijian winger Manasa Mataele, the cause is close to his heart. 

"I haven't been home in two years, so the better it is, the earlier I can get home," Mataele says. 

Sports around the country are doing their part to keep the team of five million healthy.