NRL: Calls for commentators to 'do better' with Māori pronunciation after All Stars Game

Long-time broadcaster Hemana Waaka is calling out sports channels to "do better", and stop "bastardising" Māori and other indigenous languages.

NRL player also say it's time to start pronoucning their names correctly.

The NRL All Stars Games at Rotorua were watched by millions across the world, and shown by broadcasters internationally and at home, but getting commentators, particularly the Aussie ones, to properly pronounce the names of Māori players is still an uphill battle.

Zahara Temara carries the ball for Māori  All Stars
Zahara Temara carries the ball for Māori All Stars. Photo credit: Photosport

Māori All Stars co-captain Joseph Tapine says it's hugely upsetting that more effort isn't made to get his and other players' names right.

"Those little things that people gloss over are really huge for our culture and that’s across the board - Island nations, Māori nations and Indigenous - so I think that’s huge part of the game."

At least 50 percent of NRL players identify as indigenous. 

Despite playing in her fifth year of the NRL All Stars fixture, Zahara Temara says she’s never had her name pronounced correctly.

"My mum hates it," she said. "She hates it when she hears my name wrong.

"Our name carries a lot and I don’t think a lot of people understand that, so getting more awareness..."

While Te Reo Māori is in its 35th year as one of New Zealand’s official languages, Waaka says it's time for it to be better represented.

"You are bastardising our language by not pronouncing our names properly," he said. "One word out of place is a breach, and another word that you don’t pronounce or say properly, it's downgrading that mana of that individual."

Māori broadcaster Hemana Waaka
Māori broadcaster Hemana Waaka. Photo credit: Photosport

He'd also like to see more Māori commentators. 

While Newshub understands the NRL provides phonetic listings of players' names to broadcasters, we approached networks to ask whether they'll make more of an effort to get indigenous names right, but none have responded.

While some broadcasters have lifted their game, it’s clear a lot more remains to be done.

For the first time this year, Sky Sport NZ included live Te Reo commentary on top of their English commentary for the NRL All Stars games.

It's understood that this Te Reo commentary was recorded remotely from Auckland rather than at the broadcast in Rotorua.

Waaka says he questions the decision behind excluding the Te Reo commentators from the rest of the Sky commentators and the broadcast in Rotorua.