Empowering Voices from the Past: The Playing Experiences of Retired Pasifika Rugby League Athletes in Australia

Publication Type:
Journal Article
International Journal of the History of Sport, 2019, 36 (12), pp. 1096 - 1114
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© 2019, © 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This research explores the lived experiences of 10 retired Pasifika (Pacific Islander and Māori) rugby league players who migrated to Australia after 1969. The careers of these Pacific Islander and Māori rugby league players were shaped by their migration experience, hopes for upward socio-economic mobility, the influence of familial motivations and journeys of personal growth amidst challenges and obstacles surrounding Pasifika cultural identity. In responding to leading Pacific scholar Epeli Hau'ofa's call for greater ‘Pacific empowerment’ both economically and geographically, this paper asserts that there is much to be (re)learned about Australian rugby league history by giving primacy to the voices of Pasifika pioneers. This research aims to help empower past, and to a lesser extent, rethink present, Pasifika voices in sport-related labour migration, and sport career experiences in rugby league. Mapping their experiences through Pasifika methodology, ‘talanoa’ (to converse or exchange ideas) and through the lens of a ‘cultural insider’, also allows better understanding of the cultural contexts of Pasifika players, their communities and their clubs. The findings from this paper are intended to fill the gap created by absent and much needed Pasifika sporting voices and perspectives in Australian sporting histories.
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