Major League Rugby start-up Kanaloa Hawaii were unveiled to much fanfare in recent weeks, a group of former All Blacks that includes Joe Rokocoko and Jerome Kaino heading up the club which hopes to feature in the 2021 American league season.

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However, the new club’s emergence has provoked some scepticism locally in Hawaii, with State Senator Glenn Wakai claiming the revelation that the club will be operational on the islands in time for next year’s campaign is premature.

His doubts are borne from how the new club will need to agree on a number of partnerships in order for them to play locally.

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Speaking in an interview on the hawaiinewsnow.com website, Wakai said: “They had mentioned in their announcement four relationships: one with the Hawaii Tourism Authority who have never heard of them; the Stadium Authority, never talked to them; the University of Hawaii which denied them their practice facilities; and for Hawaiian Airlines they said they had a sponsorship agreement. Hawaiian Airlines has no sponsorship agreement with these folks.

“They have got less than a year to put this together. The fact that they haven’t actually contacted the Stadium Authority is very concerning to me,” added Wakai.

Ex-New Zealand team players Anthony Tuitavake, Ben Atiga, Kaino, Rokocoko and John Afoa all clubbed together with friends and business associates Matt Atiga, Tracy Atiga and Cam Kilgourn with the aim of setting up the first Maori and Polynesian owned and operated professional rugby club in the world.

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The new set-up is also targeting a spot in the revamped Super Rugby tournament.

In a launch letter, club CEO Tracy Atiga wrote: “By taking on the responsibility of a club, the owners can provide direct solutions to challenges that Maori and Pasifika players face in the rugby industry.” 

“The owners have pledged to lead through a Polynesian village ethos based on servant leadership principles that are guided by the organisation’s values of faith and family. 

“The ownership team is excited to have secured a spot in the MLR and have already set their sights on making a bid to participate in the Oceania based Super Rugby competition and other global competitions moving forward.

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“Kanaloa Hawaii Rugby wishes to acknowledge and express sincere gratitude to the MLR, Hawaii Rugby Union, and various local organisations that have offered support and partnership opportunities to get the venture off the ground.”

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