As Te Waka Huia claimed prize after prize at Te Kahu o Te Amorangi Te Matatini 2017, Te Kapa Haka o Whāngārā Mai Tawhiti kaitataki tane Derek Lardelli thought it was an appropriate result.
“I was watching my cousins Tapeta and Pimia (Wehi) collecting trophies one after another and I thought to myself ‘very fitting for a wonderful, wonderful team’,” he says.
“Their display on the first day was absolutely outstanding.”
Assuming – along with many in the crowd – that Te Waka Huia were on their way to a clean sweep, Derek decided to text his wife.
“Whilst I was texting her they called out the names so I wasn’t sure, all I knew was that Waka Huia had come second. When I heard Whāngārā I had to do a double take. We’d won nothing, and that was cool because it was wonderful just watching the togetherness on stage.”
When he realised his rōpū had taken out the coveted Duncan McIntyre trophy, one of the first things Derek did was to embrace the Wehi whānau and he acknowledged the influence of the late Dr Ngāpo Wehi and Te Waka Huia on kapa haka.
“I’m very close to the Wehi whānau, we’re related,” he says.
Whāngārā performed first on day two of Te Matatini and Derek says that put extra pressure on the rōpū but it was something they were prepared for.
“We strategised well, knowing we were going on first and knowing it wasn’t going to be easy. Going in first is always a difficult spot but we thought if we could get a place in the final and all be in the same paddock, then we’ve got a chance.”
Whāngārā got that chance and despite being the lowest scoring team to qualify for the final nine, they knew it was a new game.
“In the finals all the points have been removed so it’s a clean slate, but it’s a huge battle because of the teams we were against. Te Mātārae i Ōrehu are always a good team and a hard team to keep up with, then you’ve got the likes of Iti Kahurangi who are outstanding. Whāngārā, we worked hard, but all the rōpū worked hard.”
It was the second title Whāngārā have claimed, after their first win in 2007.