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Pacific youth wage rugby battle in Australia

The Pacific Youth Rugby Festival is more than a celebration of winning scores at the final whistle.

Culture almost overrides the tackles, the scrums, the mauls and even the tries.

The fact that the tournament plays out of rugby league heartland in a burgeoning Queensland local government area says something else.

More than 20,000 residents of Pacific diaspora alone live in Logan, squeezed between Brisbane and Gold Coast, making the locality an ideal place to observe what makes Samoan, Tongan, Fijian, Maori and other islander culture great in Australia.

And nothing is greater than a ritual war cry on the soil that the players put their bodies on the line.

The thigh slapping, the arms raising and, sometimes, the spear throwing histrionics instils that pride.

It’s why the privilege of representing the national colours anywhere eastbound of Australia is superseded by honouring that culture.

The Haka, the Siva Tau, the Sipi Tau or the Cibi is practiced in Australia from not only players who once lived on their people’s islands, but even down to cultural roots embedded in generations of their family or, in at least one case, resided briefly in the Pacific.

Surrounded by Samoan teammates, blonde-haired Brock Coombes pops his head up in the middle of the circle to lead the chant.

Brock Coombes war cry
Brock Coombes leads the Samoan Siva Tau war cry for his team. Picture: Supplied

The 14-year-old spent 2019 living in Samoa after his mother Angela Coombes accepted a position for Australian Aid before the pair were forced to leave the next year over growing Covid-19 concerns.

It left a lasting impression on the Aussie kid.

“For the Siva Tau, Brock had to learn that in high school, and he was judged on that – he was given a mark as part of the school curriculum,” Ms Coombes said.

“He also speaks a little bit of Samoan, obviously from learning it in school – I mean, not fluent but enough to get by and play football.”

All day mobile phones in the crowd are pulled out to capture the ceremonial performances of the proud heritage on display to the sounds of loud gasps on the sidelines.

The flags of participating nations flew tall in the wind, the waft from traditional Polynesian dishes led to keeping hungry tribes full but it was rugby that brought thousands in attendance to commemorate everything Pacific, thousands of kilometres from their homelands.

“There was just so many wonderful people there,” Ms Coombes said.

“The sharing of stories and the sharing of information was simply marvellous.”

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Queensland Samoa, Queensland Kiwi and Queensland Barbarians – full of other diaspora that were not represented – showed off a smorgasbord of Pasifika living in the state.

The AU Superstars, made of local rugby union talent, was called up to replace Queensland Tonga that was forced to withdraw following struggles to manage a team during Covid-19 conditions.

Queensland Barbarians that included Tongan-eligible boys won their under-16 and under-14 titles.

Queensland Samoa took out the under-12s and Queensland Kiwis claimed the under-10s.

The under-14 girls were captured by Queensland Samoa.

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