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Tasman Rugby respectfully drops 's' from Mako team name

After 11 years of playing as the Makos, Tasman Rugby Union announced this week it will correct its team name to Tasman Mako.

TRU chief executive Tony Lewis said dropping the letter 's' from the previous brand was a "respectful acknowledgement of the correct use of the Māori name for the magnificent taonga and team emblem". 

Same team, hold the s. Our Mitre 10 Cup representative team will now be known as the Tasman Mako, in keeping with ...

Same team, hold the s. Our Mitre 10 Cup representative team will now be known as the Tasman Mako, in keeping with correct Māori pronunication.

"At the end of the day we've got to show responsibility for what we do in this business – we're working with iwi on a number of fronts and they pointed out to us that one of the disconnects that we had as a union was that there is no 's' in the Māori alphabet," he said.

"Obviously that was source of embarrassment for them and a source of concern – when we reviewed all the documents on how the 's' ended up on there it became clear we as a union and as a board had to make sure we respected the Māori language."

Lewis said the subsequent name change had the full support of TRU stakeholders – including the board, staff, Mako players including recent Māori All Blacks, team management and major sponsors.

"To a person everyone has agreed that we must look at fixing this wrong," Lewis said.

Mana Whenua spokesman Barney Thomas said the correction, while a small change on paper, was an important one from a Māori perspective.

"I do a lot of travelling and a lot people I know have chipped me for a number of years, because the 's' is on the word mako," he said.

"I know that all the iwi within Te Tau Ihu are all very supportive of the action – I've just come out of a board meeting where I told the board and they were overjoyed."

Thomas said specific discussions between the eight top of the south iwi and the TRU regarding the name change had taken place over the last 18 months.

It followed some earlier consultation in 2005 which Thomas said had gone unheeded.

"When they were first launching the Tasman Rugby Union, I was contacted and I said 'look, you shouldn't put the 's' on there', but they decided to in the end."

More than a decade later, Thomas was pleased with the manner in which the TRU had gone about about remedying the issue.

"It's always better to talk to the issue rather than argue and I think that TRU have been very supportive of the request.

"Now they've taken it off which is very pleasing for many Māori-speaking people within Te Tau Ihu but also throughout New Zealand because they realise that it's not appropriate."

Lewis said any changes to merchandise or signage would be introduced subtly in the months ahead but would not extend beyond the name itself.

"In time as we progress, the 's' will come off the majority of our gear, but we're not going to spend $300,000 tomorrow buying new gear," he said.

Lewis said about 30 per cent of Mako players identified as Māori which had made the name change all the more necessary.

Tasman Mako head coach, Leon MacDonald, a NZ Māori representative between 1998 and 2005, and a former All Black of Rangitāne descent, welcomed the change.

"We pride ourselves as a team that respects our community, and we acknowledge the proud contribution of Māori to our game in Marlborough, Nelson Bays and Te Tau Ihu," he said.

"For us, we simply see it as the right thing to do in using the Māori language correctly."