‘I would have loved to dance’: Mark Ella on why Australia should have its own ‘Haka’

Sporting legend Mark Ella has weighed into the debate about whether Australian rugby teams should perform a traditional dance before international matches.

New Zealand’s haka has become a trademark of its All Blacks rugby union team and the New Zealand rugby league team on sporting grounds around the world.

Talk has reignited over whether Australia should embrace its own war cry.

On Friday, the Indigenous All Stars rugby league team will perform a dance before kick-off in the annual match against the World All Stars at the McDonald-Jones Stadium in Newcastle.

And there are moves to have the dance adopted by the Kangaroos at this year’s rugby league World Cup.

Ella, considered one of the all-time greats in world rugby union and executive producer for sport at Indigenous broadcaster NITV, said he would like to see an Indigenous dance performed at international level — provided it was the right dance.

He said he was interested to see what the Indigenous All Stars had come up with.

“What we have to do as an Indigenous nation is come up with something representative of all Australian Indigenous culture,” he said. “That is the hardest part.

“There’s no reason why we cannot have something like the haka, but we’ve got to get the right type of ceremony that is approved by everybody.

“Unlike New Zealanders, the Maori population, they have one united population where we have hundreds of different groups who have different approaches.”

Ella said he would have liked to have performed an Indigenous dance during his playing career before he retired in 1984.

“In rugby, more than anything, I was the odd one out,” he said. “Apart from dancing in the showers, there wasn’t really much influence I could do.

“I would have loved to, but rugby was a bit snobbier.

“No, I will rephrase that – rugby is still snobby.”

Kangaroos star Greg Inglis will lead the dance at Friday night’s match and is among those hoping it will be adopted by the national rugby league team.

Meanwhile, Ella said Friday night’s matches between the Indigenous All Stars women’s and men’s teams and the World All Star women’s and men’s teams would be hard fought.

“I’d like to think we’ve got the wood on them, but it’s very competitive and it’s the first game of the year and everybody wants to impress everybody,” he said.


The girls are killing it


Ella said women’s sports were presently “going through the roof”.

“The AFL started off and got record crowds, now the women’s Big Bash in terms of cricket is rating really well.

“In rugby terms the women’s seven obviously won the Olympics, so to say that women’s sport was on a high would be an understatement,” he said.

“I think in their performances they are eclipsing the men. Some would say our women’s teams right across the board are performing much better than some of our men’s teams that seem to be struggling at the moment.”

Ella said NITV audiences spike when women’s rugby league matches are broadcast.

“Women’s sport has been around for a long time, but it’s been in the shadows of men’s sport, but the skills of the girls in all the sports is really strong and now they are getting an opportunity in front of live audiences to prove their worth — and they are delivering,” he said.

  • NITV will broadcast the women’s Indigenous All Stars and the women’s World All Stars clash live on Friday from 5:30pm to 7pm AEDT. The Koori Murray interstate challenge and the Koori Murray under 16s interstate challenge, will be replayed on February 19 from 2pm.

Wendy Caccetta

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