Mitch Karpik’s first tour with the New Zealand Māori All Blacks squad is off to a good start, following a 59–22 win over the USA on Saturday. The Waikato student will continue the tour throughout South America, taking on Brazil in Sao Paulo this week.
This is the first time Mitch has been selected to tour with the Māori All Blacks, and says he feels really honoured to be part of the series.
“It’s a great opportunity to connect with the other boys and put my best foot forward on the rugby field,” Mitch says. “To put on the black jersey with a silver fern is really rewarding.”
The conjoint Business and Law student only discovered his Māori heritage very recently, after deciding to investigate where his family came from. He knew about his Polish ancestry on his father’s side, but wasn’t aware of his connections to the iwi Rongowhakaata and Ngāti Kahungunu.
“I’ve always been interested in where I came from and it’s been pretty special getting to know who I represent,” Mitch says. “I am on the start of my cultural journey and looking forward to discovering more about te ao Māori and my whakapapa.”
Mitch has been playing rugby since he was five, and grew up dreaming of becoming a professional player. He credits the University of Waikato Chiefs Super Rugby Scholarship for allowing him to balance both sport and study.
“I’ve been lucky enough to receive the scholarship for the past two years,” Mitch says. “The partnership between both the Chiefs and Waikato University has always been very strong. It’s made my dream of being a professional rugby-playing student a reality.”
The flanker plays for the Chiefs in the Super Rugby Competition and the Bay of Plenty in the Mitre 10 Cup, all while studying his conjoint degree fulltime.
“We train most days and play games on the weekend, so usually I’m not able to attend my lectures and tutorials,” Mitch says. “But I’ve had really supportive tutors and lecturers, and I have a lot of support from Greg O’Carroll, the University’s high performance sport manager. Study is a good way to keep the mind ticking over while the body gets a rest.”
After recovering from Saturday’s game, the team will head to Sao Paulo, Brazil and then Santiago, Chile.
“It’s my first time visiting these countries, so I’m hoping we have enough down time to get some study done – and sneak in a bit of sightseeing while we’re at it!”