“It has lost its mystique”: Is Matt Dawson right about the haka?

The haka: a traditional war dance delivered by native Māori people. A beautiful spectacle; one that always gages anyones attention.

Whether it is delivered by New Zealand’s stars at a World Cup final, or by the Under-20 side in an empty stadium, the spectacle is as gripping, as it is unnerving.

It is therefore somewhat surprising that Matt Dawson has criticised the haka in a recent interview with the BBC; the former scrum-half had the following to say on the tradition:

“It has become commercialised, I remember seeing Jonah Lomu doing the haka with a credit card brand.

15 years ago you wouldn’t really hear the haka at Twickenham; now there’s microphones under the players noses, and it’s belted around the whole stadium

I think Gats [Warren Gatland] is right; it has lost its mystique.”

— Matt Dawson

The comments seem disrespectful to what is a very deep Māori tradition. A call against colonialism; an intense message fighting against social exclusion.

However, to say the haka has become “commercialised” seems fair enough, with brands jumping to align themselves with the war dance at the drop of a hat; Adidas being the first to regularly put their hand up…

But, the tradition still gages every onlookers attention; still delivers the important messages of native Māoris. It’s a call we will regularly see this summer, and you’d be hard pressed to find a spectator who switches off, or gets bored by the dance.

A form of intimidation; a form of communication, and the perfect build up to any rugby match. We just wish the hakas went on for longer.



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