MANILA, PHILIPPINES — The love for rugby in New Zealand isn’t one that’s defined by stats or results. Rather, it’s defined by the exhilaration that the sport guarantees, especially when a match has one of those rare, breathtaking moments. These moments are the ones that you can’t miss; after all, they will happen against the backdrop of players’ cheers and the deafening roars of the crowd.
For Rugby World Cup 2021, the Mastercard Player of the Match trophy is designed to capture the spirit of the sport through sound. Each of the first-ever sonic trophies features a “Sonic track” that immortalizes the live sounds of the match. A powerful speaker can be found at the base from which the Player of the Match’s highlights will be played.
Most importantly, this trophy has a Māori twist that honors the indigenous people of New Zealand. In fact, the idea to capture the game through sound came from the idea of celebrating the female voice, specifically that of a kaikaranga, or the Māori’s ceremonial caller.
“Our culture is so rich and so beautiful, and we have so many awesome things about us that I really wanted to share,” said Māori designer Nichola Te Kiri, who helped design the trophy. Elaborating on the other cultural elements incorporated into the trophy, she added, “the influence was the kaikaranga, or the ceremonial caller, and more specifically the kākahu or traditional cloak that we wear. We’ve not only got elements on the outside of the trophy, but it’s the korero or the sound coming out from it.”
At the top of the trophy, you can also find a tāniko design. This decorative woven pattern represents the 12 teams competing in the tournament. There are also elements of each team with the traditional niho taniwha (triangles in the center of the diamond shape) and kaokao (chevrons) patterns at the center. Meanwhile, representing the two teams battling it out for each match are the diamond pieces that can be found on either side of the trophy.
To honor Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland) and Whangarei, which is where the tournament takes place, tāniko around the base of the trophy represents the surrounding whenua (land) and maunga (mountains) of the area.
There is also an homage to whatu, the traditional technique of twining, done in a contemporary context through the structured yet simple weave that can be found on the trophy.
Nichola mentioned that the trophy design took months to conceptualize and finalize, and it seems like all that time and attention to detail paid off. Through this combination of sonic innovation to capture the raw emotions of every game and cultural elements that embody the power, grace, and courage, it was the perfect way to capture what rugby is truly about and to celebrate the exceptional player of each match who will be taking the trophy home.
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