Keeping the Faith: The story behind the NZ Warriors’ Cook Islands drummers
Rain or shine, win or lose, one consistent presence at every NZ Warriors' home game since 1996 has been the uplifting beats of a group of hardy Pacific drummers. The Māngere-based musicians are part of Drums of the Pacific, but its founder Jacob Samson says getting the gig came as a complete surprise.
“The Warriors said they were going to do some auditions for the drumming and there were 30-something groups from all over New Zealand, but they were only picking one.
“We were shocked that we got the job - so praise God."
The NZ Warriors are currently third on the NRL table, enjoying a historic season thanks to a resurgent Shaun Johnson and their inspirational rookie head coach Andrew Webster. Samson says the group have loved performing at Mt Smart Stadium, now named Go Media Stadium, for the last thirty years, despite enduring some horrific storms and witnessing some equally horrific losses in front of almost empty stands. “It’s good to see the boys doing so well now and we remember well the last two times they made the finals,” he says, reminiscing about when the team made their famous runs to the NRL grand final in 2002 and 2011.
“We’ve played through rain, cold and whether they win or lose, we’ve been there.
“But we are there to support the boys, because this is the only team we have in the NRL so we should be proud as New Zealanders to have them.”
One sign of their success is seeing other NRL clubs adding their own Cook Island drum groups. “It goes to show that having the drums really inspires players, and it doesn’t really matter if you’re Pacific, Kiwi or Aussie, the drums are a calling to the players to say ‘come on guys, step up and go hard’.”
Cook Islands Language Week is a particularly busy time for the group, which also includes a contingent of dancers, and Samson says it’s special to be able to share their culture with so many.
“I started this group as I could see so many kids with nothing to do, just hanging around and so I formed this group - to really help a lot of kids.
“And the good thing is we’ve become really multicultural as we have members from all the islands.
"We also have over 11 million views on our social media platforms.
“It’s really about showing the world the unique things about our culture.”
Follow the Drums of Pacific facebook page for more information.