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All Stars reconnecting Mato to 'lost' Maori culture

Shannon Mato is constantly learning about her cultural heritage.

Born in Whangārei and growing up in Wellington, the dual-code forward moved to Australia in 2011, but with this, inadvertently lost her connection to her Maori customs and traditions.

However, with thanks to the All Stars initiative, the Gold Coast Titans new recruit has been able to reimmerse herself with her Kiwi culture, and is what the 23-year-old values most about wearing the Maori jersey.

"I know moving from New Zealand in 2011 to come to Australia, it’s been a bit different. I guess I’ve lost a bit of my culture side, but when I go back to All Stars, I feel like I regain that," Mato said.

"It always brings me back and wants me to learn about my culture and I always find out more about my culture when I play in the All Stars, because I go back to my mum and ask her all these question,  and I guess it kind of just refreshes me individually.

"It really allows me to connect with my culture. I actually learn a lot every time I go back and knowing where I’m from and who I am and being a proud Maori."

New Titans recruit Shannon Mato has enjoyed her time with the Titans so far.
New Titans recruit Shannon Mato has enjoyed her time with the Titans so far.

Debuting for her homeland in last year's clash in Townsville, the honour was a different feeling to other representative matches for the Origin forward, who compared the atmosphere and emotion to that of being back at home.

"It was a really surreal moment... it’s just a different feeling," Mato said.

"I’ve played for a few representative teams and putting on that jersey and winning it, I felt like I was back at home and it was just an amazing feeling getting that win.

"It’s honestly by far the best jersey I’ve ever played in and to get the honour to wear it again, it’s a huge privilege for me, so I’m pretty happy about that."

Preparing to enter her second All Stars campaign this week, the front rower is most looking forward to the cultural immersion element of the camp, with footy not the primary focus when her Maori teammates assemble in Sydney.

Mato debuted for the Maori All Stars in 2021.
Mato debuted for the Maori All Stars in 2021.

"It feels pretty chilled with the footy side of things, but it really focusses on reconnecting with your culture and knowing who you are where you came from as a Maori person," Mato said.

"Footy-wise, it's more about getting to know each other and feeling comfortable. It’s ok if you don’t know much about your culture, because that’s what everyone is there for.

"Everyone helping each other out and identifying who we are."

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Acknowledgement of Country

Gold Coast Titans proudly acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we are situated, the Kombumerri families of the Yugambeh Language Region. We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging, and recognise their continuing connections to the lands, waters and their extended communities throughout South East Queensland.