(solemn music) – So here’s a lady from
those courts at Te Koutu, beat all the top women
players in New Zealand with no formal coaching and next thing on a plane to Wimbledon competing and beating most of the world’s best. And coulda been world famous
as Venus and Serena Williams. But in our little nation here, sadly she hadn’t got those accolades. – When I was born, my kuia named me. ko Ruia Mereana She said that’s from the
Parable of the Sower, everything that’s been
happening meaningfully in my life, has followed that, that journey, of sowing, of sowing
the seeds of my talent, to the world. – She was like a
ballerina on the court, I used to watch her and think God. – She was just a beautiful
stroke-maker, effortless. Had the best backhand
and the best forehand and the best volley, best
overhead, she had everything. – Oh she was like, she was like the men, she was just a natural, yeah. – We were blessed to witness this graceful Māori tennis player. – Anybody born in Koutu was born with a racket in their hand. And we spent most of our childhood following our parents from Marae to Marae. – There were courts
right around the lakes, it was Māori lawn tennis was
very strong in those days. – Ruia came from that volley board that was
erected in their backyard by her father. Pin-pointing marks on the
board where to hit the ball to. Just whatever her father
Waki said was God. – I think he saw more in her, than what he did, we were, we were just, well we were just normal. But he could see her potential. We couldn’t see that. – Daddy put me in the juniors, and I said, how many matches do I play? Well, you’ll get three, three, if you win you get to play four, if you win again you may get five. And I said, but I want to play and I want to be on the court all day. Never had a clue, you know, really. And that’s all I did. Was to go to one court
to another, playing, because I kept winning, you see. – Ruia dominated all Maori tournaments and she played straight into Cara Bowl and beat everyone in Auckland and then of course carried on and eventually won six New
Zealand Singles Titles. But New Zealand weren’t
going to pick her up. No way at all. I don’t know what their
thinking would have been like, but how this little Maori girl
going to fit in to our team? – That’s me there, Anne Malcolm, now if her and
I had played tennis together we would have conquered the world. But that is John Waititi, a visionary, a man so humble. He was the one who saw
my potential with Dad. – He said, this girl has
got to go overseas and play. We’ve got to get her to Wimbledon. And then he found a way of fundraising. First he went and asked all
the Māori bands in New Zealand at that time to come to a concert at the Auckland Town Hall, for free. – She looked absolutely marvelous, in Mum’s kākahu she wore. Mum’s kākahu? – Oh. – She wore it at the, that night, yeah. – And they got the Māori
community behind them and they raised that 2,000 odd pounds and in those days enough to send her for two, three, four times. – We were so ecstatic about it, our little girl going
all the way to Wimbledon. And the first Māori to go
and represent her race. It was marvelous. – Oh, I don’t want to
go, I don’t want to go, why would I – I want to stay
home, I don’t want to go away, you’ve got to go, that’s – that’s where all the best
tennis players in the world go and compete against each
other, in the whole world. – And of course, the story goes you know that
she arrives at Wimbledon to compete against the best in the world. (fanfare) – I remember how beautiful
the building was, because of the ivy, the green ivy hanging over everything. I was fascinated with the grass. Boy, I thought, this is it. This was it. God, reminded me of the farm too. Playing on the grass was just heaven. – She turned 21 in Wimbledon, remember? – Oh I don’t. – She went on her own. – Yeah I don’t remember that. – Yep. – I was well schooled up too, just focus on what I want to do and it’s to get on the court and play. It was normal for me not
to take notice of a crowd. They’re not going to win
the games for you, are they? – So here’s a lady, from
those courts at Te Koutu, that went and won a junior
Maori tennis tournament, won the tournaments at Government Gardens, Inter Marae tennis, came to Auckland, beat all
the top players in Auckland, beat all tie top woman
players in New Zealand, competing and beating
most of the world’s best. – It was in the paper, that I
got into the quarter finals, I thought it was the round
before the quarter finals but apparently according to
Wimbledon and everybody else, it was the quarter finals. – We did ask her one time, with
all your achievements, Ruia, when you were away, were
you ever seeded or ranked? Because in those days you
had no computer rankings and no seedings. But she said, I was sort
of graded if you’d like, in the top 10 in the world. The headlines in the papers in London was Ruia visualised as one
of the world’s best only if she would stay on after
Wimbledon and do the circuits. But she wanted to get home
to mummy and daddy and kuia her whakamā (humility) you know You know, she missed home. And that’s what our people are like. – Once she came home, it
was about settling back into our normal Māori community lifestyle. (laughs) – This is modern, I don’t
know how to play with these but it’s nice, a nice weight. Nice weight. (ball sounds) – I played a lot of the
good, good top players, which is good and I lost. But just to play against them
was something really good. (ball sounds) Certainly makes you itchy to get going. – She definitely put
a stamp and put Māori, Māori in general on the
map of world tennis. Everyone knows who she is and if you don’t know who she is then you mustn’t have been around
tennis for, for very long. So in our world she’s
definitely number one. – When New Zealand
Tennis had its centenary and invited her good friend
to attend, Fred Perry, famous. he arrived in Wellington and was thankful of the do
and the beautiful set up he said, oh where is Ruia Morrison? – They were celebrating
it and I wasn’t invited but I never, I didn’t even know it was on. – But that humble lady
never questioned it. Took it on her shoulders
and just moved on. – We had to, and not others,
acknowledge this lady. – It is really sad to know
that Aunty Ruia hasn’t been recognised within our own country, that people, like she was forgotten. tennis legend. – When we think about it, it’s quite important that she
should be recognised for that, I mean, she deserves to be recognised and I hope she will be recognised. – Maybe we don’t put an
emphasis on our Māori achievers, which we should do. And acknowledge them
more readily in society. And maybe that’s our own
fault here in New Zealand. We’re not doing that. And be proud of our achievers. – And yet, when we went
to Wimbledon back in 2013, a lot of people there just respected her. They just knew you she
was and they – you know, she was not forgotten. You know, she was actually
remembered over there. But she, she’s not worried. She’s not phased about it. I think everyone else gets,
a bit you know, ones like us more hurt about it than herself, you know. ‘Cause she just deserves it, but yeah. Who are we to say? You know – What I love about tennis is just standing on a court. (laughs) Just with a ball and a racket. And, yeah, that’s the
greatest thing, I think. Long as I was on the court, the rest followed.

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Dennis Veasley

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