Hilda & Laura Mariu - NRL Women's - AthletesVoice
Hilda & Laura Mariu - NRL Women's - AthletesVoice

NRL Women's

Sacred acts & footy

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Sacred acts & footy


HILDA: I’m a strong, Indigenous Māori woman.


Yet at the time I met my beautiful wife, Laura Mariu, I didn’t really believe in myself in that way. I didn’t see what Laura saw.


We’ve been together for six years now and we married this year. Last month, I was ready for the next part of my journey.


I was ready to get my moko kauae – a traditional Māori facial tattoo on my chin.


In the old days, you used to receive your moko kauae when you got your menstrual cycle; it’s like the beginning of your womanhood.


It represents my whakapapa (genealogy). It’s an acknowledgement of who I am: a proud Māori woman.


It was an honour to go back to my homeland in the far north of New Zealand to receive it. To my iwi (tribe), Te Aupõuri.


It’s almost like when someone has a birthday. All your family gather around you and they celebrate the day. They sing Māori songs and dance while you’re lying on the table getting it done. The lady who tattooed my chin, Anikaaro Harawira, is my cousin, a well-respected ta moko tattooist of the far north.


You go on a spiritual journey as you lay there. I felt no pain and afterwards when I sat up, I felt complete.


I know there’s been a lot of talk that I’m the first NRL league player to have it done, but it wasn’t about that at all. In my personal journey, the time was right.


I told some of the Warriors players about my moko kauae. I was nervous, because I didn’t know if the girls would accept it, or say, ‘What is that on your chin?’ Yet when I walked in with it, their reaction was amazing.


They really embraced it and I was very grateful. They understood.


Most people have. The rugby league community, and the general public in New Zealand and Australia. They’ve been awesome.


I find a lot of people are inspired by it. They stare but, if anything, they give me a lovely compliment or say ‘kia ora‘, as they may think that’s the appropriate way to address me.


Sometimes I think about the expectations of family, of my iwi, in wearing a sacred symbol of our heritage. But I’ve come to a place in my life where I know who I am. I walk around with pride.



LAURA: I was all for Hilda getting her moko kauae. I could see her with it anyway, before it was ever under her skin. It made complete sense to me.


When she wanted to discuss it, I knew she was ready. It’s a big step for her and it’s a part of her journey which I fully support. I never thought, ‘What’s she going to look like with that?’


A lot of us had tears of joy, once she had received it. When she sat up from the table, I was blown away. Beauty: that was all I could think. Even more beautiful than before. I could feel the wairua (spirit) in that very instant.


I was so proud. It was one of those precious moments you’ll never forget.


When Hilda wears her moko kauae, she not only represents who she is as an individual, she represents many people. Her family. Her iwi. Māori women in general, Mana Wahine: the strength of a woman.


Posted by Laura N Hilda Mariu on Saturday, 8 September 2018




HILDA: I met Laura properly in 2012 – after we ‘met’ on the field four years earlier!


Unlike my younger sisters, Rona, Waana and Kahurangi, and my brother, Reihana, I didn’t play league when I was young. I played netball, touch footy, tag; I didn’t play league until I was 19.


My dad, Alwyn, was a rugby league player, then a coach. When my sisters and I were old enough to play in a women’s competition, we played one year for another club and then dad said, ‘Now youse are all playing, why don’t you come with me and I’ll be the coach?’


He formed a women’s team, Papakura Sea Eagles, out near where we live. My mum, Georgina, was the manager and us four sisters played.


The first time I encountered Laura, she was playing for another local team, Richmond. We were in semi-finals against each other.


I was in a tackle where Laura was hitting it up – then I got off the ground and shoved her! She gave me this evil look, turned around to me and said, ‘Run it straight.’


I was like, ‘Oh, hell no! I’m not that stupid, I’m not running at you!’ I gave her a cheeky smile – so she kept lining me up!


But after all that banter, we shook hands after the game, looked at each other and burst out laughing.


Our next encounter was when Rona, who was a good friend of Laura from the Kiwis, called her when we needed players for Papakura. We met properly, and we had chemistry.


Dad loved diving and he’d get seafood quite a bit. He’d get crayfish, paua (abalone) and kina (sea urchin). He’d get seafood to share with the team, and Laura was in heaven. I don’t know many people who love seafood, so it was one of the first things that caught my eye about her – ‘Wow, this chick loves seafood. That’s so awesome!’


That’s how we started off.


Posted by Laura N Hilda Mariu on Saturday, 18 August 2018



LAURA: I thought Hilda was a’ight!


I always thought she was a beautiful girl and the more I got to know her, she was such a strong Māori woman, so proud of who she is. That was the main attraction.


She thought I was quite funny! I’d always make her laugh. It blossomed from that point.


I was in gay relationships from a very young age. Yet I struggled. I hadn’t accepted myself as being gay for many years.


I was quite secretive. Then in other relationships, I’d be protecting my partner, because they weren’t honest or upfront with their family. It went in that cycle.


It’s sad to say but I think most young gay people go through that.


To be honest, it wasn’t until I met Hilda that I was able to accept my sexuality and who I was as an individual.


She was very out there and affectionate in public, and I just wasn’t used to it at all. Simple things, like holding hands in front of people, or having a hug in public. I was always like, ‘No, no! What are you doing?’, or I’d pull away.


You go home, away from everybody, and show your love or express yourself behind closed doors. That’s how it was and, unfortunately, I spent many years being like that.


I was hiding away my true self for 20-plus years. That sounds so depressing, ha ha! Then I met Hilda and she changed my life.


I’m very expressive privately with Hilda, and I believe that’s a part of me that she loves. But at first, definitely not in front of people.


In time, she taught me the confidence to act in that way. To realise that I had to accept myself. Once I’d done that, nothing else mattered. It was like a smokebomb; everything else was gone.


I was hiding away my true self for 20-plus years. That sounds so depressing, ha ha! Then I met Hilda and she changed my life.


I haven’t had any bad experiences with my whanau (family), or Māori in general. I find that they’re more accepting of gay people than some Pacific communities, and I only say that because I’ve seen it and experienced it earlier on in my life.


Not everyone is going to accept it, but I haven’t had any negative comments – to my face, at least. I am at peace with my life.


We are normal. We don’t segregate ourselves and only hang out with gay people. We have so many heterosexual friends; we love hanging out together and they treat us the same. There is no real difference in their eyes. It’s about respect and if you respect others then you’ll receive that respect in return.


I believe Hilda and I have taught a lot of people who sat on the fence with how they felt about gay people. Whatever you feel about homosexuality, you don’t have to judge us. You don’t have to dislike us as people.


So many people think they don’t like a certain type – until they put a friendly human face to it.


Posted by Laura N Hilda Mariu on Saturday, 18 August 2018



HILDA: I’m a bit different to Laura.


I came from a heterosexual relationship and I have two children, Stephon and Temepara. My attitude was that it feels the same. It’s two people, and you’re in love. I refuse to be judged for that.


Laura looked after my heart. Straightaway, I believed that she was my soulmate. I guess that’s why I was always so expressive.


I was yearning for something like that. I was comfortable in my own skin, and with our relationship. If other people didn’t like it, that was their problem.


I was very upfront with my parents. I told them that I was happy, the kids were happy, and that’s all that really mattered. Mum and dad were fine with that.


People were shocked that I was gay, but I was happy and in love. It just happened that the person I was in love with was a woman. To me, that didn’t really matter.


The rugby league scene has always been comfortable for us. They’ve accepted who we are. The wider community we’re around, too.


We’re just us. Normal. That’s the way it should be.


As long as I stay true to who I am, I have nothing to prove to anybody else.


Posted by Laura N Hilda Mariu on Wednesday, 27 June 2018




LAURA: We got married on March 3 this year.


I was nervous that morning. I think I had a few shots beforehand! I had my cousins, my brother, my best mate and my uncle in my bridal line; all boys, so they did the normal things that guys do before a wedding.


I was at police college in Wellington at the time, travelling back every weekend. Hilda was having to do a lot of organising. It was stressful for both of us. I had exams the week leading up to the wedding day.


My iwi, Ngati Tuwharetoa, is from the middle of the North Island surrounding Lake Taupo-Nui-A-Tia. We had our wedding ceremony next to the lake and our reception at my marae (meeting place), ‘Waitetoko’.


It was a really big thing to have the wedding on my marae. It was scary to ask if they’d accept a gay couple. It doesn’t happen every day; I guess iwi and hapu are gradually coming to accept that.


Thankfully, our family accepted us and what we wanted to do on our land. They made our dream come true. I was very proud to bring Hilda to my home and have our families and friends witness our marriage on my part of New Zealand.


It was a really big thing to have the wedding on my marae. It was scary to ask if they’d accept a gay couple. It doesn’t happen every day; I guess iwi and hapu are gradually coming to accept that.


Hilda also took my family name – and I didn’t force her too!


It was such a beautiful day, everything we ever wanted but more. It was truly magical.


The bridesmaids came down the aisle and then, there she was with her dad looking stunning as ever. My eyes were fixated on her in that very moment. I was blown away and thinking WOW!!


I always wanted her to have her fairytale wedding cause she deserved it and to finally see her walk down the aisle is something that will be embedded in my mind and heart for the rest of my life.


My dad, Barry Mariu, passed away two years ago. Our cemetery (urupa) is just across the road from where we were married. Dad was near me, and I felt his presence. It was an emotional time for me.


I was so close to my dad and before he passed, he was quite sick. Hilda played a huge part in looking after him and supporting me.


I know he was watching over our marriage.


Posted by Laura N Hilda Mariu on Thursday, 8 March 2018



HILDA: I got this beautiful dress from Australia – it had to be beautiful, with what it cost! Laura wore a suit.


I remember worrying that the weather wasn’t going to hold up. I was a bit stressed.


I knew that my bridesmaids were thinking I was going to be a real bridezilla, but they were actually surprised – I was probably calmer than anybody. Laura was probably more stressed than me!


At times, I was just overwhelmed by the love that was around me. As I felt the stress, I said to myself, ‘Whatever happens today is meant to be. Nothing’s ever perfect. Just go with it.’


I relaxed and the day felt beautiful.


I came from a heterosexual relationship and I have two children. My attitude was that it feels the same. It’s two people, and you’re in love. I refuse to be judged for that.


Family and friends told us that our wedding was filled with so much love, to the extent that we almost taught people about love again. It made people feel love in their hearts.


As we were leaving the house to go to the ceremony, it was almost like I was about to play in a massive league game. You’re incredibly nervous but equally excited. I felt like, ‘Wow, it’s like I’m going out to have a game of league and the game’s going to last a lifetime.’


I couldn’t stop smiling, though I was worried about everyone staring at me, so I just focused on walking down the aisle. I looked at Laura. She started crying. She’s more the ‘guy’ one out of both of us, but she’s also the most emotional!


Those moments are stuck in my head. They will be forever. I can see Laura right now.


When I saw her standing there waiting to marry me, there were no more nerves. I was just filled with love and happiness.







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