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Posted on Jan 25 2018 by Bobbie Kelly

Northampton Saints players teach patients the haka

Ken Pisi and Ahsee Tuala are used to leading the Saints’ dressing room victory songs, but recently they brought their talents to St Andrew’s Healthcare, Northampton.

The Samoan duo, both crowd favourites at Franklin’s Gardens, visited our adolescent unit after training and taught patients a traditional Māori haka – the war dance performed by the New Zealand rugby team before every international match.

St Andrew’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service, based in FitzRoy House, is designed for boys and girls aged 13 to 18 with complex mental disorders, such as severe emotional and behavioural difficulties, intellectual disabilities, mental illness and autistic spectrum disorders.

And with an ever-increasing focus on issues surrounding mental health in rugby, Pisi was thrilled to be able to visit patients and talk to them about the importance of spiritual alongside physical wellbeing.

“Meeting all of the patients at St Andrew’s was a real pleasure for Ahsee and I,” said the 28-year-old winger, who has been capped 13 times by Samoa. “It’s certainly eye-opening to come down here and see first-hand some of the issues that they are dealing with on a daily basis – this is an incredibly brave and strong group.

“I’m glad we could come and share some of our experiences with them as professional rugby players, and everyone seemed to really enjoy seeing a Haka up close and learning about our culture.”

Tuala, 28, added: “Mental health awareness is more important than ever before, both inside rugby and off the field as well.

“It was great to meet some of the patients at St Andrew’s and teach them a Haka – we usually perform the Siva Tau with Samoa but we taught a Kapa o Pango which is traditionally performed by the All Blacks.”

Feedback from the young people was incredibly positive, with many who previously had not shown much interest in sport now hoping for more rugby-based sessions going forwards.

Nick Rayment, Physiotherapist at St Andrew's, said: “We’d like to express our thanks to Ken, Ahsee and everyone at the Saints for making this experience possible for the young people.

“To have that level of community outreach is just fantastic and this really made their day. It was a privilege to see a Haka so close, I could really feel how intense it must be to face one on the pitch. The positive impact on the young people was incredible.”

The visit got the thumbs-up from the people in our care, with feedback including: “I really enjoyed it, please come back soon”, “the Haka was really good! Now we've seen a real one!” and “rugby is so cool, can’t wait to start playing touch rugby in my sessions.”

St Andrew’s Healthcare is passionate about encouraging patients to be more active, and get involved in sports and exercise. More information about one of our current research projects is available here.

For more information on Northampton Saints, including upcoming fixtures, please visit their website by clicking here.