November 27, 2021

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Why Aussie rugby stars' names have 'changed'

3 min read
Rugby isn't just looking different on Nine and Stan Sport this season – it's sounding...

Rugby isn't just looking different on Nine and Stan Sport this season – it's sounding different too.

That's because the commentary team is collaborating with Australia's players and placing more emphasis on nailing the pronunciation of Pasifika names.

In particular, rugby fans may have noticed the Super Rugby callers pronouncing the names of Wallabies stars Marika Koroibete, Noah Lolesio and Matt To'omua differently.

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Nine/Stan commentator Sean Maloney said the changes had happened after simply asking the players how they wanted their names to be said.

"I was with Marika in preseason and I said to him, mate, say your surname for me," Maloney said.

"And he says it and I'm like alright, we're going to need to make this shift in line with how he's just said it. So we stuck solid on that, despite getting a fair bit of grief."

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Maloney said the reaction to the new pronunciations had been overwhelmingly positive, albeit with the odd exception.

"Most of the ticks and the thumbs up came from Fiji. I know a bunch of people in that part of the world from all the sevens stuff and I used to get murdered if I ever got a name wrong in sevens, and rightfully so. So that was met with ticks all the way around.

https://twitter.com/StanSportAU/status/1387528813798563842?s=20

"I think we're on the right track. A few people hit me up via direct message on Twitter and Instagram saying you're getting the names wrong, d—head comments on highlight packages, you can't even pronounce the names right. So you've got to roll through the punches on that front and just stick solid with it."

Brumbies five-eighth Lolesio, meanwhile, has asked for his surname to be pronounced 'Law-le-see-oo.'

Noah Lolesio

And so Maloney and his fellow commentators have obliged, despite that conflicting with the phonetics of Lolesio's teammate Scott Sio.

"That's how he wants it and we're committed to that," Maloney said.

"Whereas Scotty Sio is not Scotty 'see-oo', it's Scotty Sio, he just wants it as ocker as can be. So there's no hard and fast rule because whatever they want, we go with it, basically. As long as they're happy then everyone else should be as well.

"It's very collaborative between individual players and commentators now.

"There's a respect and understanding from a commentary perspective that these guys are emptying their tanks out there and the least we can do is pronounce their names the way they want them pronounced. That's the least we can do for them."

Maloney said Moana Leilua – the Rugby Union Players' Association wellbeing and development manager – had also been a key figure in getting the names right.

https://twitter.com/RugbyOnNine/status/1386120227730112512?s=20

Rebels playmaker To'omua has been on an interesting journey with his name as he discovers more about the Samoan side of his heritage.

To'omua, who father Ieru is Samoan and mother Karen is a white New Zealander, wrote about how his real family name was actually Papali'i in a fascinating piece for Athlete's Voice in 2018.

He has also added an apostrophe to what used to read 'Toomua' while he has asked commentators to pronounce it as 'Toh-o-moo-ah.'

"I'm told that his dad was particularly happy with that," Maloney said.

"If we're keeping them happy then that's all that really matters."

Maloney was the first to admit that the commentary team wouldn't always get things 100 per cent right.

"We're all learning and having a crack. Sometimes it might glitch a little or the record might skip but everyone's intentions are very much in the right place."

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