Kanaloa Hawaii Rugby Negotiates to Join Major League Rugby in 2021

MLR Release

The League has entered into an exclusive negotiating period and awaits expansion terms to be met from the Kanaloa Hawai’i group.

DALLAS (July 9, 2020) – Major League Rugby (MLR) received an expansion bid from Kanaloa Hawai’i and the initial application for membership has been accepted. The League and the Hawai’i group have now entered into an exclusive negotiating period. Kanaloa Hawai’i now has 90 days to finalize terms and meet the League’s expansion benchmarks before being ratified by a board vote to be formally admitted as an MLR member.

MLR received and reviewed thorough plans presented for a team in the Hawai’i market. The group of professionals developing the opportunity is extremely knowledgeable and experienced. They have developed and presented an in-depth approach that ingrains the rich rugby history in Hawai’i and MLR can confirm that this has the potential to become a strong and unique market within the League.

The exclusive negotiating period now runs for 90 days, during which time Kanaloa Hawai’i must meet the set expansion terms, including the expansion fee. If all terms are met, the team would be formalized and ratified by a board vote and Kanaloa Hawai’i would become the 14th member for the 2021 MLR season.

The disclosure of Kanaloa Hawai’i’s bid and the path to becoming an expansion team represents a new period of increased competition information released from the League. Fans can expect more insight into MLR competition leading into the 2021 season. Stay tuned at MajorLeague.Rugby and @USMLR social channels for further information on team movements, player allocations, and competition developments.

Kanaloa Hawaii Rugby Quest to Join MLR Timeline

Scotty Stevenson @sumostevenson tweeted on May 14th that “A HAWAIIAN team has been given official MLR invitation to join the US rugby comp in 2021. Head Coach: Mick Byrne. Great potential for players throughout the Pacific. Congrats to Cam Kilgour and his team for getting to this position.”

Stevenson then replied to his tweet the following day indicating that “The venture will still have to satisfy MLR Commissioner on certain elements within their set up and structure before official inclusion is confirmed.”

At the time, I was on a phone call with Jack Breen, who is the Community Liaison & Development Advocate for Kanaloa Hawaii Rugby about the team. We then continued our discussion on Facebook Messenger along with Cam Kilgour, General Manager, and Tracy Atiga, CEO, to discuss the team’s conditions for acceptance, a possible unbalanced MLR Conference schedule, as well as other team developments.

The elements that Kanaloa Hawaii Rugby needed to satisfy were largely dealing with not having increased costs for MLR teams due to flights and hotel costs. This was satisfied with an arrangement with Hawaiian Air, as well as arrangements with Hawaiian hotels.

On 1 June Cam Kilgour was interviewed on the Bonus Point by TJ Olsen and more about the team was revealed. Cam was involved with the Austin Gilgronis and the LA Giltinis franchises. When the Colorado Raptors pulled out of the league, a decision was made to pursue an MLR team for 2021. The Hawaii team would likely travel to the East Coast for 3 weeks, training at one place and then traveling to play teams.

The MLR Rant Podcast first shared a podcast about whether Hawaii could host an MLR team.

The MLR Fanzone and the MLR Rant podcast reached out to Cam Kilgour and promoted an interview that was also marketed by Worldwide Rugby Hub that is managed by Tamati Matekino-Louis, Kanaloa Hawaii’s Social Media Manager.

The #MLRFanzone and the #MLRRant interviewed the general manager of the Kanaloa Hawaii Rugby team, Cam Kilgour on Wednesday, July 8th.

The MLR Rant Podcast hosts include Ty Braga, Rob Hammerschmidt, and Scott Ferrara, with the latter focusing on working behind the scenes monitoring questions from viewers.

“The Oahu, Hawaii based team will boast an all-star ownership team (as seen in the video) and coaching staff in the likes of Mick Byrne (Head Coach) and Tamati Ellison (Asst Coach) already confirmed.

The rugby leadership will be headed up by CEO, Tracy Atiga, and Matt Atiga as the Director of high performance and, Joel Byrne as the Director of Strength & Conditioning.”


Tracy would be the first female MLR CEO pending the ratification of the team into MLR in 2021.

Kanaloa Hawaii is the first Maori and Polynesian owned and operated professional rugby club in the world and the story behind the ownership group is one of courage and determination.

For more than 15 years, the club’s ownership team who are based in Europe, New Zealand, and the UK have given back to the wider Maori and Polynesian community through free community rugby clinics and voluntary service to the development of club, provincial and international rugby. This includes coaching clinics delivered in Hawaii, Samoa, Tonga, Cook Islands, Aotearoa (New Zealand), and Tahiti.

By taking on the responsibility of a club; the owners can provide direct solutions to challenges that Maori and Pasifika players face in the rugby industry. The owners have pledged to lead through a Polynesian village ethos based on servant leadership principles that are guided by the organization’s values of faith and family.

Known as the Mercury Group; former All Blacks Anthony Tuitavake, Ben Atiga, Jerome Kaino, Josevata Rokocoko, and John Afoa have once again collaborated with lifelong friends and business associates Matt Atiga, Tracy Atiga and Cam Kilgour to bring this exciting club to fruition.

The ownership team is excited to have secured a spot in the MLR and have already set their sights on making a bid to participate in the Oceania based Super Rugby competition and other global competitions moving forward.

Kanaloa Hawaii Rugby wishes to acknowledge and express sincere gratitude to the MLR, Hawaii Rugby Union, and various local organizations that have offered support and partnership opportunities to get the venture off the ground.

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