A new report says a global boom in Pacific Island recruits to professional sports is providing a platform for economic growth in their home countries.
Researchers say the world’s two million Polynesians have become a hot commodity for sports ranging from American football to rugby to sumo wrestling.
Co-author Peter Horton from James Cook University has told Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat both codes of rugby has led the way for Pacific recruits.
“Looking at this whole realm of Pacific Islanders now becoming one of the major forces in rugby is indicative,” he said.
“Fifty per cent of all junior players, if not more, in West Sydney of Pacific Island descent, not necessarily migrant, but second or third generation even.
“In New Zealand, in their provincial rugby – both Maori and the Islanders are together are something like 17 per cent, if not less, of the playing group of the population…[but] they product 50 per cent of the Super Rugby players that play in New Zealand teams.”
Around 50 Pacific Islanders, including Pittsburgh Steelers star Troy Polamalu, who is of Samoan descent, play in the NFL, while Tongans also have a strong tradition in competing in sumo in Japan.
Pacific Islanders also figure as a strong presence in the French and British rugby competitions.