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“They’re just showing off their muscles” – Judging the uso of Game of Bros with Aunty Henga

Madeleine Chapman and her Aunty Henga assess the skills, builds, and tattoos in Game of Bros, a reality quest for the ultimate Polynesian warrior.

Game of Bros premiered last night on Māori television after much anticipation and illegal advertising. The show seeks to find the ultimate island warrior, pitting twelve men against each other in various traditional tasks. The show’s hosts are Pani and Pani (these are comedic nicknames) and my mum’s real name is Pani. It’s great stuff all round.

I sat down to watch the premiere with my Aunty Henga, a born, bred, and proud Samoan woman who my mum thought was a boy until she was 12 just because she was so strong. Aunty Henga could beat all 12 of the contestants with her hands tied. During the first challenge which required heavy lifting, she looked at all the shirtless men and sighed, “they’re just showing off their muscles.”

Filmed in Auckland, Game of Bros did their best to make it look like an overgrown patch of grass was actually somewhere in the islands. It reminded me of family reunions where we would take over a public park and watch my great aunty Tu’utu’u dominate in all the games.

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It’s hard to beat Aunty Tu’utu’u running in striped socks, but here are all of the contestants vying to win the Game of Bros.

1) Jordan – Māori / Samoan / Tongan

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The day that Jordan is eliminated will be a day of mourning in our household. As he puts it, he is the most “well-rounded” of the contestants (read: no abs) and has a classic island sense of humour. I use that vague term because he clearly couldn’t decide on an ethnicity and just went with “all of the above.”

2) Iosefa – Tuhoe / Samoa

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After winning the spear throwing challenge, Iosefa and Michael had the advantage of choosing their opponents for the next challenge. Michael chose strategically and Iosefa chose “the rest of them.” That’s the sort of confidence that could win you a protein powder hamper. And win he did, taking out the day’s top prize basket of hot sauce, underwear, and protein powder.

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3) Selwyn – Ngāpuhi

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Selwyn is Aunty Henga’s favourite because he listed his strengths as “cleaning skills” and “tidiness skills.”

He also gets bonus points for wearing a Bulldogs hat throughout the show. Producers of the show get points deducted for giving such an ugly hat so much screen time.

4) Michael – Tonga

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Michael was very impressive, winning the first two challenges and establishing himself as a strong contender for the title. Unfortunately he revealed his one weakness when he struggled to finish the saying “Game, set…”

5) Paul – Samoa

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He may have been eliminated, but Paul stole the show with his 10 second inspirational exit speech. Aunty Henga loved his fight against obesity among Pacific Islanders but lamented that “now he’s too big the other way.”

6) Thierry – Samoa

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By far the whitest guy in the group, Thierry even had fresh chest sunburn in his solo shots. This suggests that he is not one to stroll around shirtless every weekend (i.e. he is white).

7) Zephaniah – Niue

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Zephaniah kept a low profile throughout the first day. His only two verbal contributions were to refer to the other guys as “butterflies.” This is an insult that I have never heard before, but would love to hear again. I asked Aunty Henga what she thought of his tattoos and she “tsk”ed for a solid minute.

8) Louis – Tonga

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Louis took a page from both my mum and Aunty Henga’s book by using the key terms “physically, mentally and emotionally.” While he was using it in a positive context, my family matriarchs have only ever used it when talking about how much their kids are wearing them down.

9) James – Te Whānau-ā-Apanui

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James rocked into frame with a questionable haircut, said “I’m the man” directly into the camera then disappeared for the rest of the show. He’ll be back next week though, so maybe he was right.

10) Yanique – Ngāti Tamaterā, Samoa

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One of three eliminated on the first day, Yanique was definitely one of a kind in that he was the only one to hit himself in the head during the spear throwing challenge. Get outta here with your crazy name before I’m forced to make another obvious pun.

11) Elia Antonio – Samoa

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Easily the weakest of the bunch, Elia struggled to put logs in a straight line on the ground. Searching for an excuse for the Samoan lad, I asked Aunty Henga if she had ever used such a technique for transporting goods. She replied “No, we used our backs.”

12) Ramon Betham – Samoa

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Despite maintaining his place in the competition, Ramon comes last this week because Aunty Henga said so. “Look at his quote. ‘Serve, Love, Give, Purify, Meditate, Realise’? He will come last.” He also wore a Ludus Magnus gym singlet in all his interview shots, so he is automatically disqualified.

As the credits rolled, I turned to Aunty Henga and asked if she had any final thoughts on the premiere. She turned to me and, without a hint of irony, asked “What is the point of this show?”

Who knows. Who cares. We’ll be tuning in next week.


Game of Bros airs Thursdays 8pm on Māori Television

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