Air Seychelles Mike Ballard Foundation Conquistadors name experienced team to travel to Madagascar for goodwill mission

Manager Mike Ballard and coaches Winston Cowie and Ed Lewsey are pleased to announce a very experienced rugby team to travel to Madagascar in July to play the Madagascan national side, the Makis, as part of a goodwill mission.

The Air Seychelles Mike Ballard Foundation Conquistadors and the Madagascan Makis, who are ranked No.41 in the world, will play an exhibition match at the Madagascan National Stadium on Sunday 3 July 2016, following a Junior 7s rugby curtain-raising tournament.

The mission includes donating wheelchairs to charities in the Seychelles and Madagascar, and also donating junior rugby clothing and boots and coaching junior rugby in Madagascar.

Team naming:

The Air Seychelles Mike Ballard Foundation Conquistadors team, to play Madagascar, includes:


Graham Murphy (UAE International, Abu Dhabi Harlequins).

Tom Nolan (Qatar International, Doha RFC).

Chris Jones Griffiths (UAE International, Abu Dhabi Harlequins).

Harry Seward (Abu Dhabi Harlequins).

Adam Telford (UAE International, Jebal Ali Dragons).

Aaron Palmer (Qatar International, Manawatu NPC, Doha RFC).

Conor Coakley (Dubai Hurricanes).

Brendan Rawlings (Exeter Chiefs, Dubai Hurricanes).

Winston Cowie (Oxford University Blue, Doha RFC).

Wade Quinn (Qatar International, Bahrain RFC).

Jamie Clarke (UAE International, Doha RFC).

Stephen Ferguson (Dubai Exiles).


Ed Lewsey (UAE International, Exeter Chiefs, Abu Dhabi Harlequins).

Luke Stevenson (Abu Dhabi Harlequins).

Sam Priest (Doha RFC).

Sam Wilson (Bahrain RFC).

Adam Wallace (Bahrain RFC).

Sean Carey (Dubai Hurricanes).

Steve Hamilton (England Counties, Abu Dhabi Saracens).

Mike Pugliese (Abu Dhabi Saracens).

Tom Calnan (UAE Rugby and Rugby League International, Abu Dhabi Harlequins).

Caleb Anderson (Dubai Sharks).


Mike Ballard (Abu Dhabi Harlequins).

Charles Etchells (Medic, Manchester University).

Air Seychelles Mike Ballard Foundation Conquistadors 2016

Air Seychelles Mike Ballard Foundation Conquistadors Team Details

The team consists of players from three of the Arabian Gulf countries – Bahrain, UAE, and Qatar.

Players have been selected from eight of the Arabian Gulf Clubs – Abu Dhabi Harlequins, Abu Dhabi Saracens, Bahrain RFC, Doha RFC, Dubai Exiles, Dubai Hurricanes, Dubai Sharks, and Jebal Ali Dragons.

Seven are from the Abu Dhabi Harlequins (Mike Ballard’s Club); five from Doha RFC; three each Bahrain RFC and the Dubai Hurricanes; two from Abu Dhabi Saracens, and one each from Dubai Exiles, Dubai Sharks, and Jebal Ali Dragons.

The team boasts 9 internationals including the two most capped UAE players of all time – props Chris Jones-Griffiths and Graham Murphy.

It consists of two former UAE Player of the Year nominees –Mike Ballard and Stephen Ferguson (who  was voted the UAE Premiership player of the year for the championship winning Dubai Exiles in 2016); and two former Exeter Chiefs professional players – No.9 Ed Lewsey and rampaging loose forward, Brendan Rawlings.

Eight squad members have captained their club sides – Aaron Palmer, Winston Cowie, Jamie Clarke (Doha RFC); Ed Lewsey (Abu Dhabi Harlequins); Adam Wallace and Sam Wilson (Bahrain RFC); Conor Coakley (Dubai Hurricanes); and Steve Hamilton (Abu Dhabi Saracens).

The playing team includes four coaches – Winston Cowie (former Keble College (Oxford University), Abu Dhabi Harlequins Assistant and Conquistadors Coach); Ed Lewsey (Abu Dhabi Harlequins Assistant, British School of Al Khubairat and Conquistadors); Aaron Palmer (Doha RFC and Qatar National Team Coach); and Steve Hamilton (Abu Dhabi Saracens Coach).

Both Palmer and Cowie, who played together at Doha between 2008 and 2012, have won the Arabian Gulf Premiership coaching clubs since – Cowie with the Abu Dhabi Harlequins in 2014 (unbeaten) and Palmer with Doha RFC in 2015, with Palmer also winning the West Asian Club Championship with Doha in 2012 and the inaugural Champion’s League this year. Palmer, a former Manawatu NPC player, is also the Qatar international side coach having won an impressive eight out of nine internationals with the side, including recently the West Asia Division III Championship.

The Conquistadors have players with rugby pedigree across the park.

The forward pack is gnarled with experience. Up front there is experience galore with over 50 tests for the UAE between Chris Jones-Griffiths and Graham Murphy; and the recently capped Tom Nolan (Doha RFC), who impressively debuted for Qatar with a meat pie; locks including the experienced Aaron Palmer (Manawatu NPC, Doha RFC and Qatar player / coach), Adam Telford (current UAE international hailing from the Jebal Ali Dragons); Conor Coakley (former Doha RFC and Dubai Hurricanes stalwart); and a powerful mix of loose forwards including former Exeter Chiefs pro and now fitness instructor with B2B, Brendan Rawlings, Jamie Clarke (current Doha RFC captain and former UAE international); Wade Quinn (North Queensland’s favourite son, an integral member of the Bahrain RFC pack); and Stephen Ferguson (the UAE premiership’s player of the season. Winston Cowie (Doha RFC top forward try scorer record holder (37 tries in 42 matches), moves back up to a hooking role where he played two Varsity Matches for Oxford University.

The backline is also looking rather sharp, with the inside halve pairing from Abu Dhabi Harlequins, Ed Lewsey and Luke Stevenson; midfielders including the exceptional Stephen Hamilton (former England Counties and current Abu Dhabi Saracens coach) and the big and bludgeoning Adam Wallace (Bahrain RFC); and a back three that includes Bahrain stalwart, and former North Harbour age grade representative, Sam Wilson, Conquistadors top points scorer, Sean Carey; Tom Calnan (the eldest dual rugby and rugby league international); Sam Priest (Doha RFC, Oxford University and Canterbury age grade); former Bahrain RFC and now Dubai Sharks, Caleb Anderson, and the solid and sharp Mike Pugliese (Abu Dhabi Saracens).

With an experienced group of players and coaches, the Air Seychelles Mike Ballard Foundation Conquistadors are already strategizing how best to play the Makis at their intimidating national stadium; how to face their haka; and all in front of a projected home crowd of 35,000 people. It will be fast, furious, and an exciting match. Rugby will be the winner.

Of special note, Guinness Book of Records World Record Holder, Tom Calnan, the eldest dual international to debut in both rugby union and rugby league, will be coming out of retirement for the match.

Madagascar National Rugby Team – The ‘Makis’

Madagascar are currently preparing to play in the 2016 Africa Cup, Division 1B, Group B. In summary, African Cup, Division 1B consists of two groups:

Group A: 3 teams: Tunisia (No. 40), Ivory Coast (No.51) & Botswana (No.63).

Group B: 3 teams: Madagascar (No. 41), Senegal (No.49) & Zambia (No. 81).

The winners of groups A and B will play the Cup final on 16th July. The winner of the Cup final will gain promotion to Division 1A, the Top 4 of African nations, for 2017. The objective of the Madagascar Makis is to win the Africa Cup, Division 1B, and be promoted to Division 1A. Being part of Division 1A will allow the Makis the opportunity to participate in the qualification tournament for the 2019 RWC in Japan.

The match between the Madagascar Makis and the Air Seychelles Mike Ballard Foundation Conquistadors will be perfect preparation for the Makis as they attempt to win the African Cup, Division 1B.

madagascar rugby union

Please get involved!

If you are a school or a club member and want to get involved, please contact the most relevant of our Air Seychelles Mike Ballard Foundation Conquistadors to you.  We would be grateful for your donated junior kit, or for seniors, any rugby kit and boots you no longer need – boots are in a shortage of supply in the Madagascan men’s senior matches. Every bit helps!

Club focal points are as follows:

  • Abu Dhabi Harlequins:

o   Graham Murphy. grmurphy@tcd.iev

o   Edward Lewsey:

  • Abu Dhabi Saracens:

o   Steve Hamilton.

  • Bahrain:

o   Sam Wilson.

  • Doha:

o   Aaron Palmer:

  • Dubai Hurricanes:

o   Andrew Powell:

  • Jebal Ali Dragons:

o   Andrew Carpin:

  • Dubai Exiles:

o   Kristian Stinson:

  • Dubai Sharks:

o   Caleb Anderson:

  General Queries and Media

For general “good will mission” enquiries or media queries, please contact Winston Cowie:

Many thanks to our sponsors!

Air Seychelles Mike Ballard Foundation

Mcgettigens Mike Ballard Conquistadors

Hill International Mike Ballard Foundation Conquistadors

Kukri Mike Ballard Conquistadors

ALEC logoLive Nation Middle East


GoSport QBJ ok


We will keep you posted as the rugby gear comes in from clubs and schools.

13 days to go.



Ghosts from the past. The release of Flames Flicker by Winston Cowie on Amazon Kindle.

King Tāwhiao, Rewi Maniapoto, Titokowaru, Wiremu Tamihana, Te Kooti, Prime Minister Harry Atkinson, Governor George Grey, Captain John Roberts,                        Ranger Gustavus Von Tempsky,  and Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas McDonnell.

Ghosts from the past.

Flames Flicker by Winston CowieThey should all be household names in New Zealand.

Sadly they are not. Today, the majority of people, New Zealanders and those abroad, don’t know who these important New Zealanders were, or what the New Zealand Land Wars of the 1860s were about.

I was in the same boat (until I started writing Flames Flicker on a boat – back in 2006). Like the majority of you, I wasn’t taught the New Zealand Land Wars at school – history was restricted to learning about Tudor-Stewart England and the Treaty of Waitangi.

We have forgotten from whence we came.

Did you know that the warrior-priest, Te Kooti, exiled to the Chatham Islands on suspicion of being a spy, mutinied a supply ship, sailed it back to Poverty Bay, and began the East Cape Uprising? Did you know that simultaneously, on the west coast, Chief Titokowaru and the Ngā Ruahine and Ngāti Ruanui defeated British forces for a second time at Te Ngutu o te Manu in southern Taranaki? British forces were stretched. After successive defeats on both coasts and with few soldiers, after most of the 10,000 strong Imperial force that had been lured to New Zealand by the wily politician George Grey had been recalled to other parts of the Empire, New Zealand was ripe for the taking.

King Tāwhiao and the Waikato Māori held the balance of power. Which of his chiefs would King Tāwhiao listen to? Would the Rewi Maniapoto faction, thirsty for war, win over the support of the King, or would he be swayed by the Christian values extolled by Wiremu Tamihana?

We should all know the answer to these questions, straight off the bat – and in doing so acknowledge and celebrate the lives of the 3000 that died during the New Zealand Land Wars of the 1860s. Ordinary people. Extraordinary New Zealanders. All of them fighting, over 150 years ago now, for what they believed was best for New Zealand.

In this year, 2016, the year of the 152nd anniversary of the end of the Waikato War, my New Zealand Land Wars historical fictions series is dedicated to the memory of these New Zealanders – all of those courageous men and women, both Māori and Pākehā, who helped shape New Zealand in the 1860s.

Reflect on the cover of Flames Flicker, above –  which has been launched as an ebook today. It’s a special cover – get to know these New Zealanders from the past that shaped New Zealand’s history.

The release of Flames Flicker by Winston Cowie.

Just over one year after the successful release of the ebook Greenstone Trail, the first book in the New Zealand Land Wars series (click here), Flames Flicker continues the adventures of Jack O’ Malley and Whero Pouākai as they find themselves thrown into war once again.

But it’s not just any war. The future of New Zealand is at stake.

King Tāwhiao and the Waikato tribes sit in the way of British settlement.

Chief Titokowaru leads an uprising amongst the Taranaki tribes in the west.

The warrior priest,Te Kooti, swoops from the east.

King Tāwiao and the Waikato tribes hold the balance of power.

Jack, with the help of the legendary Gustavus von Tempsky fights to quell the Māori rebellions at all costs.

But Whero Pouākai has other ideas. He has an oath to fulfil to Papatūānuku.

Purchase an ebook copy of Flames Flicker

To booklovers in New Zealand, you can purchase one of the few original hard copies of ‘A Flame Flickers in the Darkness,’ from which the ‘Greenstone Trail’ and ‘Flames Flicker’ ebooks are based, via Fishpond by clicking here.  Great for an Autumn read indoors or on the patio.

A note, you have to be in New Zealand to order a hard copy.

To purchase Flames Flicker on Amazon Kindle, click here.

You can also read it on the iphone or ipad by downloading the Kindle Reader App for free.

Praise for Flames Flicker and the New Zealand Land Wars historical fiction series

The two special reviews below are written by descendants of two of those New Zealanders on the cover of Flames Flicker, that helped shape New Zealand in the 1860s.

“A soul-changing history ignited. A destined shared-future determined. We will not die. E Kore tatou e Mate! This book is part of a destiny foundation legacy, which was foreseen prolifically by old world priests, visionary chiefs, and Māori tribes widely. I was overcome with liberated emotion …. The reader will walk the journey in their skin regardless of ethnicity.”
Kuia Te Rau Oriwa Davis. Ngaruahine. A Grandchild of Chief Titokowaru.

“Winston Cowie is New Zealand’s answer to Wilbur Smith! As the great-great grandson of the one the book’s main characters, I took immense pleasure in seeing New Zealand’s history come to life in A Flame Flickers in the Darkness (now ebooks Greenstone Trail and Flames Flicker). The power and mystique of the indigenous peoples battling the settlers’ rugged determination for a better life. These were men and women of their time, and Winston Cowie captured the period perfectly. The story of the New Zealand Wars is a story worth telling, especially when told as a cracking yarn! My great-great grandfather, John Roberts, a recipient of the New Zealand Cross for his actions in Taranaki, would be proud.” Sam Priest. A Great-Great Grandchild of Captain John Roberts. 

After reading these reviews, I sat back and considered them and ‘Flames Flicker’. It’s time for a change, I thought. At the very least the New Zealand Land Wars should be mandatory learning in New Zealand schools. I had to ask the question – are we ashamed of our history? Do we not want to acknowledge further the lives of the 3000 that died? Ordinary people. Extraordinary New Zealanders.

May 2016 Update –  In May 2016, I had an opinion piece published in the Northern Advocate, entitled ‘Where’s the mana’, which asked these very questions.

'Where's the mana?' by Wisnton Cowie. Northern Advocate. May 2016.

‘Where’s the mana?’ by Winston Cowie. Northern Advocate. May 2016.

The summary is – you would be proud to read and learn about these New Zealanders, of their courage and determination, of their mana and selflessness.

I researched them and wrote about them, and got to know them through writing about them. They deserve better recognition than what they have received to date. The likes of Titokowaru, Rewi Maniapoto and Gustavus Von Tempsky should receive posthumous recognition for their courage during the wars.

We shouldn’t be ashamed of our history. The glass is half full. We should be proud that New Zealand has come through this period of conflict with mana. We should celebrate these people that lived, and showed courage and be proud of successive governments who have honoured the Treaty of Waitangi Act, which has given redress for past injustices.

Unlike many other nations, New Zealand has stepped up, and with the support of most of the population.

Have a read. Learn about New Zealand’s forgotten history and be informed of contemporary issues that arise from it. I would challenge that the likes of King Tawhiao, Governor George Grey, Rewi Maniapoto, Wiremu Tamihana, Te Kooti, Wiremu Kingi, Prime Minister Harry Atkinson, Ranger Gustavus von Tempsky, and Colonel Thomas McDonnell are worthy of a place in your consciousness.

And as an afterthought, perhaps Sir Peter Jackson is interested. It would be incredible to see his interpretation of the forging of New Zealand as a nation on the big screen. Scripts have been written (e.g Flames Flicker: The Battle for New Zealand). :)

It’s time to bring the mana back to this forgotten period in New Zealand history.

That’s my view for what its worth.
Te hei mauri ora.


Winston Cowie

New Zealand Author