December 13 2023 


In a year of significant growth for rugby league in Aotearoa, historical results were achieved in nationwide domestic competitions, which saw talent emerge across the motu both on and off the field. NZRL would like to congratulate the Domestic Rugby League Award Recipients for 2023. 

The Grassroots Club of the Year was highly contested. NZRL would like to recognise the clubs shortlisted in contention for this award: Dannevirke Tigers (Mid Central), Howick Hornets (Counties Manukau), Manukau Magpies (Counties Manukau), Porirua Vikings (Wellington).  

The Grassroots Club of the Year for 2023 isrecognised for both on-field and off-field achievements, but also for implementing NZRL’s “Kiwi Way” values, carrying out community outreach, growing participation, and showing commitment to the development of rugby league in their respective districts and zones. Congratulations to 2023’s Club of the Year, Mid Central’s Dannevirke Tigers.  

The 2023 Men’s and Women’s Domestic Player of the Year awards go to Ōtāhuhu Leopards and Auckland Vulcans duo Sione Feao and Onjeurlina Leiataua Hunt. 

Sione Feao led the charge for the Ōtāhuhu Leopards throughout their season in the Fox Memorial Premiership, which earned him the Auckland Rugby League Player of the Year award. He was then fundamental in the Auckland Vulcans’ inaugural National Premiership campaign, which saw them go all the way to win their first-ever Premiership. The back-rower and prop was named Player of the Match in their grand final against the Counties Manukau Stingrays, before he featured again in the Auckland Invitational team against the Aotearoa New Zealand Maōri side. 

The versatile and powerhouse veteran Onjeurlina Leiataua Hunt takes home the Women’s Player of the Year award. After a stand-out season for the Ōtāhuhu Leopards in the Steele-Shanks Women’s Premiership, she was named Lock of the Year in Auckland Rugby League’s Team of the Year. She was instrumental in the Auckland Vulcans’ maiden Sky Sport Women’s Premiership campaign, which saw them claim a historic first Premiership title to complete a Vulcans double. Leiataua Hunt then laced up for the Auckland Invitational side against the Aotearoa New Zealand Maōri women. 

 The Junior (U19) Boys and Girls Players of the Year are Jacob Laban (Wellington) and Monica Samita (Akarana).   

Wellington native Jacob Laban was an integral player in the One New Zealand Warriors U19 S.G. Ball Cup team, before becoming a mainstay in the semi-finalist Knock On Effect New South Wales Cup team. The back-rower’s stellar performance throughout the season for both Warriors teams earned him selection and a debut for the New Zealand Kiwis A team in their Test match against the Tonga A side. 

Akarana’s Monica Samita co-captained the inaugural Ahi Kā Aotearoa team in the Australian Harvey Norman Women’s National Championship, held in the Gold Coast earlier this year. The skilful hooker steered the spine for City in the Steele-Shanks Women’s Premiership, before taking a lead in the young Akarana side who were Sky Sport Women’s Premiership finalists. 

The Coach of the Year for 2023 is awarded to Akarana’s Phil Gordon. The highly experienced and knowledgeable Gordon coached the Te Atatu Roosters to the Fox Memorial Premiership Plate Final, and the Akarana Falcons men to third place in the National Premiership. He also coached the victorious Aotearoa Whaanui 16s Boys in the National 16s and 18s Tournament. 

Manager of the Year goes to Wellington’s Rachael Leafe. Ever-present in grassroots rugby league, outside of being involved in her local club the Randwick Kingfishers, Rachael managed several teams this year: the champion Orcas 16s Girls in the National 9s Tournament, the finalist Orcas 16s Girls in the National Youth Tournament, the Orcas 20s Boys in the Ruben Wiki Cup, and the victorious National Secondary Schools Girls team for which she was awarded Manager of the Tournament. 

Counties Manukau’s Zachary Moulder is awarded the 2023 Trainer of the Year. Zach provided his expertise and experience as a trainer to the Counties Manukau representative teams throughout the season. Outside of his practical skills and knowledge, Zach earned this award for his outstanding service including consistent efforts and willingness to assist however needed, and his ability to connect with players. 

Paki Parkinson has taken home Match Official of the Year for the fourth consecutive year. In addition to his participation in all significant NZRL national tournaments, Paki was also of service by upskilling and imparting his knowledge to other referees. Most notably in 2023, Paki refereed the National Men’s Premiership Final and New Zealand Universities Test matches, and was a touch judge in the Kiwi Ferns v Tonga international Test match.  

Raukawa Ki Runga’s Nick Hennessy has been awarded Pirtek Volunteer of the Year for his utmost commitment and dedication towards growing female rangatahi participation, in the Ōtaki region. Nick’s focus on developing the girl’s and women’s game as a coach and mentor is outstanding, selflessly volunteering his personal time and resources to aid them however possible. To read Nick’s story, click here.  

NZRL CEO Greg Peters says, “2023 has been a year of significant growth for the game in New Zealand, which has only been possible through the continuous dedication of people across our rugby league communities.  

Thank you for the remarkable work on and off the field to ensure rugby league continues to thrive – thank you for another amazing year.”   




Grassroots Club of the Year –Dannevirke Tigers (Mid Central) 

Shortlist: Howick Hornets (Counties Manukau), Manukau Magpies (Counties Manukau), Porirua Vikings (Wellington) 


Men’s Domestic Player of the Year – Sione Feao (Auckland) 

Shortlist: Enoch Tautalo (Wellington), Francis Leger (Auckland), Geronimo Doyle (Counties Manukau), Mikaele Mafi (South Island), Phranklyn Mano-Le-Mamea (Counties Manukau),  


Women’s Domestic Player of the Year – Onjeurlina Leiataua Hunt (Auckland) 

Shortlist: Florence Toluono Waqa (Counties Manukau), Lydia Quedley-Turua (Akarana), Tamara Ruaporo (Wellington) 


Junior Boys (U19) Player of the Year – Jacob Laban (Wellington) 

Shortlist: Te Kaio Cranwell (South Island), Rodney Vea (Counties Manukau), Zyon Maiu’u (Auckland) 


Junior Girls (U19) Player of the Year – Monica Samita (Akarana) 

Shortlist: Braxton Sorensen-McGee (Auckland), Seriah Palepale (Auckland) 


Coach of the Year – Phil Gordon (Akarana) 

Shortlist: Ake Pereira (Wellington), David Reedy (South Island), Manu Clarkson (South Island), Ruka Loza (Counties Manukau), Sefo (Frank) Fuimaono (Auckland) 


Trainer of the Year – Zachary Moulder (Counties Manukau) 

Shortlist: Chris McMillan (Counties Manukau), Lee Mou (South Island), Paul Fisiiahi (Counties Manukau), Sheldon Akavi (Wellington) 


Manager of the Year – Rachael Leafe (Wellington) 

Shortlist: Melanie Piri (South Island), Mel Tukapua (South Island), Tania Morunga (Counties Manukau) 


Match Official of the Year – Paki Parkinson (Bay of Plenty) 

Shortlist: Jack Feavers (South Island), Jaxon McGowan (Northland), Liam O’Brien (South Island) 


Pirtek Volunteer of the Year – Nick Hennessy (Wellington) 

Shortlist: Dylan and Ruscelle Rintoul (Waikato), Michelle Harding (South Island), 

Phylis Latu (Counties Manukau), Scott Tulua (Counties Manukau)