Doubles to wingers Madison Bartlett and Katelyn Vaha’akolo spearheaded the Kiwi Ferns to a 50-12 win over Mate Ma’a Tonga at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday.

With international rugby league returning to Mt Smart for the first time in three years it was the Kiwi Ferns riding the emotion to produce 11 tries in an impressive attacking display.

It took the Ferns just five minutes to open the scoring when centre Page McGregor celebrated her Test debut with a try to make it 4-0.

Three minutes later the lead was doubled when a great offload by Annetta Nu’uausala and some slick hands by Ngatokotoru Arakua and Page McGregor put Madison Bartlett over in the left corner.

Come the 10th minute and the Kiwi Ferns had a third try through Katelyn Vaha’akolo after debutante Laishon Jones busted a couple of tackles and lobbed a ball over to Roxette Murdoch who kept the movement going for the right winger to score.

A great head-on tackle by Kalosipani Hopoate on Charlotte Scanlan denied New Zealand a fourth try but the ball was shifted to the right and Raecene McGregor produced sharp footwork to score and the Ferns were out to 18-0.

Tonga five-eighth China Polata was a constant threat in the opening term and came close in the 30th minute but desperate defence bundled her over the sideline just short of the line.

The Kiwi Ferns took the ball straight up the other end and Raecene McGregor turned provider with a deft chip over the top for debutante Amy Turner to score.

Vaha’akolo made it a double in the 35th minute from a clever scrumbase play which featured Nita Maynard, Raecene McGregor and Autumn-Rain Stephens-Daly.

Debutante Roxy Murdoch added her name to the tryscoring list in shadows of half-time as the Kiwi Ferns blew the scoreline out to 30-0.

Kararaina Wira-Kohu started the second half in style with her first Test try in the 43rd minute courtesy of an inside pass from Maynard before Bartlett brought up her double to make it 40-0.

In the 59th minute it was five-eighth Jones grabbing the Ferns’ 10th try with some smart moves close to the line which would done her uncle Stacey Jones proud.

Tonga continued to take the fight up to their more fancied rivals and they were rewarded in the 65th minute when Polata capped a brilliant game with her team’s first try. Haylee Hifo’s conversion made it 44-6.

With a minute to go it was Hifo catching a bomb on the full and racing away to send the Tongan fans into raptures as the final score read 50-12.

Among a host of stars for the Kiwi Ferns, Newcastle fullback Stephens-Daly was dynamic with 157 run metres, two line breaks and five tackle breaks while Georgia Hale ran for 181 metres.

Match Snapshot

  • Tonga hooker Shirley Mailangi was sin binned in the 12th minute for a professional foul.
  • Kiwi Ferns halfback Raecene McGregor is a three-time NRLW premiership winner – twice with Brisbane and once with the Roosters.
  • Amy Turner won an Olympic gold medal in rugby sevens with Australia in 2016 before returning to rugby league and making her Test debut today at 38 years of age
  • The last time the Kiwi Ferns and Mate Ma’a Tonga met in a Test match was 2008, when the three-time World Cup champions proved far too strong in a 42-4 victory.Kiwi Ferns bench player Ngatokotoru Arakua played just nine minutes before she was forced off with an Achilles injury.
  • Kararaina Wira-Kohu was a powerhouse off the bench for the Kiwi Ferns with13 runs for 155 metres and eight tackle breaks.  Tonga’s bench foward Ana Tuamalolo is the cousin of Cowboys superstar Jason Taumalolo.

Play of the Game

Among of a host of highlight reel moments in a dominant opening 40 minutes for the Kiwi Ferns it was winger Katelyn Vaha’akolo’s second try that stood out. Working a move from a scrum 10 metres out, bench hooker Nita Maynard picked up the ball at the base of the scrum and found halfback Raecene McGregor who sent it on to Autumn-Rain Stephens-Daly who had joined in from fullback. The No.1 sent a perfectly timed pass to Vaha’akolo who strolled over out wide.

A key figure during the Kiwis’ halcyon 1980s era, the ultra-versatile A’au James Leuluai played Tests in four different backline positions – but it is as brilliant, elusive centre that he is chiefly remembered.


A breath-taking sidestep and blinding acceleration garnered 14 tries (one short of the Kiwis record at the time) in 29 Tests – including an incredible run of 11 touchdowns in 10 internationals from 1982-85 – and the apt nickname, ‘The Finisher’. Meanwhile, a glittering 185-game stay at Hull FC ultimately saw him inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame.


Leuluai first grabbed attention on the representative scene as part of New Zealand Māori’s triumphant 1977 Pacific Cup team. Two years later, the 22-year-old Auckland rep – a product of the Ellerslie and Mount Wellington clubs – earned a maiden Test call-up, playing all three matches against touring Great Britain at centre and fullback.


The wiry speedster became a permanent fixture in the three-quarter line thereafter, while a two-try performance from fullback against Papua New Guinea in 1982 sparked Leuluai’s remarkable streak. He crossed in both Tests of the 1983 series against Australia, including the Kiwis’ famous 19-12 victory in Brisbane (after which he was named New Zealand’s player of the year), and terrorised the 1984 Lions with four tries in a 3-0 cleansweep.



Leuluai featured prominently in the unforgettable 1985 series versus Australia, dotting down in both fixtures at Carlaw Park and celebrating in the iconic 18-0 third-Test win, and embarked on a second tour of Britain and France later that year.


“James Leuluai had the best sidestep in rugby league, at least until Benji Marshall came along,” veteran rugby league journalist, author and historian John Coffey says.


“He would have been a champion in the centres in any era. He was relatively slight but Australia had big centres like (Mal) Meninga and (Gene) Miles at the time and he handled those guys with his stepping and evasion and speed off the mark.”



In the last 12 months of Leuluai’s Kiwis tenure, which finished in Papua New Guinea in 1986, he started Tests at centre, fullback, wing and five-eighth.


A decade on the England club scene began at Hull FC in the 1981/82 winter, playing in the club’s Challenge Cup final replay victory over Widnes at the end of that season, helping the Airlie Birds to the 1982/83 Championship and lighting up the epic 1985 Challenge Cup final, won 28-24 by Wigan at Wembley, with two second-half tries.




Stints with Leigh, Wakefield Trinity, Ryedale-York and Doncaster followed before Leuluai hung up the boots in 1991.


“James’ longevity to go over to England and come back to New Zealand and play back-to-back seasons for a number of years, and that ability to play consistently for 12 months of the year was just amazing,” long-time Kiwis teammate and fellow 2022 Legends of League inductee Howie Tamati says.


Leuluai also played for Sydney heavyweights Manly in 1986 and spent two memorable seasons in Wellington.


In 1988, the 31-year-old starred in the province’s historic Tamati-coached win over Auckland, scored twice in a narrow loss to Great Britain and notched a brace of tries to inspire Petone’s grand final victory.


“It was the first time in 85 years Wellington had beaten Auckland in 85 years,” Tamati recalls.


“It was a great time for me in my coaching career and getting James was a masterstroke, we were good friends and he was only too happy to come down and play for Petone and Wellington. He was the guy everybody looked up to and respected. When he spoke, everyone was quiet.


“About an hour before leaving to go to the game (against Auckland) James spoke for about 30 minutes, about football and about people’s roles. I didn’t have to say a word. You could have heard a pin drop – the intense attention the boys gave to James that afternoon was just remarkable.”


Leuluai’s impressive coaching CV includes roles in charge of Wellington City Dukes in the Lion Red Cup, Bartercard Cup outfit Eastern Tornadoes and the 2002 Junior Kiwis, while he was a Kiwis assistant to Daniel Anderson and Gary Kemble and later coached Mangere East Hawks.


One half of the most prolific father-son combination in Kiwis history, Leuluai’s son, half/hooker Thomas, played 40 Tests for New Zealand from 2003-17.



Clubs: Ellerslie, Mount Wellington, Manly Sea Eagles, Hull FC, Leigh, Petone, Wakefield Trinity, Ryedale-York, Doncaster

Provinces: Auckland, Wellington


1979  3 Tests v Great Britain

1980  2 Tests v Australia

1980  2 Tests in Great Britain

1980  1 Test in France

1981  2 Tests v France

1982  2 Tests in Australia

1982  1 Test in Papua New Guinea

1983  2 Tests v Australia (home and away)

1984  3 Tests v Great Britain

1985  3 Tests v Australia (home and away)

1985  3 Tests in Great Britain

1985  2 Tests in France

1986  1 Test v Australia

1986  2 Tests in Papua New Guinea


New Zealand Representative:


Total Test Appearances: 29 matches – 14 tries (51 points)

Total Matches Played: 53 matches – 27 tries (93 points)




New Zealand player of the year (1983)

Junior Kiwis coach (2002)

Hull FC Hall of Fame


The outpouring of emotional tributes for Quentin Pongia from every corner of the rugby league world following his death, aged just 48, featured several common threads. As a player, he was widely described as an uncompromising, durable, fearless competitor. But, above all, tough – one of the toughest of his era. Off the field, warm with a heart of gold and universally respected.


Pongia played 35 Tests for the Kiwis from 1992-2000 – a tally behind only Gary Freeman, Stephen Kearney, Jock Butterfield and Dane O’Hara at the time of his last appearance, and still equal-13th in Kiwis history two decades later.


“As tough a forward as any that played for the Kiwis, I’m sure of that – and it’s not surprising when you look at his background as the grandson of Jim Calder, who was a legend on the West Coast and a Kiwi in the 1930s,” acclaims veteran rugby league journalist, author and historian John Coffey.


“He was in the mould of guys like (1960s Kiwi Test props) Maunga Emery and Sam Edwards, surging forward without a backwards step.”


Born in Greymouth where he first played senior football with the Suburbs club, the 17-year-old Pongia moved to Canterbury in 1988 and represented the Junior Kiwis from the Riccarton club.


“(In 1988) I was a guest speaker for the Riccarton end-of-year dinner,” recalls Pongia’s former Canterbury and New Zealand coach, Frank Endacott.


“At the end (of my speech) I said, ‘there’s a young man in this room right now’ – and I’d only met him to say hello, but I’d seen him play a couple of matches – ‘that I believe will go on to play for his country and play in the [Australian premiership]’. I didn’t mention his name, but I had a number of people come up to me and ask who I was talking about; I said, ‘that bloke over there’. And sure enough Quentin went right through to the top.”


The raw second-rower, who subsequently transferred to Linwood, earned a maiden Test call-up to face Papua New Guinea in 1992 shortly before his 22nd birthday and played in the ensuing series against touring Great Britain. He also represented New Zealand Māori  in 1992 and was virtually an automatic Kiwis selection when available for the next eight years.


“He’s right up there with anyone – you talk to the Rubens (Wiki) and Staceys (Jones) that played with him, they will tell you they loved playing with Quentin Pongia,” Endacott continues.


“I’ve spoken to Australians and English players who say he’s the hardest player they every played against. He was a tough nut and a guy we all loved.


“He was the only 80-minute prop in the world at the time and if I brought him off 10 minutes early, he’d give me the message – he hated coming off. And the tougher it was, the better he went.”


Pongia linked with Australian heavyweight Canberra in 1993, toured Britain and France with the Kiwis at the end of that season and was a tower of strength in the Raiders’ charge to premiership glory after shifting to prop in 1994.



“I brought (Pongia) and (Wellington prop John) Lomax to our first training session for 1993 and they just started belting blokes,” Raiders coach Tim Sheens revealed in 2019.


“I’ll never forget the look on Laurie Daley’s face. He couldn’t believe how hard as nails they were for new blokes. He looked at me and said, ‘Bloody hell – where did you find these two guys?’


“(Pongia) saved us. We lost guys like Glenn Lazarus up front and could have really struggled. But from day one, ‘Q’ was a colossus. He was so competitive on the field that he gave us that hard edge again and a year later, he was in the team that won the grand final.”


An aggressive, confrontational style ensured he was a frequent visitor to the judiciary, but Pongia nevertheless played 21 consecutive Tests for New Zealand from 1995-98.


Pongia’s international tenure peaked in 1998 during a one-season stay with the Warriors, playing an inspirational role in the Kiwis’ famous Anzac Test defeat of Australia at North Harbour, captaining his country in four post-season Tests – including a historic series win in Great Britain – and winning the New Zealand player of the year award.



“I knew how much respect he had from the players. He wasn’t an after-dinner speaker, but he was a player that led from the front – he’d say ‘follow me’ and everyone would, no questions asked. That’s why he was my captain,” Endacott explains.


Still a world-class performer in the engine-room into his thirties, Pongia bowed out of the international arena after New Zealand’s loss to Australia in the 2000 World Cup final. The latter stages of a colourful, globetrotting club career encompassed stints with Sydney Roosters (1999-2001), French outfit Villeneuve (2002-03), St George Illawarra (2003) and Wigan (2003-04), featuring in Super League grand final and Challenge Cup final losses with the Cherry and Whites before hanging up the boots.


Post-playing, Pongia returned to Canberra as a strength and conditioning coach and NRL assistant coach at the Raiders, aided the Kiwis as a trainer and was a wellbeing officer for Manly Sea Eagles.


‘Q’ faced his cancer battle, which he lost in 2019, with the same courage, resilience and humility that characterised one of the era’s great New Zealand rugby league careers.


“Quentin is the toughest individual I have ever played with and I know how hard he fought to beat this terrible disease. He will be sorely missed right across the rugby league community,” Canberra legend Ricky Stuart said after Pongia’s death.


“He was an icon of the game, a great bloke and a fearless player. He had a huge identity in the game during his playing career and it’s just really tragic to see cancer take another great man way too early.”





Clubs: Suburbs (Greymouth), Riccarton, Linwood, Canberra Raiders, Auckland Warriors, Sydney Roosters, Villeneuve, St George Illawarra Dragons, Wigan Warriors

Provinces: Canterbury


New Zealand Representative:


1992  1 Test v Papua New Guinea

1992  2 Tests v Great Britain

1993  1 Test v Australia

1993  1 Test in Wales

1993  3 Tests in Great Britain

1993  1 Test in France

1995  2 Tests v France

1995  3 Tests in Australia

1995  3 Tests at World Cup (England)

1996  2 Tests v Papua New Guinea

1996  3 Tests v Great Britain

1997  2 Tests v Australia (home and away)

1998  3 Tests v Australia (home and away)

1998  3 Tests in Great Britain

2000  5 Tests at World Cup (England)


Total Test Appearances: 35 matches – 2 tries (8 points)

Total Matches Played: 43 matches – 2 tries (8 points)




Kiwis captain in 4 Tests (1998)

New Zealand Player of the Year (1998)

‘The Beast’ moniker illustrated the powerful impact Kevin Iro had as a blockbusting centre or winger in the Kiwi jersey for more than a decade, and on the British and Australian club scenes for 15 seasons.


The Glen Innes junior was an automatic selection for New Zealand when available from his debut as a teenager in 1987 until his last appearance in 1998, by which time he had played 34 Tests and scored 16 tries – fourth and equal-second in Kiwis history at that stage.


A Junior Kiwi in 1986, the 19-year-old announced himself on the international stage with 20 points (three tries, four goals) – a world record for a player on Test debut – against Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby before starring in New Zealand’s stunning Lang Park upset of Australia.


Iro’s 1988 New Zealand player of the year season included another hat-trick against the Kumuls at Carlaw Park, an appearance for Rest of the World against Australia and a try in the Kiwis’ World Cup final loss to Australia at Eden Park. He played in seven of the Kiwis’ eight Test matches in 1989.


A devastating ball-runner to rank alongside anyone in world rugby league and blessed with superb skill and natural instincts, Iro was lured to Wigan (along with older brother Tony, who earned his maiden Kiwis call-up the following season) by Graham Lowe in late-1987.



He won four straight Challenge Cup finals with the club, scoring two tries in each of his first three victorious trips to Wembley.


Iro joined Lowe again at Manly in 1991-92 before returning to England with Leeds and featuring in a pair of Wembley losses to his former club Wigan during a five-season stay.



Despite moving into the veteran class, the twilight years of Iro’s Kiwis tenure were laced with sizzling highlights.


He scored a sensational try to send the 1995 World Cup semi-final against Australia into extra-time (the Kiwis ultimately went down 30-20).



Iro then featured in a drought-breaking trans-Tasman victory in 1997 and came off the bench to score two barnstorming tries in the Kiwis’ iconic defeat of the Kangaroos in 1998, briefly co-holding the New Zealand record for most Test tries.


The game-breaker farewelled the black-and-white jersey in a historic series win in Britain.



After one-season stints with Hunter Mariners (1997) and Auckland Warriors (1998), Iro’s career wound down with four seasons at St Helens that garnered two Super League grand final triumphs and another Challenge Cup final victory.


All told, he scored a phenomenal 175 tries in 344 club matches in England and Australia.



“Kevin would never let you down at Test level, he’d go out and win you a Test against Australia. If he was fit and available, you’d never leave him out,” praises Frank Endacott, who coached Iro in the Kiwis from 1995-98, and at the Warriors in 1998.


“He’s got a huge name in England, along with his brother Tony, they just knew how to win big games. And the bigger the game, the better Kevin went.


“When the pressure was on up against the big guns, that’s when Kevin came out to play. All class.”


Iro captained Cooks Islands’ 2000 World Cup campaign and later coached the national side, while he also represented Cook Islands at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in rugby sevens.



Clubs: Glen Innes Falcons, Mount Albert Lions, Wigan, Manly Sea Eagles, Leeds, Hunter Mariners, Auckland Warriors, St Helens

Provinces: Auckland


New Zealand representative:


1987  1 Test in Papua New Guinea

1987  1 Test in Australia

1988  1 Test v Papua New Guinea

1988  1 Test v Great Britain

1988  1 Test v Australia (World Cup final)

1989  3 Tests v Australia

1989  3 Tests in Great Britain

1989  1 Test in France

1990  3 Tests v Great Britain

1991  2 Tests in Australia

1992  1 Test v Papua New Guinea

1992  2 Tests v Great Britain

1993  3 Tests in Great Britain

1993  1 Test in Great Britain

1995  3 Tests at World Cup (England)

1997  1 Test v Australia

1998  3 Tests v Australia (home and away)

1998  3 Tests in Great Britain


Total Test Appearances: 34 matches – 16 tries, 7 goals (78 points)

Total Matches Played: 40 matches – 20 tries, 10 goals (100 points)




New Zealand player of the year (1988)

Rest of the World (1988)

Captained Cook Islands at World Cup (2000)

Coached Cook Islands (2006)


Dane O’Hara’s rugby league sobriquet – the ‘Rolls-Royce of wingers’ – is indicative of his stylish play on the flank and a prolific tryscoring strike-rate. But the Blockhouse Bay and Glenora product was the consummate professional, admired for the dedication, consistency and durability at club and international level that saw him play a record-equalling number of Tests for New Zealand and become a revered figure during a decade at Hull FC.


A relatively late starter, O’Hara broke into the Auckland provincial team in 1976 and debuted for New Zealand in the 1977 World Cup opener against Australia at Carlaw Park as a 23-year-old. He cemented a Kiwis wing spot on the 1978 tour of Australia and Papua New Guinea, starting a run of 19 consecutive Test appearances.



O’Hara’s standing in the national team saw him ascend to the Test captaincy – rare for a winger – for the two-match home series against Australia in 1980, while he played all five Tests on that year’s Kiwis tour of Britain and France. A two-try performance against Hull FC was a forerunner to the polished flyer joining the club a year later.


“The respect the New Zealand Rugby League had for him (showed) in making him captain from out on the wing,” long-time Test teammate Howie Tamati says.


“Dane’s strength was looking after himself really well, he was immaculate on and off the field. Always well prepared, the ultimate professional and a really good team man.


“If you wanted a run when you deep in your own territory, Dane would be the one, really powerful. And so consistent in his approach to the game. I can’t remember him playing a bad game.”


Injury ruled O’Hara out of the Kiwis’ 1983 programme, but he returned to play all 16 of New Zealand’s Tests over the next three seasons to equal Jock Butterfield’s long-standing record of 36 appearances. He scored three tries during the 1984 whitewash of the touring Lions, featured in the iconic 1985 series against Australia and again played all five Tests on the ’85 tour of Britain and France.



Tries in the 1986 series in Australia and Papua New Guinea, the 32-year-old’s international swansong, took his Test tally to 14 – one short of the then-New Zealand record held by Tom Hadfield and Phil Orchard. A penalty try during the 1978 series against Australia, which today would have been credited to O’Hara but under the rules of the day was awarded only to the team, essentially denied the champion winger a share of the record (which Hugh McGahan broke in 1989).


O’Hara became one of Hull FC’s longest-serving and most celebrated imports, playing over 300 games and scoring 116 tries. He crossed for a late try to secure a draw in the 1982 Challenge Cup final at Wembley against Widnes (Hull FC went on to win the replay) and played in the famous 28-24 loss to Wigan in the 1985 final – regarded as the greatest-ever Wembley decider – alongside Kiwis teammates Gary Kemble, James Leuluai and Fred Ah Kuoi. The Airlie Birds also won the 1982/83 First Division Championship and three Yorkshire Cups during his tenure.



But perhaps O’Hara’s most important legacy during nine seasons at The Boulevard was as captain late in his career, helping Hull FC stave off relegation and having the honour of leading the club against the 1989 Kiwis.


O’Hara’s 17 years in first-team rugby league wound down with two seasons at English second division club Doncaster.





Clubs: Blockhouse Bay, Glenora, Hull FC, Doncaster

Provinces: Auckland


New Zealand representative:


1977  1 Test at World Cup (NZ)

1978  3 Tests in Australia

1978  1 Test in Papua New Guinea

1979  3 Tests v Great Britain

1980  2 Tests v Australia

1980  3 Tests in Great Britain

1980  2 Tests in France

1981  2 Tests v France

1982  2 Tests in Australia

1982  1 Test in Papua New Guinea

1984  3 Tests v Great Britain

1985  3 Tests v Australia (home and away)

1985  3 Tests in Great Britain

1985  2 Tests in France

1986  3 Tests v Australia (home and away)

1986  2 Tests in Papua New Guinea


Total Test Appearances: 36 matches – 14 tries (49 points)

Total Matches Played: 63 matches – 32 tries (104 points)




Kiwis captain in 2 Tests (1980)

Taranaki hooker Howie Tamati was a vital component of New Zealand’s international rugby league renaissance, playing the last 19 of his 24 Tests for the Kiwis in succession and featuring prominently in watershed triumphs over Australia and Great Britain during the 1983-85 golden era. Tamati, one of the game’s great servants, later coached the Kiwis in 1992-93 and began a long tenure as NZRL President in 2013.


Tough and skilful, Tamati bridged the gap between the old-school hookers whose fast-striking ability was invaluable when scrums were still a contest and the subsequent evolution of the position, which placed greater importance on slick dummy-half service and attacking vision.


The New Zealand under-19s rep took some time to impose himself on the senior representative scene, but he used a starring role in Central Districts’ success as a springboard to a maiden Test call-up as a 26-year-old to face the 1979 Great Britain tourists.


When Australia visited the following season, Tamati lined up in both Tests and New Zealand Māori’s 10-all draw with the green-and-golds, before embarking on his first tour of Britain and France.


After cementing the Kiwis’ hooker spot during 1982, Tamati played in the drought-breaking upset of Australia in Brisbane in 1983 and had the honour of captaining New Zealand in the one-off Test against Papua New Guinea at Carlaw Park.


“It was a young team (to play against Papua New Guinea) with not many players being brought back from England and Australia, but I was given the opportunity and for me it was just amazing to think that I could be the captain of New Zealand,” Tamati reflects.



He was an engine-room mainstay of the 3-0 cleansweep of the 1984 Lions, in which he was vice-captain, and the iconic series against Australia in 1985, before winding up his international career on the ’85 Kiwis tour of Britain and France.


The Waitara Bears stalwart spent just one club season overseas, joining Wigan for the 1983/84 English winter and playing in the Challenge Cup final at Wembley – a loss to a Widnes team containing his cousin, and long-time Kiwis teammate, Kevin Tamati.



“I used to watch the Challenge Cup final on a black-and-white TV, watching the guards marching around, the band and the footy – I just loved rugby league from when I was a little kid,” Tamati says.


“My dad was a good player and rugby league has always been in my family, so to get to play for New Zealand, and to play New Zealand Māori because that’s the level my dad got to, then to play for Wigan, was a dream.


“I had a family, so for me it was never a plan to go over and stay there, I had a good job in the freezing works and my life was tied up in my town and my club at Waitara. But to take the opportunity to go to England for a few months – off I went on this adventure and it was everything I could’ve hoped for. To actually play the Challenge Cup final with Wigan was a dream come true.”


In a memorable post-script to his playing career, the 33-year-old led New Zealand Universities to victory in the inaugural Student World Cup in 1986. Tamati moved into coaching and a five-season stint in charge of Wellington included historic wins over Auckland (1988) and Great Britain (1990), while he coached the 1991 Junior Kiwis before taking over the New Zealand Test side.


His two seasons at the helm of the Kiwis featured a tied home series against Great Britain in 1992, and a draw against Australia at Mount Smart Stadium during a hard-fought series loss and a challenging tour of Britain and France in 1993.


Reflecting his enormous contribution to the game over several decades, Tamati was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire for services to rugby league in 1994, was named in the Taranaki Rugby League Team of the Century in 2008 and earned NZRL Life Membership in 2009.



“The game owes me nothing – I owe everything I have and everything I’ve been a part of to the game,” Tamati explains.


“It made me who I am. The only thing I’ve tried to go is give back to the game and it keeps doing good things for me.


“I’ve had a dream life through playing sport and being involved in rugby league, I’m very proud of the path I made through rugby league – playing club, provincial and international football, and then coaching at a high level with the Junior Kiwis and Kiwis.


“New Zealand Rugby League initially asked if I would come back and help New Zealand Māori  Rugby League and it’s just connections after connections after connections – it’s been a wonderful journey and I don’t want it to stop, they can put me in a gear bag and bury me!”


Clubs: Waitara Bears, Wigan

Provinces: Taranaki


New Zealand representative:


1979  3 Tests v Great Britain

1980  2 Tests v Australia

1980  1 Test in Great Britain

1980  2 Tests in France

1981  2 Tests v France

1982  2 Tests in Australia

1982  1 Test in Papua New Guinea

1983  2 Tests v Australia (home and away)

1983  1 Test v Papua New Guinea

1984  3 Tests v Great Britain

1985  3 Tests v Australia (home and away)

1985  2 Tests v Great Britain


Total Test Appearances: 24 matches – 2 tries (6 points)

Total Matches Played: 50 matches – 6 tries (19 points)


New Zealand coach:


1992  1 Test v Papua New Guinea

1992  2 Tests v Great Britain

1993  3 Tests v Australia (home and away)

1993  1 Test in Wales

1993  3 Tests in Great Britain

1993  1 Test in France


Total Tests Coached: 11 matches (won 4, lost 6, drew 1)

Total Matches Coached: 21 matches (won 12, lost 8, drew 1)




Kiwis captain in 1 Test (1983)

Oceania (1984)

Junior Kiwis coach (1991)

Member of the Order of the British Empire (1994)

Taranaki Team of the Century (2008)

New Zealand Rugby League Life Member (2009)

New Zealand Rugby League president (2013-present)

Ruben Wiki’s extraordinary career garnered the most elite of achievements: a then-world record 55 Tests for the Kiwis, selection in the New Zealand Team of the Century, the first non-Australian to make 300 first-grade appearances in the Australian premiership and one of just three Kiwis to be inducted into the NRL Hall of Fame.


The Otahuhu junior’s role in 16 seasons at rugby league’s highest level can also be split into two halves, spending seven years as a blockbusting centre before gravitating to the forward pack and becoming recognised as one of the code’s most respected enforcers.


The 1992 Junior Kiwi represented Auckland and New Zealand Māori, joined Canberra Raiders in 1993 and starred in the club’s 1994 premiership triumph. Wiki scored 15 tries in 25 games and became just the third New Zealander (along with teammate Quentin Pongia) to win a Sydney grand final as the Raiders carved out an emphatic win over Canterbury Bulldogs.


A Kiwis call-up for the end-of-season tour to Papua New Guinea followed and Wiki was an automatic Test selection for the ensuing 12 seasons. The backline powerhouse was a key figure in New Zealand’s 1996 series cleansweep of Great Britain and momentous wins over Australia in 1998 and ’99.


“I first had him in the Junior Kiwis in 1992, when we beat the Junior Kangaroos for the first time in history – it showed me then what a good player and person Ruben was,” former coach Frank Endacott recalls.


“I had no hesitation in picking him in every Kiwis Test once I became coach. He was one of those special players, a lovely person, a tough competitor, and by geez the opposition always respected him.


“I moved him to lock against Great Britain (during a Test) at Bolton Stadium and they couldn’t handle him. He was so dependable and he’d never argue whatever position you put him in, he’d just play and do the job at the highest level.”



Wiki’s hulking frame and ferocious style made his transition to the Raiders’ engine-room in 1999 and the Kiwis’ pack at the 2000 World Cup a smooth and permanent one. He made the first of 18 Test appearances as captain in 2003 – a leadership tenure that included New Zealand’s watershed 2005 Tri Nations success and a gallant farewell to the international scene as the Kiwis lost an epic golden point final to Australia in the 2006 tournament.


“When I was coaching we had a number of good candidates and he was spoken about among them,” Endacott adds.


“It was only a matter of time before he became Kiwi captain. He had the respect of the opposition and his own players – they looked up to him and they’d follow him to the end of the earth.”



During the latter Tri Nations, the 33-year-old also became the first player to play 50 Tests for any nation. He was named at prop in the Kiwis’ Team of the Century in 2007 and, fittingly, skippered the All Golds against Northern Union in that year’s centenary match.


A two-time Raiders player of the year and bona fide club legend (he was inducted into their Hall of Fame in 2022), Wiki left the Australian capital after 225 games in the lime green to return home to Auckland and play for the Warriors. He was the Warriors’ player of the year in 2005 and played an instrumental, inspirational role as front-row cornerstone and spiritual leader as the club returned to the playoffs in 2007 and reached the preliminary final in 2008, the 35-year-old Wiki’s last NRL campaign.



“He’s arguably New Zealand’s greatest all-round player ever and would be hard to beat among any internationals, proving himself in the centres with his speed and strength, then shifting into the back-row and ending up as one of the best props in the world,” rugby league journalist, author and historian John Coffey asserts.


“I wouldn’t think there’s anybody else who has gone (from the backline) all the way to the front-row and been so dominant, whether it was on defence or attack.”


Wiki remained entrenched in rugby league post-playing through roles as NZRL’s high performance manager, on the Kiwis’ support staff and as the Warriors’ long-serving strength and conditioning coach. Made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) for his services to rugby league and awarded the Ken Stephen Medal, recognising his off-field community work, in 2007, Wiki became just the eighth Kiwis rep to be inducted to the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame in 2017.



Clubs: Otahuhu Leopards, Canberra Raiders, New Zealand Warriors

Provinces: Auckland


New Zealand Representative:


1994  2 Tests in Papua New Guinea

1995  2 Tests in Australia

1995  3 Tests at World Cup (England)

1996  2 Tests v Papua New Guinea

1996  3 Tests v Great Britain

1997  1 Tests in Australia

1998  3 Tests v Australia (home and away)

1998  3 Tests in Great Britain

1999  1 Test in Australia

1999  3 Tests in Tri Nations (NZ and Aus)

1999  1 Test v Tonga

2000  6 Tests at World Cup (England)

2001  1 Test v France

2001  1 Test v Australia

2002  1 Test v Australia

2002  1 Test in Wales

2002  2 Tests in Great Britain

2002  1 Test in France

2003  2 Tests v Australia (home and away)

2004  3 Tests in Tri Nations (NZ and GB)

2004  1 Test in France

2005  1 Test in Australia

2005  5 Tests in Tri Nations (NZ, Aus and GB)

2005  1 Test in France

2006  5 Tests in Tri Nations (NZ and Aus)


Total Test Appearances: 55 matches – 15 tries (60 points)

Total Matches Played: 58 matches – 17 tries (68 points)




Kiwis captain in 18 Tests (2003-06)

New Zealand Player of the Year (2003)

Ken Stephen Medal (2007)

New Zealand Team of the Century (2007)

All Golds captain v Northern Union (2007)

Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (2007)

First New Zealand to play 300 NRL games (2008)

New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame (2017)

NRL Hall of Fame (2019)

Canberra Raiders Hall of Fame (2022)

From humble rugby league beginnings, coaching mastermind Graham Lowe became one of the most influential and revolutionary figures in the code’s history in New Zealand. The national team’s watershed results under Lowe’s tutelage from 1983-86 heralded a turning point for the Kiwis, while his achievements and status as a club coach in Australia and England are virtually unmatched by a New Zealander.


Lowe’s modest career as an Otahuhu premier grade player was curtailed by injury, but he progressed through the club’s coaching ranks before leading it to consecutive Fox Memorial triumphs in 1977-78. Lured to Brisbane by Norths Devils, Lowe steered the reigning wooden spooners to the 1979 finals and a stunning BRL grand final upset of Souths Magpies in 1980.



The 36-year-old returned to New Zealand in late-1982 and succeeded Ces Mountford as national coach.


The Kiwis snapped a 12-year losing streak against Australia with a sensational 19-12 victory at Lang Park in 1983, while a historic and comprehensive 3-0 whitewash of visiting Great Britain – winning all three Tests by margins of at least 12 points – followed in 1984.


“When Graham came into the team we had a core of very experienced group of players. He didn’t have to do too much to teach us how to play, but he had the ability to lift you up, to believe in yourself,” long-serving Kiwi hooker Howie Tamati recalls.


“From a psychological perspective, he built on our experience and gave us the edge to make us the team we were in the mid-eighties. We were hungry for another approach – not that the approach before that under Ces Mountford was bad, it was very good – but Graham took us to another level.”


New Zealand’s Lowe era reached its zenith during the epic 1985 series against Australia. Following heart-breaking narrow defeats in Brisbane and Auckland, the Kiwis blew the green-and-golds off Carlaw Park 18-0 in the third Test. The passionate and charismatic Lowe’s role in instilling confidence in his Kiwis charges and raising the profile of, and interest in, rugby league in New Zealand to unprecedented levels cannot be understated.



Lowe’s Kiwi tourists went agonisingly close to a series win in Great Britain in late-1985, with the third-Test decider finishing in a gripping draw.


“Graham was different. For a lot of years after I started reporting, the coach was almost anonymous. Graham could understand the value of the media and sports promotion,” veteran rugby league journalist, author and historian John Coffey explains.


“Obviously as student of the game in Australia, and as a guy with a gift of the gab, he had the confidence of the Kiwi players and was able to lift them up to another level. He went very close to winning series against Australia and in Great Britain in ’85, which would have emulated the Grand Slam Kiwis of ’71.


“He famously walked the players up Queen Street and saw they had the support of the public, which inspired them to give Australia a hiding at Carlaw Park in the third Test (of the 1985 series).


“Graham was a larger-than-life character. He persuaded Brian Lochore, the All Blacks coach at the time, to come and have a beer with him even though the NZRU stopped their players from mixing with the Kiwis because of their old prejudices. Graham earned great loyalty from his players and was able to relate to the media, whether he was in New Zealand, or England and Australia.”


A halcyon period ended in lamentable circumstances with Lowe and the NZRL parting company in 1986 after a disappointing tour of Australia and Papua New Guinea, but Lowe’s standing as one of the world’s preeminent coaches continued to blossom after joining Wigan later that year. Among a plethora of trophies during three seasons in England, Lowe guided Wigan to the Championship-Premiership double at his first attempt and led the club to the first two of its eight consecutive Challenge Cup final triumphs at Wembley.


The in-demand Lowe took over Sydney heavyweight Manly for three seasons, taking the Sea Eagles to the finals in 1990-91. He was a controversial appointment as Queensland State of Origin coach but became a beloved figure in the Sunshine State after the Maroons’ epic 1991 series success and a narrow defeat in 1992.



“When I was coming through the coaching ranks and saw what Graham was doing, it inspired me,”  reveals Frank Endacott, who also coached New Zealand and Wigan, as well as the Warriors.


“He was the guy that led it all – that’s when I thought, ‘I’d love to do that’. I came in about a decade after him. I went to his coaching clinics (in the 1980s) and he was showing us things with hit shields and skill drills that we’d never seen before, that he’d picked up overseas and introduced to New Zealand.


“That’s when I really started thinking about the game. He was the coach who inspired me to go on to better things.”


Lowe’s performances at the helm of Manly and Queensland earned the 1991 coach of the year nod at the Halberg Awards, where rugby league has routinely struggled for recognition.


Lowe stood down at Manly due to health concerns in early-1993 but went on to coach Western Samoa at the 1995 World Cup and North Queensland Cowboys’ 1996 campaign. He was part-owner of the Auckland Warriors from 1998-2000, returned to Manly as CEO from 2009-11 and became co-owner of the ailing Bradford Bulls in 2017.


Lowe’s tireless contribution in the community service, youth and education spheres were recognised with the Queen’s Service Medal (1986), appointment as an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (2013) and a knighthood (2019), while he was made an NZRL Life Member in 2013.



Clubs Coached: Otahuhu Leopards, Norths Devils, Wigan, Manly Sea Eagles, North Queensland Cowboys


New Zealand Coach:


1983  2 Tests v Australia (home and away)

1983  1 Test v Papua New Guinea

1984  3 Tests v Great Britain

1985  3 Tests v Australia (home and away)

1985  3 Tests in Great Britain

1985  2 Tests in France

1986  3 Tests v Australia (home and away)

1986  2 Tests in Papua New Guinea


Total Tests Coached: 19 matches (won 10, lost 8, drew 1)

Total Matches Coached: 39 matches (won 26, lost 12, drew 1)




BRL Premiership (1980)

Challenge Cup (1987/88, 1988/89)

English Championship (1986/87)

English Premiership Trophy (1986/87)

Lancashire Cup (1986/87, 1987/88, 1988/89)

League Cup (1986/87, 1987/88, 1988/89)

World Club Challenge (1987)

Oceania coach (1984)

Rest of the World coach (1988)

Western Samoa coach (1995)

Queen’s Service Medal (1986)

Halberg Awards coach of the year (1991)

New Zealand Rugby League Life Member (2013)

Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (2013)

Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (2019)


‘The Little General’ stands tall as New Zealand’s greatest-ever halfback and arguably the nation’s most decorated rugby league player of all time.


Earmarked for the game’s highest levels after captaining the Junior Kiwis and representing Auckland in 1994, Stacey Jones forced his way into the fledgling Auckland Warriors’ No.7 jersey shortly after his 19th birthday and was the club’s leading light for more than a decade.


A Kiwis debut at the 1995 World Cup – the first of 46 Test appearances across 12 seasons for the grandson of legendary Māori  forward and 23-Test Kiwi Maunga Emery – followed at the end of a whirlwind rookie season. Jones’ run of 19 consecutive Tests from that initial call-up encompassed series victories over Great Britain at home and in England, and momentous wins over Australia in three successive years with the diminutive playmaker at the forefront.



“When I gave him his first start for the Kiwis I remember walking down the hotel hallway, all the players had their doors open and there was Stacey sitting there watching TV in the Kiwis’ number seven jersey – he was just so proud of it,” Jones’ first New Zealand coach, Frank Endacott, recalls.


The Warriors’ player of the year in 1997 and co-captain of the club’s drive to a maiden finals appearance in 2001, Jones put together a year of achievement arguably unmatched by any player in the history of New Zealand rugby league in 2002.


The 26-year-old skippered the Warriors to a historic minor premiership and grand final appearance; despite the 30-8 loss to Sydney Roosters in the NRL decider, Jones carved his name into grand final folklore with a sparkling individual try.



He subsequently captained the Kiwis for the first time in six post-season Tests against Australia, Wales, Great Britain and France. Unsurprisingly named New Zealand’s player of the year for the second time, Jones became just the second Kiwi to win the prestigious Golden Boot and was a Sportsman of the Year finalist at the Halberg Awards.


Rare instinctive brilliance and game-breaking ability often overshadowed Jones’ qualities as an outstanding organising halfback, brave defender and leader with a tenacious competitive streak and willingness to step up in the clutch moments.


“He’s just a true legend of the game. Pound for pound probably the best player the Warriors have ever had and one of the best halfbacks the Kiwis of all time,” Endacott says.


“Stacey understood the game, he was a natural. When you were in a tight spot you could rely on Stacey to do something to keep you in the game. He wasn’t a talkative player early on but he certainly got better as the years went on. A great bloke and he deserves all the accolades he gets.”



Jones’ first Warriors farewell preceded a starring role in the Kiwis’ 2005 Tri Nations triumph. The veteran’s commanding performance in the watershed 24-0 defeat of the Kangaroos in the Leeds-hosted final – his fifth Test victory against Australia – just days after returning from Auckland following the birth of his third child underlined his commitment to the black-and-white jersey, as well as his penchant for dominating on rugby league’s biggest stages.


Retiring from international football after New Zealand’s golden point loss to Australia in an epic 2006 Tri Nations final, Jones’ tallies of Test appearances (46), tries (16) and points (160) were equal-second, equal-third and second, respectively, in Kiwis history at the time.


Jones’ two seasons with Super League club Catalans Dragons included captaining the French outfit to a historic Challenge Cup final appearance in 2007, while he came out of retirement for a memorable one-season stint back at the Warriors in 2009.


“Stacey arrived as a teenage sensation, replaced a true legend in Gary Freeman at the ’95 World Cup and also replaced an Australian international in Greg Alexander as the Warriors’ halfback,” prominent rugby league journalist, author and historian John Coffey explains.


“Since then I’m sure he has been an inspiration to many youngsters to take up rugby league with his performances for the Warriors and Kiwis. He was a great leader on the field for club and country – on attack he was a genius and on defence he had a lot of courage.”


An impressive coaching CV includes stints in charge of the Warriors’ under-20s (featuring Holden Cup premiership success in 2014) and NSW Cup teams and the Māori All Stars, and assistant roles with the Kiwis and Warriors first-grade sides – the latter leading to a position as interim NRL head coach midway through 2022.


Made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2006 and named at halfback in the Kiwis’ Team of the Century in 2007, post-playing accolades for Jones came in the form of his induction to the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame (2015) and the NRL Hall of Fame (2019).




Clubs: City-Point Chevalier, Auckland City Vulcans, Auckland/New Zealand Warriors, Catalans Dragons

Provinces: Auckland


New Zealand Representative:


1995  3 Tests at World Cup (England)

1996  2 Tests v Papua New Guinea

1996  3 Tests v Great Britain

1997  2 Tests v Australia (home and away)

1998  3 Tests v Australia (home and away)

1998  3 Tests in Great Britain

1999  1 Test in Australia

1999  1 Test in Tri Nations (NZ)

1999  1 Test v Tonga

2000  1 Test in Australia

2000  5 Tests at World Cup (England)

2001  1 Test v France

2001  1 Test v Australia

2002  1 Test v Australia

2002  1 Test in Wales

2002  3 Tests in Great Britain

2002  1 Test in France

2003  1 Test in Australia

2005  5 Tests in Tri Nations (NZ, Aus & GB)

2005  1 Test in France

2006  1 Test in Great Britain

2006  5 Tests in Tri Nations (NZ & Aus)


Total Test Appearances: 46 matches – 16 tries, 47 goals, 2 field goals (160 points)




Kiwis captain in 7 Tests (2002, 2006)

New Zealand Player of the Year (1999, 2002)

Golden Boot winner (2002)

Halberg Awards NZ Sportsman of the Year finalist (2002)

Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (2006)

New Zealand Team of the Century (2007)

New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame (2015)

NRL Hall of Fame (2019)

A 1995 Kiwi Ferns original, Leah Witehira was a prolific try-scorer at international level and a steady influence in the halves as New Zealand triumphed in the first two women’s World Cups.


Witehira scored four tries on the Kiwi Ferns’ pioneering tour of Australia in 1995 – including vital four-pointers in both Test wins. She added four tries as one of one of the standout players in New Zealand’s 1998 series cleansweep of Great Britain on home soil.



Forming a stellar halves combination with brilliant Wellingtonian Trish Hina, Witehira featured in the 1999 series against Australia – dotting down again in the first two Tests – and continued her remarkable strike-rate with tries in both of the Kiwi Ferns’ preliminary matches at the 2000 World Cup in England.


But the skilful, level-headed Witehira’s ability to steer a team around the park was equally valuable as New Zealand powered to the trophy with big wins over Australia in the semi-final and England in the final.


“Leah was one of those players who was a natural athlete but had really good vision, which is one of the hardest things to teach in rugby league – really you either have it or you don’t,” 2000 World Cup-winning co-captain and fellow 2022 Legends of League inductee Nadene Conlon recalls.


“She knew how to find those gaps, a really smart ball-player and got the team moving forward, directed the team around – but also knew when to have a stab herself.


“Leah was a good leader and a hard worker, just a great all-rounder. She wasn’t huge and didn’t lack defensive ability either.”


Witehira was at the forefront again as the Kiwi Ferns successfully defended their world champions crown in New Zealand in 2003, scoring tries in the semi-final and final to earn a place in the World Cup team of the tournament.


Though the 2004 tour of Australia was her Kiwi Ferns swansong, Witehira, also a New Zealand Māori  rep, later captained Counties-Manukau to a draw against Great Britain in 2010 and was still turning out for Otahuhu as player-coach another decade later.



Clubs: Otahuhu

Provinces: Auckland


New Zealand Representative:


1995  in Australia

1998  v Great Britain

1999  v Australia (home and away)

2000  World Cup (England)

2002  v New Zealand Māori

2003  World Cup (NZ)

2004  in Australia




World Cup team of the tournament (2003)


Trish Hina has been described as one of New Zealand’s greatest sportswomen, representing her country in rugby league, rugby union, touch football and softball. But the Wellington five-eighth undoubtedly made her biggest impact in the 13-a-side game.


Arguably women’s rugby league’s first genuine superstar, Hina’s Kiwi Ferns tenure spanned 13 years and her linchpin role in three World Cup triumphs included two player of the tournament nods. The record-breaking try-scorer and goalkicker boasted a game-breaking kitbag of skill, vision and pace unmatched among her contemporaries.


“Trish was an amazing athlete – she could anything and everything, a dynamic player,” former Kiwi Ferns captain long-time teammate Nadene Conlon reflects.


“Every time she had the ball, you noticed. A brilliant runner, she could step, fend, kick, brutalise girls defensively – she could do it all. Like an Olsen Filipaina of the women’s game.


“She was the driving force in any team she was in, always stood out above everybody. The tries she scored and the skill factor – at the time it was a step above everybody. And a really good person and has given back from her experience in all sports to the community.”


Hina’s softball commitments prevented her from embarking on the Kiwi Ferns’ pioneering tour across the Tasman in 1995, but she made an immediate splash on the international scene two years later with two tries on Test debut in the series opener against Australia and a hat-trick in the second encounter. A pair of doubles in the 1998 cleansweep of Great Britain and three tries in the series win over Australia in 1999 followed.


The spearhead of Te Aroha’s 11 straight Wellington club titles, Hina inspired Wellington to national tournament success in 1997 and ’99. Meanwhile, a two-try performance against hosts England in the final secured player of the tournament honours as New Zealand took out the inaugural World Cup in 2000.



Hina was a dominant force as the Kiwi Ferns retained their world champions mantle at the 2003 tournament at home, scoring a competition-leading 82 points (including an incredible 40 from five tries and 10 goals in their win over Samoa) and earning a place in the team of the tournament.


All-time rugby league great status already assured, Hina was in irresistible form again at the 2008 World Cup and was named player of the tournament after scoring two tries and three goals as New Zealand crushed Australia 34-0 in the final at Suncorp Stadium.



Hina switched codes and won a World Cup with the Black Ferns in 2010 – at 33 years of age, the only debutant in the team – but was back in the Kiwi Ferns’ jersey only weeks later for an international rugby league swansong against Great Britain.


After a 10-year hiatus from the game – during which time she grappled with significant health challenges – Hina returned to help Upper Central Stallions win the inaugural 2020 NZRL National Women’s Championship.



“Trish is my lifetime idol. I first saw her at league nationals when I was a teenager with Bay of Plenty. She was playing for Wellington and had short hair. Oh God! She’d carve men up,” gushed fellow Kiwi Ferns great and dual rugby international Honey Hireme-Smiler, who was part of the 2003 and ’08 World Cup successes with Hina.


“We played together in the centres for New Zealand and again in 2020 at the Central Women’s championship which we won. She’s played a bit of club footy in Waikato and for her age is still a freak.”


The player of the match in the annual Māori All Stars versus Indigenous All Stars match is awarded the Trish Hina Medal, underlining her revered standing in women’s rugby league.




Clubs: Te Aroha

Provinces: Wellington


New Zealand Representative:


1997  v Australia

1998  v Great Britain

1999  v Australia (home and away)

2000  World Cup (England)

2001  v Australia

2002  v New Zealand Māori

2003  World Cup (NZ)

2004  in Australia

2006  v New Zealand Māori

2008  World Cup (Australia)

2010  v Great Britain




World Cup player of the tournament (2000, 2008)

World Cup team of the tournament (2003)


Luisa Avaiki was one of just three players to feature in New Zealand’s first three World Cup triumphs and the only 1995 original still playing when the Kiwi Ferns carried off the 2008 title, reflecting her rare longevity in the front-row trenches. Meanwhile, Avaiki’s role as captain of the 2003 and ’08 World Cup successes underline her status as one of women’s rugby league’s finest leaders and a Kiwi Ferns icon.


A try-scorer as New Zealand won its inaugural Test against Australia on the trailblazing 1995 tour, Avaiki starred again as the Kiwi Ferns defeated their trans-Tasman rivals in 1997 and was named player of the series after the 1998 series cleansweep of Great Britain.


Avaiki’s explosive ball-running was a key component of New Zealand’s resounding victory in the first women’s Rugby League World Cup in England in 2000.



She ascended to the captaincy for the 2003 competition on home soil and was named player of the tournament as the Kiwi Ferns defended their title in emphatic style.


“Luisa was unstoppable in that tournament,” says ex-Kiwis coach Frank Endacott, who was responsible for deciding on the award winners at the 2003 World Cup.


“She made the hard yards, had the offload to go with it, defended powerfully. World class. And a special lady, too – it’s great to see she’s still in the thick of it as a coach.”


The Richmond stalwart was similarly influential at the 2008 World Cup and scored a try in leading New Zealand to a 34-0 win over hosts Australia in the final at Suncorp Stadium – a fitting swansong to an extraordinary Kiwi Ferns tenure.



Of Samoan and Niuean descent (she moved to New Zealand from Samoa with her family as a child), Avaiki skippered Fetu Samoa in a Test against Australia in Apia in 2011.


Avaiki’s contribution to the game since hanging up the boots has been monumental. As well as coaching at grassroots level and holding development and welfare roles with Melbourne Storm and New Zealand Rugby League, she was the Warriors’ head coach in the first two seasons of the NRLW premiership, served as an assistant coach for the Kiwi Ferns and became NZRL’s Head of Women’s Rugby League.



“Luisa was a really explosive player and passionate about representing New Zealand, very dedicated,” long-time Kiwi Ferns teammate and fellow Legend of League inductee Nadene Conlon says.


“And definitely one of the toughest opponents I’ve come up against, having played against her as well. I’d much rather be on her team – she was one of the hardest to tackle.


“She wasn’t the busiest player, but everything she did, she did well. She could change a game for you – a tackle that knocked the ball out or a big run. One of the strongest and most mobile forward runners that we’ve ever had and the best prop in the world during her time.


“Luisa was so dedicated to the Kiwi Ferns, which shows in her longevity in the game and she became a really good leader. Her guidance was great for our Pacific Islands girls, too, and she’s always given back to the game.”


Avaiki was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2019 New Year’s honours list for services to rugby league.




Clubs: Richmond

Provinces: Auckland


New Zealand Representative:


1995  in Australia

1997  v Australia

1998  v Great Britain

1999  v Australia (home and away)

2000  World Cup (England)

2001  v Australia

2002  v New Zealand Māori

2003  World Cup (NZ)

2004  in Australia

2008  World Cup (Australia)




Player of the series v Great Britain (1998)

Kiwi Ferns World Cup-winning captain (2003, 2008)

Captain of World Cup team of the tournament (2003)

World Cup player of the tournament (2003)

Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (2019)


Nadene Conlon’s distinguished standing as a women’s rugby league pioneer and long-serving, high-achieving Kiwi Ferns leader is matched only by her towering off-field contributions to the game.


Conlon was part of New Zealand’s trailblazing 1995 tour of Australia, featuring in the second-row in both Tests. She was vice-captain for the Kiwi Ferns’ next two assignments – the 1997 series against Australia and the 1998 series against Great Britain – and skippered her country for the first time against the green-and-golds in 1999.


Regarded as the backbone of the Kiwi Ferns’ pack whose game was built around defence and an exceptional work-rate on both sides of the ball, Conlon also slotted in at loose forward, hooker, halfback and centre at club and representative level.


“I loved the game, loved the contact and the confrontation. But the highlight for me has been seeing the women’s game progress and for people to take it more seriously,” Conlon says.


“We applied ourselves and took it very seriously, but because it was essentially very amateur I think some people from the outside looked at it like it was a bit of a hobby, a fly-by-nighter type thing.


“But I trained constantly to be in the Kiwi Ferns. It was a dream – I wanted to be in that team and be the best in the world.”


The Auckland and New Zealand Māori skipper co-captained New Zealand’s triumph in the inaugural women’s Rugby League World Cup in England in 2000 with Nicole Presland and was named best forward of the tournament.



A perennial club player of the year award recipient for Te Atatu, Mount Albert, Point Chevalier, Marist and Bay Roskill, Conlon earned a place in the team of the tournament as the Kiwi Ferns defended their title at the 2003 World Cup at home. She was an intermittent captain of the Test side until injuries denied her a farewell Kiwi Ferns appearance in 2006 after being selected. Of the ’95 originals, only champion prop Luisa Avaiki’s Kiwi Ferns tenure extended further than Conlon’s.


“Nadene was one of those reliable players who played the same game every time she took the field,” says former Kiwis coach Frank Endacott, who selected the 2003 World Cup team of the tournament.


“She never let the team down, was always in the tough stuff and making the hard yards, a very mobile second-rower. And a lovely person to go with it, she’s done a lot of work with New Zealand Rugby League and other teams since. Nadene’s a very worthy recipient (of the Legends of League honour).”


Conlon became New Zealand’s first fulltime female coaching and development officer in 2000 with Auckland Rugby League and took on her initial role with New Zealand Rugby League as logistics and events manager from 2002-07.


She then spent six years on the Warriors’ staff as event and match-day manager and later team manager of the NRL and NYC sides, before rejoining NZRL as Kiwis and National Teams Manager in 2014 while also managing domestic competitions.


Harnessing the same work ethic, drive, humility and selflessness that were her trademarks as a player, Conlon is widely admired at all levels of the rugby league community for her tireless efforts.


“Nadene is a huge asset to New Zealand Rugby League, with how she looks after both the men and the women in such a large job and knows all the specifics required either when you are on tour and away from home or playing in Auckland,” current Kiwis coach Michael Maguire told in 2020.


“She played at the highest level for a long period at a time when the players had to carry a job and pay for their own tours and she is very humble and grateful around the comparisons and the joys of the girls and men now being paid and enjoying the sport in a different way.”


Conlon played a prominent role in bringing the New Zealand women’s team under the NZRL umbrella in 2014, as well as putting in countless hours preserving Kiwi Ferns history and shining a light on the rich narrative that she has been such an integral part of.


“Growing up in rugby league there wasn’t really any female heroes and I wanted the women to be like the men in regards to how the game was perceived, that was my driving ambition,” Conlon explains.


“I’m working through the arrangements now for the (New Zealand v Tonga) Test matches and what I do for the Kiwis, I do exactly the same for the Kiwi Ferns – which shows how far the game has come.


“It’s a dream come true, really, and it’s happened in such a short space of time. I’m very proud to still be involved and see them have the success they so deserve.”




Clubs: Te Atatu, Mount Albert, Point Chevalier, Marist, Bay Roskill

Provinces: Auckland


New Zealand Representative:


1995  in Australia

1997  v Australia

1998  v Great Britain

1999  v Australia (home and away)

2000  World Cup (England)

2002  v New Zealand Māori

2003  World Cup (NZ)

2004  in Australia

2006  v New Zealand Māori




Kiwi Ferns World Cup-winning co-captain (2000)

World Cup best forward (2000)

World Cup team of the tournament (2003)

June 24, 2022

New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) has inducted, for the first time in its history, four Kiwi Ferns to its prestigious Legends of League. Congratulations to Kiwi Fern legends, Luisa Avaiki, Nadene Conlon, Trish Hina and Leah Witehira who now join the esteemed Legends’ Club.

Also receiving the top New Zealand Rugby League honour are Kevin Iro, Stacey Jones, James Leuluai, Sir Graham Lowe, Dane O’Hara, Quentin Pongia, Howie Tamati and Ruben Wiki.

Expanding the NZRL Legends of League further has been a long time coming – and the return of the Kiwis and Kiwi Ferns to the Test arena after a three-year, COVID-enforced hiatus seems the perfect juncture to honour a new batch of inductees.

A six-strong panel made up of NZRL President, NZRL Life Member and former Kiwis captain and coach Howie Tamati, NZRL Life Member and 1994-2000 Kiwis coach Frank Endacott, 1990s Kiwi and 2008 Legends of League inductee Tawera Nikau, 1995 Kiwi Ferns original and long-serving NZRL Kiwis and National Teams Manager Nadene Conlon, former NZRL Director Elizabeth Richards, and rugby league journalist, author and NZRL historian Will Evans heeded the call in recent months to run the rule over dozens of worthy candidates.

Building on the recent work to recognise and celebrate the New Zealand women’s team’s history, the historic decision was made to induct an initial group of four Kiwi Ferns to the Legends of League, along with eight new Kiwis selections.

The key criteria set down for Legends of League recognition were: longevity, leadership, achievement and performance at international level (first and foremost) as well as club and provincial level; enhancing rugby league’s standing in New Zealand; and post-playing contribution to the game. Having been retired for at least five years – a directive since the establishment of the Legends of League in 1995 – remains a requirement.

Ruben Wiki and Stacey Jones narrowly missed the five-year retirement cut-off when the last batch of Legends of League were inducted in 2013 – and their inclusion this time around was essentially a fait accompli.

The Auckland juniors and long-time Kiwis teammates, who played 101 Test matches between them in the 1990s and 2000s, were the only New Zealand Team of the Century selections yet to receive Legends of League recognition. In 2019, Wiki and Jones – both esteemed Kiwi captains and universally admired for their impact on the Australian premiership – joined Mark Graham as the only New Zealanders in the NRL Hall of Fame in 2019.

The outpouring of emotional tributes for 35-Test Kiwi Quentin Pongia from every corner of the rugby league world following his death in 2019 from cancer, aged just 48, reflected the esteem in which he is held in the game. Widely revered as one of the toughest and most durable and uncompromising forwards of any era, the West Coast-bred, Canterbury provincial rep and Canberra Raiders premiership winner was a Kiwis engine-room cornerstone from 1992-2000 and captained New Zealand to Test series glory in Great Britain in 1998.

‘The Beast’ moniker illustrated the powerful impact Kevin Iro had as a blockbusting centre or winger in the Kiwi jersey for more than a decade, and on the British and Australian club scenes for 15 seasons. Aucklander Iro scored 16 tries in 34 Tests from 1987-98 and starred in a host of Challenge Cup final and Super League grand finals with Wigan, Leeds and St Helens.

The remaining four Kiwis Legends of League places went to key figures of the Kiwis’ halcyon 1980s era that featured so many ground-breaking victories.

The ultra-versatile James Leuluai played Tests in four different backline positions – but it is as brilliant, elusive centre that he is chiefly remembered. A breath-taking sidestep and blinding acceleration garnered 14 tries in 29 Tests.

Leuluai also produced some unforgettable Challenge Cup moments at Wembley with Hull FC, where he played alongside Auckland and Kiwis teammate and fellow 2022 Legends of League inductee Dane O’Hara.

Dubbed the ‘Rolls Royce of wingers’, O’Hara was a prolific try-scorer – including 14 touchdowns in a then-record-equalling 36 Test appearances for New Zealand – but was equally revered for his professionalism, dedication and leadership. He captained the Kiwis against Australia in 1980, a rare feat for a winger.

Taranaki hooker Howie Tamati was another vital component of New Zealand’s international rugby league renaissance, playing the last 19 of his 24 Tests for the Kiwis in succession, captaining his country against Papua New Guinea in 1983 and featuring prominently in watershed triumphs over Australia and Great Britain. Tamati, one of the game’s great servants, later coached the Kiwis in 1992-93 and began a long tenure as NZRL President – a post he continues to hold with pride and enthusiasm – in 2013.

Previous inductees such as Scotty McClymont, Lory Blanchard and Ces Mountford enhanced their case for inclusion by coupling esteemed playing careers with outstanding tenures as coach of the Kiwis. But Sir Graham Lowe has broken new Legends of League ground as the first inductee (aside from referee John Percival) without a prominent playing background.

After cutting his teeth at Ellerslie in the 1970s, Lowe became one of the most influential and revolutionary figures in the code’s history in New Zealand. The national team’s outstanding results under Lowe’s tutelage from 1983-86 heralded a turning point for the Kiwis, while his achievements and status as a club coach at Norths Devils, Wigan and Manly Sea Eagles, as well as State of Origin level with Queensland, are virtually unmatched by a New Zealander.

Luisa Avaiki’s inclusion as one of the first four Kiwi Ferns Legends of League was never in doubt. One of just three players to feature in New Zealand’s first three World Cup triumphs, Avaiki was the only 1995 original still playing when the Kiwi Ferns carried off the 2008 title. Meanwhile, the front-row powerhouse’s role as captain of the 2003 and ’08 World Cup successes underline her status as one of women’s rugby league’s finest leaders, and she has gone on to carve out a highly successful career in coaching and development post-playing.

Another 1995 original, Nadene Conlon’s distinguished standing as a women’s rugby league pioneer and long-serving, high-achieving Kiwi Ferns leader is matched only by her towering off-field contributions to the game. The 2000 World Cup-winning co-captain – admired for her tireless performances as a backbone of the Kiwi Ferns’ pack – has spent more than two decades working in rugby league coaching, development, administration and management with Auckland Rugby League, the Warriors and NZRL, while few have done as much to drive women’s rugby league’s progress.

Trish Hina has been described as one of New Zealand’s greatest sportswomen, representing her country in rugby league, rugby union, touch football and softball. But the Wellington five-eighth undoubtedly made her biggest impact in the 13-a-side game. Arguably women’s rugby league’s first genuine superstar, Hina’s Kiwi Ferns tenure spanned 13 years and her linchpin role in three World Cup triumphs included two player of the tournament nods. The record-breaking try-scorer and goalkicker boasted a game-breaking kitbag of skill, vision and pace unmatched among her contemporaries.

Leach Witehira was a prominent figure on New Zealand’s trail-blazing tour of Australia in 1995 and later formed a stellar halves combination with Hina as the Kiwi Ferns won the first two World Cups. Witehira was a prolific try-scorer at international level, a steady playmaking influence and key leader as the Ferns cemented their status as the dominant force in women’s rugby league.

New Zealand Rugby League congratulates the 12 new members of the Legends of League – a richly-deserved honour for some of the Kiwis’ and Kiwi Ferns’ best ever.


Kevin Iro
Stacey Jones
James Leuluai
Sir Graham Lowe
Dane O’Hara
Quentin Pongia
Howie Tamati
Ruben Wiki

Kiwi Ferns
Luisa Avaiki
Nadene Conlon
Trish Hina
Leah Witehira


June 24, 2022 – Selling out Mount Smart Stadium for tomorrow’s international doubleheader is a watershed moment for New Zealand rugby league.

It was announced this morning that more than 26,000 tickets have been sold for the back-to-back Tests for the Kiwi Ferns and the New Zealand Kiwis against Mate Ma’a Tonga.

It has now been confirmed it will be the first time the Kiwis will play in front of a capacity crowd since the 1988 Rugby League World Cup final at Auckland’s Eden Park.

That match was a 47,363 sell-out, the biggest crowd in New Zealand Rugby League history.

“The fact this is the first time we’ve sold out a stadium in close to 34 years underlines just how significant this occasion is, even more so because it’s not a World Cup or Four Nations final,” said New Zealand Rugby League CEO Greg Peters.

“It’s a further sign of how much it means to the public to have international rugby league back in New Zealand after such a long break due to the Covid pandemic.”

While there have been big crowds for internationals since 1988, none have sold out until now.

A near capacity crowd of 24,041 attended the 2017 Rugby League World Cup pool match between the Kiwis and Mate Ma’a Tonga at Hamilton’s FMG Stadium.

And Eden Park drew a crowd of 44,324 for the 2010 Four Nations doubleheader featuring the Kiwis against the Kangaroos and England against Papua New Guinea.


The first international Test match on New Zealand soil in over two years has officially sold out.

Saturday 25 June will see Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland’s Mt Smart Stadium at full capacity as the Kiwis and Kiwi Ferns face Pacific rivals Mate Ma’a Tonga.

Over 26,000 fans will pack out Mt Smart to celebrate the return of Test match footy to Aotearoa’s shores and the return of the biggest rivalry in international rugby league.

The sold-out crowd goes a long way towards helping NZRL achieve a new world record crowd attendance for a women’s rugby league match, which currently sits at 18,000.

The Kiwi Ferns take on Tonga at 3:10pm while the Kiwis face MMT at 5:20pm.

“This is a historic occasion for rugby league,” says NZRL CEO Greg Peters.

“To celebrate the return of international rugby league to Aotearoa with a sell-out crowd is something special.

“This is a momentous occasion for fans, players, and our rugby league communities across the country,” he adds.

“It’s been a long time between drinks and a long time since a Test match sell out. What an occasion Saturday will be, one for the history books.

“Welcome back rugby league.”

June 22, 2022

Head coach Ricky Henry has named four Kiwi Fern debutantes to line up against Tonga this Saturday at Mount Smart Stadium (3:10 pm kick-off) NZT.

 Amy Turner (Broncos) and Page McGregor (Dragons) will debut in the centres, while Bronco powerhouse Roxy Murdoch gets her call up to the Ferns’ second-row.

2022 NZRL Sky Sport Women’s Premiership MVP Laishon Albert-Jones will debut in the halves alongside Kiwi Fern veteran and Roosters Premiership winner Raecene McGregor.

Manurewa Marlin junior Krystal Rota earns her second Test captaincy for the Kiwi Ferns, while Titan’s lock Georgia Hale joins Raecene as vice-captain forming a strong leadership spine for the relatively young team.

Māori All-Stars and Premiership-winning Rooster Mya Hill-Moana earns her second Test appearance as prop alongside newly signed Bronco and front-row standout Annetta Nu’uausala.

Madison Bartlett is named on the wing following her top try scoring efforts for St. George Illawarra this season, and Kiwi Fern veteran and newly signed Bronco hooker Nita Maynard re-claims her place in the squad after missing the 2020 Test due to being based in Australia.

“We have exciting new talent who all deserve this opportunity, and they’re gelling well with our leadership spine and more experienced names,” said Head Coach Ricky Henry.

“It’s extremely special to see Kiwi Ferns debut for their country as we all know what a representative honour means to any player, especially at the highest level.

“After a two-year hiatus, everyone is excited to get back out there in front of whānau and friends against a tough Tonga team who will be out for victory. I’m looking forward to seeing the Ferns give it their all Saturday.”


JOIN US as we aim to break the world record for a women’s rugby league crowd this Saturday.


Please click here for tickets to Kiwi Ferns v MMT on June 25 at Mount Smart Stadium.



Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland

3.10pm, Saturday, June 25, 202

1 Autumn-Rain STEPHENS DALY Newcastle Knights (2021, Current) 151
2 Madison BARTLETT St George (2021), Titans (Current) 144
3 Page MCGREGOR St George (2021)
4 Amy TURNER Broncos (2021, Current)
5 Katelyn VAHA’AKOLO Newcastle Knights (2021) 150
6 Laishon ALBERT-JONES Akarana Falcons
7 Raecene MCGREGOR Roosters (2021) 140
8 Annetta-Claudia NUUAUSALA Newcastle (2021) Broncos (Current), 127
9 Krystal ROTA (C) Newcastle Knights (2021) 124
10 Mya HILL-MOANA Roosters (2021) 155
11 Roxy MURDOCH-MASILA Broncos (2021)
12 Ngatokotoru ARAKUA Newcastle Knights (2021) 133
13 Georgia HALE Titans (2021) 122
14 Nita MAYNARD Paramatta Eels (2021), Broncos (Current) 137
15 Charlotte SCANLAN Newcastle Knights (2021) 103
16 Kararaina WIRA-KOHU Newcastle Knights (2021) 153
17 Christyl STOWERS Counties Manukau 156
18 Karli HANSEN Titans (2021) 152
19 Hailee-Jay MAUNSELL Titans (2021)


June 22, 2022 

Four players are set for their Test debuts when the Kiwis face Mate Ma’a Tonga in New Zealand’s first international in more than two and a half years at Mount Smart Stadium on Saturday night.

Of the eight new faces included in the wider squad this week, Parramatta duo Dylan Brown and Marata Niukore plus Cronulla Sutherland winger Ronaldo Mulitalo and Penrith prop Moses Leota will all play their first Test for the Kiwis.

Brown is paired in the halves with outstanding Melbourne halfback Jahrome Hughes while Niukore is named in the centres with the experienced Peta Hiku and Leota is on a potent bench.

In other selection features head coach Michael Maguire has selected the versatile Joseph Manu at fullback while in-form Parramatta second rower Isaiah Papali’i, who made his debut off the bench for the Kiwis in England 2018, is a starter in his second Test more than three and half years later.

Included on the interchange is 31-yeard-old Manly Warringah half Kieran Foran who makes another international comeback after overcoming adversity.

His return from a two-year absence in 2019 was cruelly ended by a dislocated shoulder just six minutes into the Kiwis’ first Test against Great Britain at Eden Park.

“It’s an exciting time for everyone involved having international rugby league back on deck after so long,” said Maguire.

“There’s a real buzz among the players for what is such a significant occasion for the Kiwi jersey and for the game as a whole.

“We’ve been able to bring together a group of players who have been in tremendous form so far this season and they’re desperate to do well for their country.

“It’s a special thrill giving debuts to Dylan, Marata, Ronaldo and Moses. They really deserve this opportunity.”

Newly-appointed captain Jesse Bromwich is the team’s most experienced player as he eyes his 30th Test match while Foran will play his 23rd since his debut in 2009.

Please click here for tickets to Kiwis v MMT on June 25 at Mount Smart Stadium.


Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland

5.20pm, Saturday, June 25, 2022


1 JOSEPH MANU Sydney Roosters 815
2 RONALDO MULITALO Cronulla Sutherland Sharks
3 MARATA NIUKORE Parramatta Eels
4 PETA HIKU North Queensland Cowboys 781
5 JORDAN RAPANA Canberra Raiders 798
6 DYLAN BROWN Parramatta Eels
7 JAHROME HUGHES Melbourne Storm 819
8 JESSE BROMWICH (c) Melbourne Storm 775
9 BRANDON SMITH Melbourne Storm 816
10 JAMES FISHER-HARRIS Penrith Panthers 801
11 ISAIAH PAPALI’I Parramatta Eels 817
12 KENNY BROMWICH Melbourne Storm 796
13 JOSEPH TAPINE Canberra Raiders 800
14 KIERAN FORAN Manly Warringah Sea Eagles 757
15 MOSES LEOTA Penrith Panthers
16 NELSON ASOFA-SOLOMONA Melbourne Storm 804
17 BRITON NIKORA Cronulla Sutherland Sharks 818
18 JORDAN RIKI Brisbane Broncos
19 DALLIN WATENE-ZELEZNIAK Vodafone Warriors 794
20 TE MAIRE MARTIN Brisbane Broncos 802
21 SCOTT SORENSEN Penrith Panthers
22 ERIN CLARK Gold Coast Titans
23 KEN MAUMALO Wests Tigers 810
24 GRIFFIN NEAME North Queensland Cowboys



June 21, 2022 – Seasoned front rower Jesse Bromwich has been appointed captain for the Kiwis’ mid-season Test against Mate Ma’a Tonga at Mount Smart Stadium on Saturday (5.20pm kick-off).

Head coach Michael Maguire made the announcement to the squad after the players came into camp on Monday night.

Now 33, Bromwich is comfortably the most experienced international in the current squad with 29 Tests since his debut in 2012.

“It’s a tribute to Jesse and the work he has done that has seen him earn respect as a true leader with Melbourne,” said Maguire.

“He’s again co-captain for the Storm this season which speaks volumes for the regard he’s held in at such a great club.”

Bromwich is in his 13th and final season with the Storm after signing with the new Redcliffe Dolphins franchise from 2023.

Since making his debut in 2010, the Manurewa Marlins junior has played 284 NRL matches and is on track to join the 300 club early next season.

After his rookie season Bromwich quickly established himself as one of the game’s foremost props, a first-choice selection for both club and country.

He has underlined his durability by missing very few games throughout his career. In the past 11 seasons he has never played fewer than 19 matches in a campaign and then only because the 2020 season was shortened by the Covid pandemic.

21 June 2022 – Veteran Kiwi Fern hooker Krystal Rota has been honoured with her second Test captaincy for this Saturday’s clash against Tonga.

Rota has been a focal point of the Ferns team, a mainstay at the hooker position after making her debut in the 2016 Anzac test victory over the Jillaroos.

The Manurewa junior was named co-captain for the Māori All Stars’ inaugural encounter with the Indigenous All Stars during the 2019 pre-season; she scored the winning try and received the Trish Hina Medal as player of the match.

Rota then contributed 19 tackles and 94 running metres to the Kiwi Ferns’ mid-season win over Samoa.

The veteran then starred in the Kiwi Ferns’ World Cup Nines victory and was at hooker again for the subsequent Test against the Jillaroos in Wollongong.

Rota’s leadership qualities came to the fore in 2020. After leading Māori All-Stars against Indigenous All-Stars for the second straight season, Rota skippered Counties Manukau to glory in the inaugural Sky Sports NZRL National Women’s Premiership.

She was then named Kiwi Ferns captain for the end-of-season Test against Fetu Samoa, producing a strong performance at hooker in New Zealand’s 28-8 victory.

“She’s an invaluable member of the squad and plays a crucial role in the Fern’s leadership spine,” said Head Coach Ricky.

“The impact she has on those around her, from players to staff, is evident and the leadership accolades she has under her belt speaks volumes.”

After a two-year hiatus, the Kiwi Ferns face Tonga at Mt Smart on Saturday (3:10 pm), where the veteran Kiwi Fern looks to lead her side to victory.

Despondent after the Broncos’ defeat to Melbourne in Round 15, Te Maire Martin instantly lights up when you remind him that just eight games into his return to the NRL, he’s off to Kiwis camp.

Martin, of Māori descent, played four matches for the Kiwis prior to his two-and-a-half year break from rugby league due to serious health concerns.

His last match in a black jumper was a 36-18 loss to England in Denver in 2018.

Now, with just a handful of games in the top grade under his belt, he’s hoping to pick up a few ideas to get his club back to winning ways as he embarks on what is set to be an unforgettable experience — joining the wider Kiwis squad in a long-awaited return of elite rugby league to New Zealand.

Having played five-eighth in his last Test appearance in 2018, the crafty playmaker could slot into fullback, halves or even a bench utility role come game day this time around against the power-packed Tongan side.

“I’m pretty excited to be honest. I’ve been out for three years and been back eight games and being able to be in the Kiwis squad is amazing,” Martin said.

“Obviously the selectors think you’re doing something right but I think it’s more of a reflection of how the Broncos are going.

“I’m just stoked to be in the squad. Whether I play or not, I’m not too fussed. It’s a pretty good squad and whoever they choose, it will be a good team.

“I’m just really excited and stoked to be a part of it.

“I have a feeling it’s going to be a fast week, so I’ve got to soak it all in. I love being around the Kiwi boys and I’ve been in a few camps now so I’m pretty excited to tag along.”

There’s also the carrot of the World Cup squad at the end of the year, giving Martin more encouragement to build on his fitness and skills still returning to him after so long away, and the prospect of a new NRL contract with the Broncos.

But both of those ideas couldn’t be further from his mind as he prepares for a trip home to reward long-suffering New Zealand rugby league lovers after 960 days – about 100 days more than Martin spent out of the NRL – without a top-level match.

The Kiwis took down Great Britain 23-8 on November 9, 2019 in the last sojourn on home soil in Christchurch, and Martin hopes the 17 taking on Tonga can give them just rewards with a return win.

“I think the league supporters back home will be looking to deck out Mt Smart because they haven’t seen many live games for some time. It will be a good atmosphere whether you’re playing or not,” Martin said.

“It gives the younger kids something to look up to instead of watching on TV all the time. When you get a big crowd it’s such a good feeling at Mt Smart Stadium. It’s unreal.”

His hope is it inspires more Kiwis to play the game, and few know better than Martin about the immense talent lurking at the grassroots.

The Turangawaewae junior quietly made a return to rugby league last year with Taharoa Steelers in the Waikato Rugby League – and he will tell you he was far from the best player there.

“There’s some wicked players in that comp, they just need the opportunity that I got. There’s only four or five teams in the competition I played in last year and there’s a lot of players there that are a lot more talented than I am,” he said.

“It’s good the Warriors get to go back there too, so hopefully they get to scour some local talent because there’s definitely some good talent there.”

June 15, 2022

New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) has named a 25-man wider squad to travel home to Aotearoa to face Pacific rivals Mate Ma’a Tonga at Mt Smart Stadium on June 25.

Eight of the squad are potential Kiwi debutants, including Ellerslie Eagles junior Ronaldo Mulitalo (Cronulla Sutherland) who leads the NRL with 20 line-breaks and Eels playmaker Dylan Brown who has six tries, seven try assists, five line break assists, nine line breaks and 46 tackle breaks in 13 games this season.

Other new faces are Panthers duo Moses Leota and Scott Sorensen, both instrumental in Penrith’s dominance over the last three seasons. Vodafone Warriors-bound Parramatta back rower Marata Niukore joins the fray, as does Gold Coast hooker Erin Clark.

Former Junior Kiwi teammates Griffin Neame (Cowboys) and Jordan Riki (Broncos) enter the Kiwis’ frame and Broncos fullback Te Maire Martin receives a recall after his impressive return to the NRL this season. The last of Martin’s four internationals was Kiwi head coach Michael Maguire’s first Test in charge against England in Denver four years ago.

Unsurprisingly, 2021 Dally M Team of the Year members James Fisher-Harris (Penrith) and Isaiah Papali’i (Parramatta) have cemented their spots in the squad. Tigers-bound Papali’i has averaged 155 metres a game to add to his five tries while Fisher-Harris consistently shows why he’s one of the best front-rowers in the game.

The versatile Joey Manu (Sydney Roosters) is named alongside Melbourne’s cohort of playmakers, Jahrome Hughes, Brandon Smith, Nelson Asofa-Solomona and the Bromwich brothers Jesse and Kenny.

Leading the NRL with 964 post-contact metres, Canberra forward Joseph Tapine has been a season standout. He joins Canberra teammate Jordan Rapana and in-form Cowboys centre Peta Hiku who returns to the Kiwi squad after last touring in 2018.

“I know how much the black and white jersey means to these players,” said Maguire.

“To finally return home after two years and play for your country in front of fans and whānau, this Test will be special.

“This squad has an exciting mix of fresh talent and experienced Kiwis having some of their best seasons. We have a strong spine of leaders throughout the group that play a crucial role in the team, especially with these new boys coming through.

“Some difficult decisions have had to be made, but it’s a positive sign of our depth in certain positions. With the quality of Kiwi talent on display throughout the NRL, we are in a strong place as we look to build a solid foundation ahead of the Rugby League World Cup come October.”


For tickets to Kiwis v MMT, June 25th at Mt Smart Stadium, please click here.

3:10pm NZT Kiwi Ferns v Tonga
5:20pm NZT Kiwis v MMT

15 June 2022

Nineteen players have been selected for the upcoming Kiwi Ferns clash against Tonga on June 25 (3.10 pm kick-off) NZT at Mount Smart Stadium.

The long-awaited June Test will be the Kiwi Ferns’ first appearance at home after a two-year Covid hiatus.

Included in the Ricky Henry coached side is a mix of fresh talent from the NRLW and Sky Sport Women’s Premiership, while experienced internationals make a return.

Māori All-Stars front-rower Mya Hill-Moana gets the call-up after her impressive 2021 NRLW Premiership win with the Roosters.

Sydney teammate and seasoned Kiwi Fern Raecene McGregor also cements her place; the three-time NRLW Premiership winner is joined by her sister Page McGregor who featured in this year’s Grand Final for the Dragons.

Young Titan’s centre Hailee-Jay Maunsell, who stood out in last year’s QRL Harvey Norman U19 competition, earns her debut selection. The 18-year-old was a part of the future Titans programme and was later promoted to the NRLW after making a lasting impression.

Australian rugby union 2016 Olympic gold medallist and Bronco Amy Turner receives her debut selection alongside fellow teammate Roxy Murdoch-Masila.

From the 2022 NZRL Sky Sport Women’s Premiership, the competition’s MVP Laishon Albert-Jones gets her maiden call-up after playing a crucial role in Akarana’s first Premiership title in 11 years.

Te Atatu duo Katelyn Vahaakolo and Karli Hansen were also named; both earned their Kiwi Ferns debut against Fetu Samoa in 2020, resulting in NRLW call-ups for the 2021 season.

2020 Kiwi Fern Rookie of the Year and Newcastle Knight Autumn-Rain Stephens Daly returns to the frame alongside Manurewa Marlin Christyl Stowers and seasoned Kiwi Fern’s Captain Krystal Rota.

Leading 2021 NRLW try-scorer Madison Bartlett was named following an impressive six tries for the Dragons this season. Former Veronica White medallist and 2020 Young New Zealander of the Year Georgia Hale and Gisborne-born Paramatta play-maker Nita Maynard also return.

After an impressive NRLW season with the Newcastle Knights, Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the year, Annetta-Claudia Nu’uausala is locked in, as are her former Knights teammates, Ngatokorua Arakua, Kararaina Wira-Kohu and Charlotte Scanlan. Nu’uausala recently signed with the Brisbane Broncos.

“We’ve listed a group of individuals that have rightfully earned their spots, and we acknowledge them for their efforts in both the NRLW competition and Sky Sport Women’s Premiership,” Henry said.

“We welcome five new players to the team who I’m confident will flourish under our veteran leaders; we also see the return of some key names from our 2020 Test against Samoa, this time with debut NRLW seasons under their belt.

“This Tonga Test allows us to build a solid foundation ahead of the Rugby League World Cup come October. It’s been nearly two years since we have donned the Black and White jersey, so this Test back home in front of whānau and fans Is going to be special.”

Purchase tickets to the June double-header as NZRL aims to break the world record for a women’s rugby league crowd attendance.


For tickets to Kiwi Ferns v MMT, June 25th at Mt Smart Stadium please click here.

3:10pm NZT Kiwi Ferns v Tonga
5:20pm NZT Kiwis v MMT


June 14, 2022

In anticipation of the June 25th New Zealand v Tonga double header, NZRL and Tonga Rugby League will host ‘Coming Together’ – Whakakotahi | Fakatahataha, 4:00pm Wednesday 22nd June at Otahuhu Rugby League Club.

This community event celebrates the return of rugby league to Aotearoa’s shores as the teams unite with fans before doing battle next Saturday at Auckland’s Mt Smart Stadium.

Fans are encouraged to get down to Otahuhu Rugby League club to see their favourite players and win a bunch of cool MMT, Kiwis & Kiwi Ferns prizes.

NZRL will announce which players will be in attendance next week.

Due to strict NRL covid protocols, unfortunately, there can be no direct player and fan interaction e.g, photos with players or signing sessions. However, fans can have a front-row seat to our own NZ v Mate Ma’a Tonga footy show with endless prizes and signed merch to giveaway.

Get down to Otahuhu Rugby League club next Wednesday afternoon to see your Kiwis, Kiwi Ferns and Mate Ma’a Tonga Men and Women, and be a part of all the action as we celebrate the return of Test match rugby league to Aotearoa.

Coming Together – Whakakotahi | Fakatahataha is supported by the Local Activation Fund Programme and/or Discount Programme, administered by Auckland Unlimited on behalf of the New Zealand Government.



Whakakotahi | Fakatahataha

Wednesday, June 22

Otahuhu Rugby League Club

From 3:30pm – 5:00pm


June 13, 2022

2022 sees the return of the prestigious Pirtek Volunteer of the Month award, where our rugby league community gets a chance to see their hard mahi recognised across the motu. This award is gifted to a volunteer who displays the core values of NZRL’s Kiwi Way: being family first, innovative, inclusive, respectful, respectful and humble. We are excited to announce that the first winner in 2022 and the month of May is Tim O’Leary.

Tim took over far north’s Kerikeri Mako’s suddenly after the previous manager’s unforeseen passing. O’Leary has remained at the club for several years as the Makos suffered tragedy as a fire struck down its clubrooms. After three years of lobbying to the council, the building was demolished, leaving the Kerikeri outfit without basic necessities for a rugby league club.

O’Leary was instrumental in gathering gazebos for changerooms, organising the team to be able to use showers at the nearby gym and aftermatch at the local pub. Tim has also invested a lot of personal funds into the logistics of the club to keep it afloat, evening paying for fees and players’ boots.

The dedicated father of five contributes a lot of his time between his family and the Kerikeri Makos and is a focal point for the Northland club.

Pirtek CEO Chris Bourke says, “The Kerikeri Makos are fortunate to have someone like Tim O’Leary amongst the club.”

“Tim is the epitome of what volunteering is within our rugby league community. The club has faced a number of extraordinary challenges and tragedy, and Tim has stepped up every time, ensuring the continuity of rugby league in the area.”

“it is not easy to sacrifice so much of your time and family commitments, but O’Leary puts his best foot forward for everything he does.”

“Tim is well-deserving of the Pirtek Volunteer of the Month and first of 2022.”


Volunteers will be chosen based off how well they demonstrate our Kiwi Way values:

We are family first – stronger together.

Innovative and Courageous – punch above our weight.

We are responsible.

We are inclusive, respectful and humble.

Each winner receives $200 worth of vouchers.

#TheKiwiWay #MoreThanAGame

Pirtek Volunteer of the Month Submission Form

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    Position:           Appointed Director, Rugby League Northland Zone of NZRL

    Location:          Te Tai Tokerau | Tamaki Makaurau

    Kō wai mātou |About us

    Rugby League is ‘more than a game’, it is part of our nation’s social fabric and has a critical role in developing rangatahi in our communities. Through the ‘more than a game’ philosophy we aspire to transform lives and community wellbeing through rugby league.

    Rugby League Northland Zone (RLN) is an Incorporated Society responsible for the sport in the Northland area. It is responsible for club competitions, representative teams and ensuring coaches, managers, trainers, refs and volunteers are supported.

    RLN supports local and representative competitions, premier and junior teams, and clubs within the Northland area. RLN also works with schools in the region delivering ‘Leadership through League’, ‘Adam Blair’, ‘Kiwi Tag’, ‘Lightning League (Girls only)’, ‘League 9’s’ and ‘League Festivals’ in primary, intermediate and secondary schools.

    RLN are seeking to appoint one director due to a retirement, which will see the board at seven members. A succession plan for the Chair is also in play.

    RLN has in place a Community Manager and supporting roles including a Development Manager, a Development Officer and a Competition, Communication and Administration Manager. The supporting roles report to the Community Manager.


    Hei whakahere | What we offer


    Appointment term: the term is four years with the possibility of reappointment, subject to effective performance and rotation, up to a maximum of two further terms.


    Location: to ensure regional connection it is desirable for the director to live in the north or the Auckland area or have a meaningful connection.


    Commitment: Board meetings are held monthly except January, starting at 5.30pm. Virtual meetings, AGM and events supporting the development of the sport in the region are expected.


    The role is voluntary but could be a pathway to the national board or other governance opportunities.


    It is important the successful candidate has the time available to undertake the role effectively, taking note of the director’s duty to act with due care, diligence, and skill in the best interests of RLN.


    He korero mōu | About you


    We are looking for:

    1. Strong community development links and networks
    2. Can provide an example or examples of community development outcomes they have led
    3. Desire to build the sport in the region
    4. Governance experience (in a sports or voluntary organisation desirable but not preferable)
    5. Financial focus within a modest budget
    6. Strategic and innovative thinker
    7. Diversity and inclusion is a focus
    8. Understanding and appreciation of Te Tiriti o Waitangi


    RLN would be shortlisting for interviews in early July.


    To apply for this role please do so at

    For further information call Jane Moore at New Zealand Rugby League on 021 022 42717


    Applications close Friday 24 June 2022.


    06 June 2022

    Mr Benjamin (Benji) Quentin Marshall

    A Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit

    For services to rugby league

    Benji Marshall says he would be happy knowing he had inspired just one Kiwi kid to reach for the stars.

    But Marshall went way beyond that in an extraordinary league career that reshaped how the game could be played.

    And yet to this day, no one has played rugby league quite like the exhilarating Benji Marshall.

    He was a football wizard who took the magic to a new level.

    It started from the get-go, with the 20-year-old inspiring the unfancied Wests Tigers to win the 2005 NRL title, including some awe-inspiring Marshall moments in the grand final win over North Queensland.

    And from that point, there’s no doubt that thousands of kids, in union and league, would have had their creative juices flowing after watching Marshall play.

    There were so many elements to his career, including repeatedly coming back from serious injuries, mainly to his slender shoulders.

    At his best, he bounced off the turf like no one else, and he always bounced back from adversity.

    “I was just a small kid from Whakatāne with no right to get to where I got to in achieving all the things I did,” he said.

    “Hopefully with me doing what I did it inspires others, especially young Kiwi kids. If you can change one life, that’s enough.”

    The 37-year-old Marshall, who retired late last year, became the longest-serving Kiwis captain, was at the heart of the famous 2008 World Cup win, and played 31 tests.

    He will always be remembered best for his golden years with Wests, but he was also a part of the Souths side which made last year’s grand final and played for a couple of other NRL clubs with mixed fortunes.

    He stayed loyal to the Kiwi cause even when overlooked, and made an emotional return as captain three years ago.

    “One of the biggest things in playing the game is that you want to get to the highest level and for me, representing the Kiwis, it doesn’t get any better,” he said.

    “So to be out for that long and then get the opportunity to not just play again, but be an integral part of that side, to captain the team in the Tonga test, was pretty special.

    “Then also at the end of that season to play against Great Britain, to finish that way, was also incredible.”

    30 May 2022


    • South Island based role with workplace location open to negotiation
    • Career development opportunity
    • Provide strategic direction and oversight
    • Community leadership and commercial partnerships
    • Accountability for a large geographic area
    • High level of autonomy

    The Southern Zone Rugby League (SZRL) encompasses the whole of Te Waipounamu.  As a Zone of New Zealand Rugby League, SZRL is responsible for the growth and development of rugby league alongside the districts and clubs in Te Waipounamu.

    Since 2010, the SZRL has actively supported its clubs and districts to increase game participation by creating a positive environment for players, officials, volunteers, and whānau alike. Driven by our vision: to create stronger more connected communities, and with our core values of courage, inclusiveness, respect, passion, and dedication, the Southern Zone is focused on making a positive difference to communities all over Te Waipounamu.

    After more than 12 successful years at the helm, the incumbent General Manager has decided to embark on a new adventure.  Our Zone is therefore seeking a new energetic and engaging leader who can positively build on the strong structural and financial base that has been established.

    Reporting to the Southern Zone Board of Directors, you will be a strategic and commercially astute leader, taking overall responsibility for all the activities of SZRL, in line with its strategic, community, and financial goals.  Understanding the dynamics of sport and a relevant tertiary qualification are highly desirable, however superior communication skills with a track record of fostering stakeholder engagement and building relationships with the ability to relate at all levels of the community will be essential.

    To provide the level of leadership necessary to be successful in this role, the General Manager will possess the following attributes:

    • An appreciation of the strategic issues facing sport and the potential for Rugby League to add value to the communities the game serves.
    • The ability to build and maintain positive working relationships with diverse stakeholder groups including core membership, commercial partners, and the wider community.
    • A sound understanding of te ao Māori and Pasifika culture would be advantageous.
    • A commitment to continuous improvement and an organisational culture where accountability to stakeholders is measured by achievement of clearly defined outcomes.
    • Sound working knowledge of financial reporting and performance management processes in order to ensure the financial sustainability of the Zone.
    • An ability to be able to maximise revenue generation opportunities via understanding of the sponsorship and/or funding sectors.
    • A strong work ethic and willingness to ‘roll your sleeves up’ to get the job done with limited resources.

    If you possess the qualities, passion, and drive required to lead the SZRL in its path forward and want to make the most of this significant and exciting opportunity, please apply by sending a CV and covering letter to [email protected].

    A Position Description for the role is available on request or by going to the Southern Zone website 

    Applications close 5pm Monday 20th June 2022






    27 May 2022

    The mighty Black and White is back.

    To celebrate, NZRL is gifting the ultimate die-hard NZ fan + nine of their friends and whānau with a corporate table at the June 25th NZ v Tonga Test Double Header at Mt Smart Stadium.


    Seem like a bit of you? Here’s how to enter:

    Show us you’re the loudest and proudest New Zealand supporter there is.

    Be as creative or detailed as you like; send us a video, photos or stories; we want to see it all.


    How to enter:

    Comment on our post who you’d take.

    Post your entry or direct message us on NZRL socials – @nzrugbyleague (Insta) or @nzkiwis (FB).


    Email your entry to [email protected]


    The competition closes Thursday 9th June.


    The Prize

    • Enjoy the NZ v Tonga doubleheader from Mt Smart’s East Lounge.
    • A three-course plated meal (set entrée, alternate drop main, set dessert) and post-match supper.
    • Pre and post match lounge entertainment and giveaways
    • Additional beverages are available via a cash bar or pre-arranged bar tab.
    • Travel and accommodation not included.


    Celebrate the return of rugby league to Aotearoa in style with a prize valued at nearly $3000.

    Kiwi and Kiwi Ferns fans, show us you’re the loudest and proudest there is. It’s been too long, we’ve missed you.



    27 May 2022

    as seen on

    Rugby league legends Jerry Seuseu and Ali Lauiti’iti are tackling mental health in young Māori and Pacific Islanders head-on.

    The two ex-NRL stars are ambassadors for the New Zealand Rugby League Wellbeing Programme.

    They travel the country talking at grassroots rugby league clubs to players, friends, coaches and anyone who wants to participate in the It Ain’t Weak To Speak campaign.

    Seuseu told the Herald when he was playing professional rugby league for the Warriors, Kiwis and in the UK for Wigan, asking for help to deal with mental health issues was frowned upon.

    “We were basically told to harden up and do your best,” Seuseu recalls.

    “It wasn’t very fashionable to talk about mental health and people had to deal with it quietly. Fortunately for Ali and myself, we had a good Christian upbringing and that certainly helped us in our careers.

    “That’s what it was like back then, but we have moved on and we encourage our young people to use their voices and be heard.

    “Our statistics tell us mental health [challenges are] everywhere and our youth are suffering the most. It’s no weakness to reach out if you are struggling and not in a good space.”

    Having hung up their playing boots a few years ago, Seuseu and Lauiti’iti want to give back to the community that supported them throughout their long and illustrious careers. They both still live in and around South Auckland.

    Seuseu played 209 matches – 37 for Counties-Manukau (1995-1996), 132 for the Warriors (1997-2004) and 40 in the UK Super League for the Wigan Warriors (2005-2006). He also represented Samoa four times in 2000 and the Kiwis 11 times, from 2001-2004.

    Lauiti’iti was one of the most gifted players to ever pull on a Warriors or New Zealand rugby league jersey, because of his athleticism and skills.

    He was a 115-game Warrior from 1998-2003, played 200 games for UK Super League club Leeds from 2004-2011 and also for Wakefield Trinity in 94 matches from 2012-2015.

    Seuseu said communities face their own unique dilemmas but youth issues are not dissimilar around the motu (nation).

    “We are finding that wherever we go to speak with youth, each area has its own unique issues.

    “Our team spoke in Invercargill and the group wanted to talk about alcohol and driving, because they had a tragedy a few weeks prior involving teenagers,” Seuseu said.

    “There was a group of 60 and all of them knew those involved and were trying to come to terms with the accident and make sense of their loss.

    “We also spoke with a group from Manurewa and people told us they might be a difficult group. But we gave them the opportunity and they were real conversant on how they felt.”

    Seuseu said giving teenagers coping strategies and mechanisms was a big part of the programme, and it was rewarding work.

    “We get a lot out of doing this as well,” Seuseu said.

    The NZRL and the Warriors are working alongside Le Va, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) whose vision is to support whānau and communities for better health and wellbeing outcomes.

    “In Auckland, the youth we speak to are more worried about their identity, social media and what is affecting them,” Seuseu said.

    “Sometimes the conversations with youth are awkward but they have to be had.

    “Ali and I try to talk with youth in a safe and engaging way, sometimes we use our PI humour, and that always brings a laugh,” Seuseu said.

    Lauiti’iti said talking with youth about suicide was confronting but had to be discussed for the sake of our young people.

    “We try to equip our youth with tools to deal with suicide, and although it is hard and confronting we have to speak about it,” Lauiti’iti said.

    “But it’s also having the courage to step out and help out if you see one of your mates, or you, are not in the right space.”

    In Auckland, 80 per cent of league players are Māori or Pasifika. Outside of Tāmaki Makaurau, 80 per cent of rugby league players are Māori.



    If it is an emergency and you or someone else is at risk, call 111.


    For counselling and support:

    Lifeline: Call 0800 543 354 or text 4357 (HELP)

    Suicide Crisis Helpline: Call 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

    Need to talk? Call or text 1737

    Depression helpline: Call 0800 111 757 or text 4202

    For children and young people:

    Youthline: Call 0800 376 633 or text 234

    What’s Up: Call 0800 942 8787 (11am to 11pm) or webchat (11am to 10.30pm)

    The Lowdown: Text 5626 or webchat

    For help with specific issues:

    Alcohol and Drug Helpline: Call 0800 787 797

    Anxiety Helpline: Call 0800 269 4389 (0800 ANXIETY)

    OutLine: Call 0800 688 5463 (0800 OUTLINE) (6pm-9pm)

    Safe to talk (sexual harm): Call 0800 044 334 or text 4334

    All services are free and available 24/7 unless otherwise specified.

    For more information and support, talk to your local doctor, hauora, community mental health team, or counselling service. The Mental Health Foundation has more helplines and service contacts on its website.

    26 May 2022

    as seen on

    A decade after savouring premiership glory with Manly as a couple of fresh-faced youngsters, Kieran Foran and Daly Cherry-Evans will share another significant moment at AAMI Park on Thursday when the resilient and respected ‘Foz’ plays his 250th NRL game.

    Foran was 21 and Cherry-Evans 22 when they teamed up in the halves to take the Sea Eagles to grand final glory in 2011, the start of a five-year partnership that was split when the Kiwi five-eighth headed to the Eels in 2016.

    Stints at the Warriors (2017) and Bulldogs (2018-20) followed before Foran found his way ‘home’ to Brookvale last season to reunite with Cherry-Evans, who has gone on to become Sea Eagles royalty with 272 games in maroon and white.

    Since that emotional night at ANZ Stadium in 2011, Foran has played 191 games, his career derailed by serious shoulder, hamstring, back and ankle injuries, while DCE has added 245 games to his tally.

    Foran freely admits there were times he feared he’d never make it anywhere near 250 games, but his love for the game and the contest kept him going.

    “I’ve had plenty of tough spots and a number of times I wondered whether I’d be able to keep playing so it’s always nice to pick yourself up and be able to keep going and that is something I’ve prided myself on,” Foran said.

    “I’m very fortunate that I’m able to play this great game every single week and I want to play for as long as I can.

    “The mental and physical challenges are both as tough as one another and at times go hand in hand. I’m just glad I have been able to learn along the way and build plenty of resilience.

    “Deep down I love rugby league. I enjoy the competitive side and I enjoy trying to push my body as hard as I can and for as long as I can, and at the end of the day if you’ve got that will then you’re able to keep going.”

    Given his injury history and the fact he was closing in on his 31st birthday, many questioned the wisdom of Manly taking a punt on Foran in 2021.

    When the dust had settled on the Sea Eagles’ season, the reward had far outweighed the risk, a fully fit Foran producing 11 try assists and 18 line break assists in 25 matches – the first time since 2014 he had played more than 20 games in a season.

    “I never thought I would come back to Manly after my first stint here and then being able to come back and get the opportunity to play here for the last couple of years has been a dream come true,” Foran said.

    “It’s pretty cool to be able to play my 250th in these colours – it means a lot to me.”

    In a week where the season-ending injury to superstar fullback Tom Trbojevic has dominated the headlines and his own headspace, Cherry-Evans was happy to take time out to pay tribute to milestone man Foran.

    “As a mate, and thinking about the journey he has been on, I can’t wait to be out there and support him this week and hopefully get a win,” Cherry-Evans said.

    “As a team-mate you want to make sure you go out and make these milestones a special night for them.

    DCE talks Turbo injury and Foran’s milestone,

    “It’s a night Kieran and his family will never forget and we do have that added motivation to go out there and play better for someone who is loved at this club.

    “We are really clear on what’s coming down there [in Melbourne] this week.

    “Craig Bellamy will have his team bouncing off walls ready to get into us but as much as we have acknowledged where their season is at and what they’ll be like I feel like we’ll be a little bit more desperate and emotionally we’ve got a bit more to play on this weekend – one of our most loved team-mates playing his 250th.”

    Apart from the motivation to rip in for Foran, there’s another much loved Manly man who’ll have his team-mates walking taller on Thursday night and that’s Jorge Taufua.

    The 30-year-old winger is set to play his first NRL game since suffering a ruptured Achilles in round 17 of the 2020 season and Cherry-Evans said the return of the renowned hitman will lift spirits after a tough week.

    “Jorge’s return is something the boys will really get around. He’s had a hell of a story himself to come back from injury after injury,” Cherry-Evans said.

    “He’s my longest team-mate and we’ve built up a great relationship.

    “Just the way he goes about his business – he never asks for help, never wants anyone’s handouts or freebies, he’s just someone who consistently works hard and wants to help the team out where he can.

    “To do an Achilles at that age is tough but he has worked so hard and done a fantastic job to get his body right.”

    As if Manly needed any added motivation to try and take down old foe Melbourne, they have it in spades with Foran and Taufua – two resilient and respected warriors who don’t the meaning of the word quit.

    May 25, 2022

    Former New South Wales Women’s Origin assistant Milton Dymock has been appointed Head Coach of the Mate Ma’a Tonga Women’s side. He is partnered by former NRL and Mate Ma’a Tonga players Jim Dymock and Andrew Emelio.

    Milton Dymock is a well-regarded coach and has plenty of experience in the women’s game. He served as an assistant for the NSW Women’s Origin side in 2019 and 2020 helping them to a victory in his first year. Milton has also coached in the Tarsha Gale Cup as South’s Head Coach from 2017 to 2018 and as an assistant in 2019 for the Sydney Roosters. Dymock has coached the NSW Tongan juniors since 2006 whilst also being appointed by many clubs to assist in defensive training, notably the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs and St Helens.

    Milton is joined by assistant coaches, brother Jim Dymock and former Tongan representative Andrew Emelio, who are respected in the modern game.

    Jim Dymock has represented Mate Ma’a Tonga as a player (1994-95) and a coach (2006-08) and played 200 games in the NRL and 95 in the Super League. Dymock has also served as Head Coach for the Bulldogs (2011) and an assistant coach at the Roosters, Sharks, and aforementioned Bulldogs. He is currently working as the assistant coach of the Gold Coast Titans.

    Emelio also enjoyed success professionally, representing Tonga six times and playing 53 games between the NRL and Super League. Emelio represented Mate Ma’a Tonga in the 2008 World Cup Squad and brings valuable experience to the Mate Ma’a Tonga Women’s backline.

    Dymock spoke on his newly appointed role, “I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in the Women’s game for a few years, and I am truly honoured to be a part of this Women’s Mate Ma’a Tonga side. We have a talented side and staff, and we hope to pass on our experience to make this campaign memorable.”

    Also involved in the coaching staff is Dion Briggs, who led the women’s side as they ran out 66-8 winners over Niue in 2020. Briggs brings experience and rapport with the New Zealand based players and adds valuable insight and direction to the women’s outfit.

    Briggs had this to say, “It is an excellent opportunity for Tongan players based in Aotearoa to showcase their talent on the big stage. It doesn’t get much bigger than a game against the Kiwi Ferns.”

    “I am looking forward to this campaign and believe we are setting a strong foundation moving ahead to the 2025 Rugby League World Cup.”

    The Tongan women last played in their 2020 test against Niue and have not run out against the Kiwi Ferns since 2008, where they were defeated 42-4 by the eventual World Champions.

    The Mate Ma’a Tonga Women’s team will be selected from the best available players across Australia and New Zealand, kickstarting their campaign towards a 2025 world cup appearance.

    Tickets to see Mate Ma’a Tonga Women take on the New Zealand Kiwi Ferns are available from TicketMaster. Watch all the action live from Mt Smart Stadium or on Sky Sport in a matchup worthy of the wait!




    23rd May 2022

    Prior to 2012, no student from Tokoroa High School’s first XIII Rugby League team had gone on to tertiary education. Principal William Ford and daughter Tairi decided to prioritise their efforts in changing this, initiating the SUP3 (Supported academic learning) programme, which focused on creating a pathway for students to transition into education past high school. Since then, multiple rugby league starlets have gone on to university and tertiary courses and in recent years Ford and his staff have opened the programme up to the broader year 13 cohort.

    After working with the Warriors, Tairi Ford returned to Tokoroa in 2018 to upstart the SUP3 programme, which focuses on three specialised subjects that would grant students university entrance (UE). Students had three domain classes with specialist teachers, where students could receive their UE and NCEA level 13 qualifications while being managed by Ford.

    Tairi has been directing the programme for multiple years and has watched it grow from 14 young rugby league players to over 70 year 13 students.

    “We used Rugby League as the hook. We knew our rangatahi loved the game, so we coupled their education directly to their ability to play for the school team.” Ford said.

    “My father birthed the programme”, Tairi added, talking about Principal William Ford. “He wanted to invest more into the care and wellness of our young people.”

    “Many of our boys have not experienced much outside of Tokoroa, and even less have experienced a higher form of education. So, we wanted to give our youth the best chance to do that.”

    Former students of Tokoroa High School have gone on to study Medical Science at Otago, Law at Waikato University, and the fullback of the 2016 Tokoroa side has also returned, working as a physiotherapist in the blue-collar town.

    Tokoroa High School Principal and former Kiwi’s trainer William Ford had this to say.

    “Rugby league is a big part of the community here in Tokoroa. Most of our rangatahi are connected to either the Pacific Sharks or Forestland Falcon’s rugby league clubs which are influential hubs in our region.”

    “As a school, we wanted to emphasise the importance of tertiary education and showcase there is more to life than just the labour than just the mill. Rugby League gave us an avenue to do that.”





    May 23, 2022

    New Zealand Rugby League, in partnership with Mainstream, aims to record the highest ever attendance for a Women’s rugby league international, which currently sits at 18,000.

    The record attendance was set at the 2008 Women’s Rugby League World Cup Final, where the Kiwi Ferns met Australia’s Jillaroos. 18 000 fans flocked to Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium that evening as the Kiwi Ferns won their third World Cup in a row – 34 points to nil.

    The women’s game in New Zealand has skyrocketed in recent years with the development of the Sky Sport Women’s Premiership, National District 9’s and the plethora of youth and school competitions. These grassroots investments have led to a World 9’s Kiwi Ferns victory and the emergence of young Kiwi Ferns and Tongan representatives in the NRLW arena.

    Off the back of the growing popularity of the game, NZRL and Mainstream believe there is no better time to chase a world record rugby league crowd than June 25 when the Kiwi Ferns face Tonga at Mt Smart Stadium, marking the return of international rugby league after a two-year hiatus.

    The Kiwi Ferns last faced Tonga 14 years ago, when they earned a 40 point victory at the 2008 Rugby League World Cup. Both nations now meet again in June off the back of 2020 victories; the rookie lead Kiwi Ferns earned a 28-8 win over Fetu Samoa, while Tonga had a dominant 66-8 performance over Niue.

    NZRL Head of Women’s Rugby League and participant in the 2008 grand final, Luisa Avaiki says, “Despite the Covid hiatus, our game and our female athletes continue to grow from strength to strength. There’s been widespread coverage of the NRLW over the ditch, imagine if we can celebrate the return of women’s Test match rugby league, back home to New Zealand with a new world record crowd attendance.”

    Avaiki adds, “If we can rally our New Zealand based Kiwi and Pacific rugby league communities to get behind the women’s Test, just as much as the men’s, the impact on the game, players and fans will be monumental. Thank you also to Mainstream for their ongoing support of our women’s game.”

    The late George Mann and his wife Mele Vaohoi Mann, the Founders of Tonga Rugby League and advocates for over 28 years quote the below.

    “As Tongan Women’s National Rugby League representatives, we must be an inspiration on and off the rugby league field to inspire future players to represent our Kingdom.

    “Mou hu ki loto mala’e o vainga ke tafe toto ma’a Tonga, ke mou mate maa Tonga”. In 2022 it takes a village to develop and inspire Tongan Women’s Rugby League players. HE KOE HAKAU OE AHONI KOE FONUA OE KAHAU. For an atom of today is an island of tomorrow.”

    New Zealand Rugby League sends its deepest condolences to the whānau of Mele Vaohoi Mann who passed away last week.





    Te Hokinga Mai | Toe Foki Mai

    Saturday, 25 June Mt Smart Stadium Auckland

    3:10pm NZT Kiwi Ferns v Tonga

    Tickets from Ticketmaster!

    May 20, 2022


    New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) is proud to announce that 2022 will see the much-awaited return of the National Secondary Schools Tournament, one of the most significant events in the rugby league calendar.

    After a three year hiatus, schools from around the motu will be able to again showcase their rugby league talent as the best young players in Aotearoa battle it out in the Bay of Plenty. Puketawhero Park and the International Stadium in Rotorua will host the competition for the first time.

    The 2022 National Secondary Schools tournament will also introduce two new grades, with the U15 Boys Carnival and the inaugural Girls Championship adding more exciting rugby league to an already blockbuster event.

    The competition will be spread over eight days, with the U15 Boys Carnival kicking off on Saturday, 27 August, from Bay of Plenty’s Puketawhero Park. The Senior Boys and Girls grades will conclude the tournament, playing their finals on Saturday the 3rd of September.

    Senior Secondary Schools qualify through Zonal and regional qualifiers to reach the Rotorua-based competition. Each team entering the National Secondary Schools Tournament must have a referral from their respective Zone contact.

    If you would like to receive more information, please register your interest here:



    National Secondary Schools Tournament

    U15 Boys Carnival, Saturday 27 – Monday 29 August 2022

    Venue; Puketawhero Park, Rotorua

    –      Up to 16 teams

    –      Composite schools permitted.


    Senior Boys, Tuesday 30 August – Saturday 3 September 2022

    Venue; Puketawhero Park, Rotorua


    Senior Boys Premiership

    –      Up to 12 teams


    Senior Boys Championship

    –      Up to 12 teams

    –      Composite schools permitted.


    Girls, Tuesday 30 August – Saturday 3 September 2022

    Venue; International Stadium, Rotorua

    Girls Championship

    –      Up to 16 teams

    –      Composite schools permitted.



    Team Accommodation in Rotorua


    New Zealand Rugby League work alongside and recommend Rotorua Information Site to assist with team accommodation for teams travelling to Rotorua.

    If teams are needing assistance in finding accommodation please contact Kyle Kydd.

    Kyle Kydd, Visitor Experience Manager; M +64 217 600 52 | e: [email protected]


    International Rugby League returns to Headingley Stadium with a bang this Autumn

    After nearly three years without top class international Rugby League in England, fans can enjoy a feast of Rugby League action at Headingley Stadium this Autumn kicking off with a historic clash between Leeds Rhinos and New Zealand on Saturday 8th October, kick off 6pm.

    The unique clash will continue a rich tradition of games between the two sides that dates back to the first ever touring side, the All Golds back in 1907. The match will be 115 years since Leeds and the All Golds met at Headingley for the first time on 26th October 1907. Three months later, Rugby League’s first ever Test was also hosted by Headingley with the Northern Union winning 14-6 on 25th January 1908.

    The match will be a celebration of Rugby League with the club aiming to work with every community club in the region to provide special offers for all those involved in the community game to make it a night to remember at Headingley.

    The game is also a repeat of an unforgettable night back in 2015 when Leeds played the Kiwis in front of a sell-out crowd at Headingley prior to the £45 million redevelopment of the stadium.

    The match will be a vital warm up game for Michael Maguire’s side ahead of the Rugby League World Cup when they also play Ireland at Headingley in the pool stages in October.

    The current team will be defending New Zealand honour against Leeds with only the 1972 tourists having lost to Leeds in twelve previous clashes between the sides dating back to 1907.

    Commenting on the clash with New Zealand Chief Executive Gary Hetherington commented, “To have been granted a game against one of our great Test playing nations is a huge honour and a privilege for Leeds Rhinos. International Rugby League is the pinnacle of our sport and it has been sorely missed over the last three years due to the global pandemic.

    “Our home at Headingley is intrinsically linked to the international game for over a century and I believe this game is a fantastic way to celebrate that history but also look ahead to a thrilling home World Cup here in England.

    “For the first time, the men’s, women’s and wheelchair World Cups will be played at the same time with Headingley hosting Australia and Fiji on the opening day of the men’s tournament and the opening two games of the women’s tournament.

    “Ourselves and the Kiwis have a long shared history and this will be the chance to write a new chapter.  Our links with New Zealand include the many great players who have played for us down the years like Bert Cook, Dean Bell, Brent Webb and Ali Lauitiiti from New Zealand. It is also important for us as a club to give our next generation of players unique opportunities to grow and test themselves. One aspect of our game we have lost in the summer era is the chance for club players to test themselves against touring nations and this is a wonderful opportunity for our squad.

    “Our last meeting back in 2015 was a real ‘I was there’ moment with a number of former players making guest appearances including Ali Lauitiiti and Adrian Morley playing their final games as part of the occasion and I am sure we will have some surprises in store nearer the time. I would also like to thank Treble Group UK for their role in facilitating the game,” added Hetherington.

    Greg Peters, NZRL CEO, “To face the Rhinos at Headingly to kick start our World Cup campaign is special.

    “The match celebrates our return to the Northern Hemisphere after an international rugby league hiatus while also commemorating the long shared history between New Zealand and Leeds that holds a special place in the hearts of Kiwi fans and legends.

    “Together we celebrate a new era of rugby league, a crucial first stop on our World Cup Waka and the perfect ground for our current and future Kiwis to pave their way against some of the Northern Hemisphere’s best.”

    Leeds Rhinos 2022 Members will have a priority period to purchase a ticket for themselves and a guest from 10am ( and 10.30am (over the phone – 0371 423 1315) on Monday 23rd May until midnight on Sunday 5th June.

    After this time and subject to availability, any remaining tickets will be made available for general sale from 10am ( and 10.30am (over the phone – 0371 423 1315) on Monday 6th June. Fans can also purchase tickets from our Leeds Rhinos Club Shop at Headingley Stadium. CLICK HERE for our opening hours (may vary over Bank Holidays – please ensure you check the website before travelling).

    During the Member’s priority period Rhinos 2022 Season Members will be able to purchase their usual seated or standing membership position and Flexi and Supporter Members will have the chance to purchase positions from whatever else is available.

    Rhinos 2022 Seated Season Members who are purchasing tickets for a guest may need to move position if we cannot provide a seat near to their usual position.

    Advance ticket prices will start from £24 for Adults, from £16 for Concessions (Senior Citizens 65 & over, Students, Under 21s and Disabled**) and from £12 for Juniors (aged 16 & under)

    **Disabled supporters are entitled to a free companion ticket when valid proof is provided

     If there are any tickets remaining on match day, ticket prices will increase by £3.

    April 28 2022

    After over two years without Test match rugby league, New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) is proud to announce, the international game is finally returning home.

    Saturday 25 June will see Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland’s Mt Smart Stadium play host as the Kiwis and Kiwi Ferns line up against Pacific rivals Tonga in a blockbuster double-header worthy of the wait.

    The rugby league spectacle coincides with Matariki – the Māori New Year, falling on the inaugural public holiday weekend. The long-awaited international clashes will celebrate the return home to Aotearoa and the re-uniting of players with their New Zealand fans and communities.

    Fourteen years have passed since the Kiwi Ferns faced Tonga women, where they earned a 40 point victory at the 2008 Rugby League World Cup. Both nations will now meet again off the back of 2020 victories; the rookie lead Kiwi Ferns earned a 28-8 win over Fetu Samoa, while Tonga women had a dominant 66-8 performance over Niue.

    As both teams take the field come June 25, NZRL aims to achieve a new world record crowd attendance for a women’s rugby league match, which currently sits at 18,000.

    Pre pandemic, the No.1 ranked Kiwis were hot off a series win against Great Britain and a 34-14 victory against their Tongan rivals in 2019. Despite their loss to the Kiwis, Tonga achieved a historic 16-12 upset over the Kangaroos in the same year.

    After a two year hiatus, Saturday 25 June will see the return of arguably the biggest rivalry in international rugby league, as both nations will look to assert their dominance ahead of the October Rugby League World Cup.

    NZRL CEO Greg Peters says this has been a long time coming.

    “What a great feeling to finally have our Ferns and Kiwis back on the park, and even better at home. To celebrate Matariki weekend with an international Test double header that unites our fans and communities in celebration is special.”

    Peters adds, “We have been working with the NRL for some time now to produce an international weekend on both sides of the Tasman during the origin window. June 25 will also see Samoa play Cook Islands and PNG face Fiji in Campbelltown before Ampol State of Origin the following day.

    “We encourage everyone to make their way to Mt Smart come June 25 to break the crowd attendance record for a women’s Test and celebrate the return of international rugby league to New Zealand shores after some challenging years.”

    Tonga Head Coach Kristian Woolf says, “We are excited about the opportunity to represent the proud nation of Tonga for the first time since the successful campaign against Australia and Great Britain back in 2019.

    “This opportunity has been a long time coming, so we can’t wait to face the Kiwis again. This will be an important match for us as we look to reunite the team and also give some of our young players a chance to represent their country ahead of the World Cup,” Woolf concludes.

    Hon. Poasi Mataele Tei, Acting Prime Minister of Tonga, says, “This is very exciting news for Tonga, and we welcome the opportunity with open hearts. It has been a tough ride for all Tongans around the world, especially the last three months, but this match between New Zealand and Tonga will certainly uplift Tongan spirits as we look forward to another successful World Cup campaign in England.”

    Auckland Unlimited Head of Major Events, Chris Simpson, says the excitement’s building in Tāmaki Makaurau for what will be a fantastic event.

    “Aucklanders are avid rugby league supporters, and to have New Zealand and Tonga play at Mt Smart will be exhilarating,” says Simpson.

    “We encourage league fans from across New Zealand to make Mt Smart and Tāmaki Makaurau their destinations of choice this Matariki long weekend – it’s going to be huge!”

    International Rugby League Chair Troy Grant says, “It is great to see international rugby league back on the menu in the Southern Hemisphere, and what a blockbuster to go with. I think the whole world is waiting to see clashes such as the Kiwis against Tonga as it’s the appetiser for what is to come at the World Cup and then on a regular basis from 2023 onwards.”




    Te Hokinga Mai | Toe Foki Mai

    Saturday, 25 June Mt Smart Stadium Auckland

    3:10pm NZT Kiwi Ferns v Tonga

    5:20pm NZT Kiwis v Tonga

    LIVE on Sky Sport 4 and Channel 9 for Australian viewers.

    Tickets on sale Tuesday from Ticketmaster, NZRL to release ticket link in the coming days.


    21 April 2022

    New Zealand Rugby League is mourning the passing of Kiwi #346 and former Auckland fullback Roy Moore, who toured Australia in 1952, and Great Britain and France with the 1955-56 Kiwis, representing his country in five Tests.

    The Mount Albert goalkicker played four tour matches in Australia in ’52, slotting a total of 20 goals against Newcastle, Central Queensland, Central West Queensland and Toowoomba. Fellow Aucklander – and future New Zealand Team of the Century fullback – Des White occupied the custodian role for the Tests.

    The following season, Moore was one of several Aucklanders who guested for the American All-Stars team during their 1953 tour Down Under.

    With White unavailable, Moore was called up to the Test team for the two matches against the touring French side in 1955. Moore scored all New Zealand’s points on debut via a try and three goals, but the visitors won the opening Test 19-9 at Carlaw Park. He kicked another two goals as the Kiwis squared the series with an 11-6 victory at the same venue.

    Chosen as one of two fullbacks (with Otahuhu’s Dick Haggie) for the Kiwis’ Northern Hemisphere tour later that year, Moore featured in the 25-6 first-Test loss to Great Britain in Manchester. He also played in the second and third Tests against France.

    Moore turned out in another 10 tour games in England and France, scoring 47 points from three tries and 19 goals.

    A regular at ex-Kiwi reunions in recent years, Moore will be dearly missed by the local rugby league community. NZRL extends its sincere condolences to his family and friends.


    April 18 2022

    Bruce Pulman Park played host to the U18 finals of the National District 9’s Competition on a windy day in the South of Auckland.

    The National District 9’s final day kicked off with the seventh vs eighth playoff as Southland vs Canterbury kicked off a southern derby. In a tightly contested match, Southland’s three length of the field tries were not enough as they went down 16-12 in the day’s first game. Manawatu and Southland boys then took the field, with the contest going deep into golden point, where a late try in the left corner from Manawatu sealed the 16-12 victory.

    Fifth vs sixth saw Waikato girls take on Auckland’s Glenora Bears. A fightback late was not enough for the Waikato side as Glenora won the match 18-10. Wellington then took on locals Manurewa Marlins as both teams traded blows during the half, with the scores at 4-4 going into the break. The Marlins took control of the second half, scoring two unanswered tries to win a comfortably, 12-4.

    Otahuhu and Bay of Plenty girls played another scintillating golden point affair as both teams couldn’t be separated after 18 minutes. With only seconds remaining in golden point, quick thinking from the Bay of Plenty side saw them cross over and take the 14-10 win. Otahuhu boys went up against Waikato in their third vs fourth matchup as late tries from both teams saw another golden point thriller. Both teams went into the extra period on 18 points. When a 40-metre field-goal effort from Waikato excruciatingly hit the left upright, Otahuhu capitalised and took the game 22-18.

    The first vs second finals kicked off as Auckland’s Howick Hornets faced off against the Wellington Orcas. Howick hit first to go up 4-0 early. Wellington, however, scored two consecutive tries off Howick’s mistakes to go into the half up 8-4. On the back of several penalties, Howick finally found a way through going over in the right corner to tie the game with under three minutes remaining. A late raid in the dying embers saw Wellington snatch the game at the death, winning 12-8 to capture the first U18s Girls National District 9’s title.

    The boys saw Canterbury vs the Bay of Plenty after an early battle back and forth, Canterbury opened the scoring early and on the stroke as they took a convincing 8-0 lead into the break. The South Island side proved dominant, scoring three second-half tries to run out 20-0 winners and take home the U18s Boys National District 9’s trophy for 2022.

    April 17 2022

    The NZRL National District 9’s finals took place at Auckland’s Bruce Pulman Park.

    The U16s Finals kicked off with the seventh vs eighth matchups as the Otago girls took a convincing 20-6 victory over their Waikato opponents. The boys then took the field, and after being down 8-0 at the half, Northland was able to pull out a 10-8 victory over Otago in the game’s dying embers.

    The sixth vs fifth finals started with Taranaki girls putting on a convincing display as they scored three tries to one, winning 12-4 against the Bay of Plenty. Hauraki met Manawatu for the boys as the Manawatu team ran out 20-4 winners in a one-sided affair.

    Canterbury and Northland started the third vs fourth rounds as a dominant Canterbury side took a 14-0 win. Marist and Wellington then met in an inspired contest, as Wellington stole the game at the death in a scintillating finish. A broken play resulting in a length of the field try to secure a 16-14 victory.

    Wellington met Auckland’s Mangere Easts in the first vs second finals as both teams traded the lead early. Both teams traded blows as Wellington carried a 10-6 lead into the half. The Auckland side hit right back after half-time and added another late as they ran out as winners in the Inaugural U16’s Girls National Districts 9’s competition.

    The boy’s final saw Canterbury and Waikato Mana battle it out, with Canterbury running out 14-4 winners. Canterbury captured the lead in a clinical display and never relinquished it as they took home the U16s Boys National District 9’s trophy.

    April 16, 2022

    Akarana has won their first Sky Sport Women’s Premiership title in 11 years with an upset 24-12 victory over Counties Manukau.

    Both teams went back and forth in the early stages, although back-to-back errors put Akarana on the Stingray’s line. The Falcons, however, could not convert this position into points as the Counties line held firm for multiple sets.

    Counties marched down the field off the back of that stifling defence, and a right-side shift saw centre Abigail Roache open the scoring, punishing a retreating falcons defence. The score remained four points to nil after Mikayla Eli was unable to covert.

    Twenty minutes in, front-rower Harata Butler showed her class and experience, forcing a mistake and crashing over the Counties line to level up the scores. Tatiana Finau put over the conversion as the blue outfit took the lead, 6-4.

    Counties instantly hit back following an Akarana error. After marching down the field, a Stingrays shift to the left edge saw winger Pahu Kani cross over for her first of the afternoon. Mikayla Eli was again unable to add the extras. The Stingrays added another four-pointer as winger Alexandrea Kiriwi went through in the right corner as Counties Manukau took a 12-6 lead into the break.

    Akarana struck first after half-time as competition MVP Laishon Albert-Jones showed her ability as she played a short-ball to back-rower Kaiya Atai, who crashed over and closed the gap to two points. The Falcons followed that up with another try as Tatiana Finau grabbed her second after playing to the left side as they took their first lead of the final.

    The Falcons scored their third unanswered try as fullback Lavinia Tauhalaliku was again involved, breaking a tackle and setting up Rowena Meleisea in the right corner to extend their lead to 18-12. With five minutes remaining, Falcons Hooker Capri Paekau punished the retreating defence of the Stingrays as she scooted from dummy-half and went 40 metres to all but secure their first premiership title in 11 years.

    April 14 2022

    New Zealand Rugby League is proud to announce an NRLW Merit team for 2022 after a stellar rugby league season.

    Kiwi Fern talent such as Madison Bartlett, Raecene McGregor, Mya Hill-Moana and Leianne Tufuga were all on display, showcasing our wāhine on the biggest stage. This NRLW campaign saw plenty New Zealand talent shine as household names in their respective rugby league clubs.

    These players were selected on their form throughout the NRLW season.

    18-year-old Titan Hailee-Jay Maunsell is named out the back as Leianne Tufuga, and the top try scorer in the competition’s history, Madi Bartlett, complete the back three. Dragons Page McGregor joins the explosive Katelyn Vaha’akolo, while in the halves, Raecene McGregor is partnered with the exciting young talent of Autumn-Rain Stephens-Daly.

    Young bulldozer Mya Hill-Moana is partnered in the middle by the class experience of Annetta-Claudi Nu’uausala and Georgia Hale while wrecking ball Amber Hall and Knights Charlotte Scanlan see themselves on the edges. Parramatta playmaker and experienced Kiwi Fern Nita Maynard slots into the team as the hooker.




    1 Hailee-Jay Maunsell
    2 Leianne Tufuga
    3 Katelyn Vaha’akolo
    4 Page McGregor
    5 Madison Bartlett
    6 Autumn-Rain Stephens-Daly
    7 Raecene McGregor
    8 Mya Hill-Moana
    9 Nita Maynard
    10 Annetta-Claudia Nu’uausala
    11 Amber Hall
    12 Charlotte Scanlan
    13 Georgia Hale


    April 12, 2022


    The Sky Sport Women’s Premiership and the National 20’s Ruben Wiki Cup finals culminate this weekend at the home of rugby league, Auckland’s Mt Smart Stadium.


    The action kicks off at 12pm when competition dark horse South Island take on Akarana in the National 20’s final followed by 11 time winners, Counties Manukau taking on the  Akarana Falcons in the Sky Sport Women’s Premiership final at 2pm.


    Both games are free entry at Mt Smart, no vaccine pass required, and for those out of Auckland all the action is brought to you live on Sky Sport 4.


    NATIONAL 20s


    First placed Akarana go into the final as the only undefeated team in the competition which included a tough victory over opponents South Island in the first round. The Auckland based outfit will be heading into the final with a full steam of momentum off the back of a 76-0 trouncing of the Upper Central Stallions. Big performances from key players such as Elam Payne and Sebastian Su’a will be crucial if the Falcons want to lift their first National 20’s Ruben Wiki Cup trophy.


    Road to the Final










    South Island go into the final after a convincing victory against Counties Manukau. South Island played a composed and clinical game as they defeated the favoured Auckland side to secure their place against Akarana. A bye in the final week of the round robin also gives them a much needed rest going into what will be a tough contest. Big performances by Uriah Tuli, Ethan Faitala, Jacob Lowe and half Oliver Lawry have led to the South Island’s success, and these players will be instrumental in seeing South Island capture their first National 20’s title.


    Road to the Final












    Counties Manukau go into the final of the SkySport Women’s Premiership looking to secure their 12th title on the bounce as they take on Auckland rivals Akarana. The Counties women have been dominant throughout the round-robin completing an undefeated run in a tight 26-22 triumph over their grand final opponents. Key veterans Christyl Stowers and Teuila Fotu-Moala will look to lead the young group to a historic consecutive victory.


    Road to the Final








    Despite coming off a tough narrow loss against Counties, Akarana showed positive signs as they look extremely capable of breaking Counties streak in the Women’s Premiership. A different side from the grand finalists two years ago, Akarana have a young core that have already shown their class in this years’ tournament. A team not short of talent, Kiwi Ferns Lavinia Tauhalaliku and Kanyon Paul will be looking to stamp their mark on the game in tandem with half Laishon Albert-Jones. With both teams ready and raring to go, this will be thrilling 2022 SkySport Women’s Premiership final not to be missed.



    Road to the Final









    All are encouraged to get down to Mt Smart to see a Saturday filled with exciting rugby league (no vaccine pass needed) or catch all the action on SkySport 4!


    April 10, 2022


    The Mid Central Vipers played host to the Canterbury Bulls in the final round of the SkySport Women’s Premiership as both teams clashed at Palmerston Norths’ Central Energy Trusts Arena.

    Canterbury was the first to strike as a strong kick return from Bulls standout Mikayla Werahiko put the South Island side in striking distance. Off the ensuing play fullback, Dayna Napa went over breaking through a scrambling Vipers defense to go up 4-0.

    Werahiko then got herself on the scoresheet attacking a cross-field kick to go over untouched in the corner. Moments later half Cassie Siataga hung another cross-field kick up, this time to the right-hand side which took a wicked bounce, falling into the lap of winger Sailai Pau to put the Bulls up by 12.

    In the 13th minute, Mid Central hit back through hooker Paris Paul whose craftiness and footwork out of dummy half saw her beat several defenders to score under the post as the Vipers brought it to 12-6.

    Mid Central started the second stanza in good stead and this paid off in the 45th minute as middle Agnes Faraimo barged over close to the line to level the scores.

    Canterbury though off the back off Vipers mistakes crushed any momentum as Talosaga Manu crashed over in the same vein as Faraimo to put the Bulls up by a converted try. With ten minutes left to go, number 19 Theresa McPherson went over in the corner which proved to be the dagger as Canterbury went out 22-12 winners.





    Tries: Napa, Werahiko, Pau, Manu, McPherson


    Conversions: Siataga (1/5)




    Tries: Paul, Faraimo


    Conversions: Bates (2/2)


    09 April 2022

    The two leading teams in the Sky Sport Women’s Premiership faced off this morning in a grand final preview, and it was nothing short of a passionate display of footy at Auckland’s Bruce Pulman Park.

    Akarana’s Albert-Jones kicked off the scoring with a barging run through the middle, but Counties hit back through Gloria Murray-Fiu and Kiwi Fern veteran Fotu-Moala. The reigning Sky Sport Premiers went into the break with an 18-4 lead.

    As in the first half, Akarana came out firing with a try to fullback Lavinia Tahalaliku bringing it back within an eight-point game.

    However, in true Counties fashion, they hit straight back with a clever left edge shift to put winger Kelly Alexander over for the Stingrays and in front by 10.

    It wasn’t long until Akarana prop Clementine Varea’s charging run down the middle set up Albert-Jones for her second of the day, bringing the game back to within a converted try.

    Counties’ quick play the balls had Akarana on the back foot, putting centre Abigail Roache into space and over for the Stingray’s second of the half.

    However, a clinical kick from Albert-Jones put Akarana back into attacking position to which Kiwi Fern Kanyon Paul ran a beautiful line to bring the game to within only four points.

    With two minutes remaining, Akarana stormed down the field to earn a six again set on their line; however, a mistake on the left edge cut their comeback short.

    Counties hold on 26-22 in a top of the table thriller.

    Position Brief
    New Zealand Rugby League INC      


    Rugby league is a sport for all New Zealanders, played from the grassroots level to the international stage.  The sport is ‘More Than A Game’; it is part of our country’s social fabric and has a critical role in developing young men and women in our communities.

    Through the ‘More Than A Game’ philosophy NZRL aspires to transform lives and community wellbeing through rugby league.

    Underpinning this philosophy is ‘The Kiwi Way’ – our organisational ethos representing the culture instilled within all those involved in rugby league.

    • We are diverse, we call New Zealand home and we are all Kiwis.
    • We are inclusive, respectful and humble
    • We are responsible
    • We are innovative and courageous
    • We are family first
    • We live and play The Kiwi Way every day.

    In 2019, NZRL developed a new strategic blueprint to take it forward to 2025.  ‘More Than A Game’ is central to the new strategy.

    Our Goals

    • Rugby league enjoyed by more people
    • A financially sustainable NZ Game
    • Women’s game thriving and enhanced opportunities for women in the game
    • Kiwis and Kiwi Ferns inspirational & aspirational
    • NZRL to be a model modern sports organisation.

    The Board comprises seven directors; four appointed and three elected. Of the seven, there must be three Rugby League Knowledgeable and four Independent Directors.  A Board Appointments Panel, comprising of two independent Sport NZ representatives, an individual nominated from the Zones and a nominee of the NZRL Board, is convening this appointment process.

    For more information on the organisation, please visit


    The Panel is seeking applicants for two Appointed (Independent) Director vacancies. One of the incumbent Appointed Directors is standing again for a second term.

    All Board members need to: demonstrate governance knowledge and leadership, apply a future-focused mindset, understand confidentiality, contribute to highly functional board dynamics be able to work collaboratively within a high trust environment and have an understanding and appreciation of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

    The Board is continually seeking to appoint people who bring diversity of thought and perspective to enhance board decision-making.  Accordingly, the Board encourages applications from Women, Tangata Whenua, Pasifika, Other ethnicities, Individuals with a disability, the LGBTIQ community and Provincially-based individuals.

    Candidates who have the skill sets set out below and who can bring an element of diversity and strategic thinking to the current board mix will be looked upon favourably by the Appointments Panel.

    The desirable skill set and experience the Panel is looking for the Appointed Directors are as follows:

    Appointed Director (vacancy 1)

    • Experienced Director, ideally with commercial board exposure
    • Qualified Chartered Accountant
    • Financial acumen with an enquiring mind
    • Past Experience in Audit and Risk, ideally as a Chair of an Audit and Risk Committee

    Appointed Director (vacancy 2)

    • Experienced Director, ideally with commercial board exposure
    • Experience in strategic planning and business transformation
    • Connections to business and philanthropic networks

    Time commitment and term
    As a guide, we expect an average time commitment around two days each month per Director.  Full day board meetings are held monthly in Auckland or via audio visual.

    We anticipate the roles starting immediately after the AGM on 16 July 2022.  Terms are four years and directors are eligible for re-appointment for one further term.

    Directors fees are set at $12,000 per annum.


    All applicants should be available for interview by Zoom on 31 May 2022.

    To Apply
    Applications should be emailed to: [email protected] please or apply online at

    The closing date for applications is 5.00pm Friday 6 May 2022.

    April 3 2022


    Canterbury hosted Akarana at Christchurch’s Nga Puna Wai, and Akarana got off to an early start. Ten minutes into the proceedings five-eight Roimata Amosa-Tiro sliced through to score under the posts as they took a 6-0 lead. Several minutes later Akarana doubled their try tally as a left edge shift saw left wing Roelien Du Plessis go over untouched as the lead went out to 10-0

    Minutes later, Canterbury Wing Mikayla Werahiko latched onto a cross-field kick, towering over the defenders to put the South Island team back into the contest.

    Akarana half-back Laishon Albert-Jones trumped any Canterbury momentum though as she crashed over from dummy-half seconds before the half-time buzzer to take a 16-6 lead into the sheds.

    Canterbury came out of the blocks quickly, number 18 Sailiai Pau scoring a controversial try in the corner as they brought the score to 16-10 early in the second stanza. An error from an Akarana bomb saw Canterbury allow the Auckland outfit dangerous territory, and fullback Lavinia Tahalaliku took advantage, shedding multiple defenders to score on the left edge.

    A Left side shift saw Werahiko score her second for Canterbury bringing the game within a converted try as it stood at 20-14.

    Towards the back end of the match, Akarana made Canterbury pay for a penalty that didn’t reach touch. The Auckland team shifted the ball towards the right edge and Albert-Jones held the ball up for Keri Ratima to score in the right corner. Du Plessis scored her double in the final minute as Akarana exploited an overlap in the Canterbury defence. 28-14


    AKARANA 28


    Tries: Roimata Amosa-Tiro, Roelien Du Plessis (x2), Laishon Albert-Jones, Lavinia Tahalaliku, Keri Ratima


    Conversions: Laishon Albert-Jones (2/7)




    Tries: Mikayla Werahiko (x2), Sailiai Pau


    Conversions: Dayna Napa (1/3)

    April 3 2022


    Counties travelled to Christchurch’s Nga Puna Wai to take on competition leaders South Island.


    Early errors from the home side saw immediate points for the Auckland outfit as Timothy Tiatia finished in style crossing over in the corner. Five minutes later South Island struck back as an attacking kick from Oliver Lawry ricocheted into the hands of Jacob Lowe as he went under the posts. Halbert-Pere added the extras to put them up 6-4 early.


    Off the ensuing kick off South Island charged down the field and put their stamp on the game scoring through number 14 Taani Fangupo, making the score 10-4. Not done yet, South Island halfway through the first half again found themselves in open space only for Tiatia to save a try for Counties Manukau. Counties scored with five minutes left in the half through Samuel Hansen as the score saw 10-8 going into the halftime break.

    Only minutes into the second stanza South Island half Makaia Tafua forced his way over as they extended their advantage to six points. The second half was defined by the stifling defense from South Island who held Counties out on multiple occasions, not budging on their own line. These defensive sets were the foundation for number 11 Tupou Kaufononga and centre Siaki’s second half tries, completing an all-round performance.

    With seven minutes remaining, Counties scored a consolation as Hansen grabbed his second, with the fulltime score reading 24-12 to the home side.




    Tries – Jacob Lowe, Taani Fangupo, Makaia Tafua, Tupou Kaufononga, Vaione Siaki


    Conversions – Mata Halbert-Pere 2/5





    Tries – Timothy Tiatia, Samuel Hansen (x2)


    Conversions – Teariki Ford 0/3

    27 March 2022


    Auckland’s Trusts Stadium held host to South Island and Waikato, with Waikato seeking their first win of the competition.


    The South Island side did not take long to open their account, half Oliver Lawry taking advantage of a Uriah Tuli break to go over in the second minute. 14 minutes in Waikato hit back, hooker Tahere Kaio-Koroheke taking advantage of lazy ruck defense to sneak over from dummy-half. Te Awa Daniela converted to take a 6-4 lead.


    South Island’s Lawry turned provider in the 19th minute as he put second-rower Tupou Kaufofona through from close range to retake the lead. Moments later Tuli again found himself in space and this time finished, scoring a scintillating solo try as the South Island side went into the break, up 16-6.


    Five minutes into the second stanza a dummy half break from Kiardyn Hatch was turned into points as South Island shifted left finding Taani Fangupo who crashed over. Halbert-Pere making it 22-6. After receiving multiple penalties breakdown in the play saw Waikato prop Portman Paul fight off several defenders to bring them to with two converted tries. With five minutes remaining, Prop George Faiava snuffed out any semblance of a comeback crashing over under the posts with Jacob Lowe adding the extras.


    Two minutes from time, Deijdre Siaki leapt over the pack to reign in a cross-field kick to score his first of the afternoon. Not to be outdone, Oliver Lawry connected with Jacob Lowe as he scored seconds from the buzzer to complete the victory.


    South Island – 40


    Tries: Lawry, Kaufofonga, Tuli, Fangupo, Faiava, Siaki, Lowe.


    Conversions: Halbert-Pere (3/4), Lowe (3/3)


    Waikato – 10


    Tries: Kaio-Koroheke, Paul.


    Conversions: Daniela (1/1), Stillinovich-Watene (0/1)

    26 March

    The opening match of the Sky Sport Women’s Premiership saw 2021 National Competition champions Canterbury take on 11 time Premiership Champions, Counties Manukau.

    Kere Matua opened the scoring for the Stingrays, and ex Kiwi Fern and Counties fullback Amber Kani followed suit with a clever left foot step into space.

    Gloria Su’a opened the scoring for Canterbury, capitalising on an offload from winger Mikayla Werahiko. But it wasn’t long until Counties answered back through Annessa Biddle before Alexandrea Kiriwi dotted over for another Stingray four-pointer.

    Counties Manukau led the Canterbury side 20 – 4 at the break.

    The second forty saw Counties dominate as Kere Matua barged over for her second to then set up another Counties four-pointer after a powerful run through the middle.

    Canterbury halfback Cassie Siataga’s barnstorming run under the posts lifted her side’s spirits. Still, Counties were too dominant across the park scoring a further four tries throughout the second forty with a hattrick to Makayla Eli.

    Counties clinical with a 46 – 10 victory to kick off the Sky Sport Women’s Premiership for 2022.

    24 March 2022


    2022 sees the return of the Sky Sport Women’s Premiership after a year hiatus, being replaced in 2021 by the wider National Women’s Competition due to Covid-19 restrictions. 


    The premier Women’s rugby league competition kicks off on the 26th of March. Canterbury, the winners of last year’s National Women’s Competition, go up against reigning Women’s Premiership champions Counties Manukau, who are looking to win their 12th straight premiership title in a row. Akarana takes on the Mid Central Vipers on the 27th, with both games being held at Auckland’s Trust stadium.  


    Those with a My Vaccine Pass are encouraged to attend the first round of the Women’s Premiership this weekend, with all vaccine restrictions set to lift on April 4.  


    Last competition saw the arrival of many Kiwi Ferns who earnt their Black and White jersey plying their trade in the 2020 Premiership. Stars such as Karli Hansen, Autumn-Rain Stephens-Daly and Katelyn Vaha’akolo used the competition as a springboard for their careers and are now playing professionally in the NRLW. 


    This year, the competition has been scheduled to coincide with the NRLW season, giving players unable to relocate to Australia a chance to claim a Kiwi Fern’s opportunity. 


    Teams will compete in a round-robin competition taking place over three weeks. The top two placed teams at the end of the round-robin will then face off in the final, which will be held at Mt Smart Stadium on the 16th of April. 


    All games will be broadcast live on Sky Sport 4. 

    March 24, 2022

    As of 11:59 pm this Friday, there will no longer be crowd restrictions at vaccinated outdoor rugby league events.

    Those who hold a My Vaccine Pass (MVP) can attend this weekend’s National 20s, and Women’s Premiership matches at Trusts Stadium in Auckland.

    MVPs will be checked at all NZRL events until April 4th to allow for unlimited gatherings.

    From April 4th, vaccine passes will no longer be required; however, venues may still choose to use them in some cases.

    It’s important to note masks are not mandatory for outdoor events but still encouraged, and there is no longer a need to scan in.

    Indoor gatherings have increased to 200, but seated hospitality and face mask requirements remain for indoor settings.

    Despite the ease in restrictions, we still encourage all in our rugby league communities to practise care in the community. Any person feeling unwell or presenting cold, flu, or COVID-19 symptoms should isolate immediately and get tested.

    We thank all of our communities for their patience and co-operation; we look forward to seeing you back at the rugby league fields soon.

    Do you have a vision for the future; are you able to lead a champion culture for the Rugby League Community in Northland?

    The future for Rugby League in Northland is exciting with a solid foundation in place; the position of Rugby League Northland (RLN) Community Manager has become available, can you deliver?


    RLN was created in 2010, as one of seven Zones formed as part of the restructure of the domestic game in New Zealand.

    Accountable to the Zone Board, the CM will plan, deliver, and implement innovative initiatives that support the overall strategic direction of Rugby League Northland. The CM will also work closely with NZRL and their national strategy.

    To provide the level of leadership necessary to be successful in this role, the Community Manager will possess the following attributes:

    • An appreciation of the strategic issues facing sport and the potential for Rugby League to add value to the communities the game serves.
    • The ability to build and maintain positive working relationships with diverse stakeholder groups including core membership, commercial partners and the wider community.
    • A commitment to continuous improvement and an organisational culture where accountability to stakeholders is measured by achievement of clearly defined outcomes.
    • Sound working knowledge of financial reporting and performance management processes in order to provide competent management of Zone operations.
    • Able to maximise revenue generation opportunities via understanding of the sponsorship and/or funding sectors (marketing experience would be an advantage).
    • A strong work ethic and willingness to ‘roll your sleeves up’ to get the job done with limited resources.

    This will be a ‘hands on’ role with the primary objective of developing the game within the Zone. Experience and proven performance as a senior manager will be complimented by a management style that reflects RLN’s core values of:

    • Tuakiritanga – Identity
    • Kotahitanga – Unity
    • Rangatiratanga – Leadership
    • Manakitanga – Responsibility of hosting, caring, sharing and giving of our best.

    A full job description is available at

    Please forward your application with a support cover letter to [email protected] or alternatively you can apply on seek here.

    Applications close Friday 23rd April 2022

    20 March 2022


    Upper Central Zone made the trip to Christchurch’s Nga Puna Wai to take on a South Island side, looking for their first victory in 2022.


    The game started with both teams trading penalties until the seventh minute when Jacob Lowe opened the game’s account and then converted his own try.


    Three minutes later, Upper Central Zone hit right back through prop forward Johnless Faulker to level the scores at 6-6 as Xavier Mitchell-Windsor converted the try.


    After scooping up an attacking grubber, fullback Mata Halbert-Pere made a scintillating break to put South Island in great attacking position. From this position, a right-side shift allowed Vaione Siaki to go over untouched.


    Five minutes later, a break from winger Kiardyn Hatcher led to half Oliver Lawry picking up a kick and putting South Island up 16-6 with Halbert-Pere taking over the kicking duties.


    Both teams went into the sheds with the score at 16-6, and four minutes into the second stanza, halfback Arlan Perez sliced his way through to push the lead further to 22-6.


    South Island started to run rampant after a break through the middle ended up with Uriah Tuli getting on the score sheet, crossing over to make it 28-6.


    Tupou Kaufofonga then put the home side up 32-6, and from the ensuing kick-off, Lawry scored his second, a long-range solo effort, with 15 minutes left in the half.


    Jacob Lowe also grabbed his double, plucking a wayward Upper Central pass out of the air to further the lead to 44-6. The Stallions scored a consolation with five minutes remaining through Jaxyn Tuvalu as it ended 44-12.


    South Island – 44




    Jacob Lowe (x2), Oliver Lawry (x2), Vaione Siaki, Uriah Tuli, Arlan Perez, Tupou Kaufofonga.




    Jacob Lowe (1/2), Mata Halbert-Pere (5/6)


    Upper Central Zone – 12




    Johnless Faulker, Jaxyn Tuvalu




    Xavier Mitchell-Windsor


    Not much more than a month after mourning the death of Pasifika trailblazer Olsen Filipaina, rugby league has lost the original Polynesian pioneer ex-Kiwi prop Oscar Danielson, who has passed away in Wollongong aged 83.

    Apia-born Danielson, one of New Zealand’s original exports to what was then known as the New South Wales Rugby League premiership, was the first Samoa-born player to play in the competition.

    He signed with the Newtown Jets for the 1970 season, the same year fellow Kiwi front rower Bill Noonan started his 196-game Sydney premiership career with Canterbury Bankstown.

    Other Kiwis followed soon after, notably Eddie Heatley (North Sydney), Bernie Lowther (Canterbury Bankstown) and Henry Tatana (Canterbury Bankstown), who all commanded interest from Sydney clubs in the wake of the Kiwis’ all-conquering deeds in 1971.

    In making the move the players forfeited their chances of playing international rugby league, the signing clubs paying the New Zealand Rugby League a transfer fee for the player.

    During those times numerous Kiwis signed to play in the lower grades in Sydney or with New South Wales country or Queensland clubs, among them Ron Ackland, Bruce Castle, Eddie Moore, Jock Butterfield, Bill Snowden, Mel Cooke, Graham Kennedy, Bill Deacon, Bill Burgoyne, Doug Gailey and Robert Orchard.

    Danielson made 47 appearances and scored four tries for Newtown from 1970-1972 before becoming player-coach with the Corrimal Cougars in Wollongong in 1973, guiding the club to premiership victory the following year.

    A key player for Marist in the 1960s, Danielson played for Auckland and also for New Zealand Māori before making his Test debut as Kiwi #454 in 1967 and going on to represent New Zealand at the 1968 Rugby League World Cup.

    Legendary coach Harry Bath brought the ball-playing prop Danielson to Newtown, signing him in an Auckland hotel bar.

    March 13 2022


    Christchurch’s Nga Puna Wai hosted both South Island and Akarana for their first hit-outs of the 2022 Ruben Wiki Cup.


    Akarana asserted themselves immediately, quickly moving into the swing of the game and converting this early dominance into points as Northcote winger Tupala Faaee went over untouched in the corner.


    Ten minutes in, Akarana found themselves over again through Faaee as the Falcons went to a short side shift, capitalising on an overlap to make the score 8-0 to the visitors.


    Dominating the opening exchanges, Captain Doux-Fiatau-Kauhiva intercepted a loose pass to put winger Esom Ioka down the right-hand side extending the lead to 14-0 as Joshua Tanielu converted.


    South Island found a way through as three quick penalties pushed them down onto the Akarana line. Tupou Kaufononga was able to turn that field position into points as he crashed over around the ruck to bring the game to 14-6 going into the half.


    Eight minutes into the second stanza saw Sebastian Su’a fight his way over for a four-pointer. A superb break by Ioka put Akarana into dangerous territory and a short ball by Fiatau-Kauhiva put Su’a into a hole where he was able to score. Faaee converted to make it a 20-6 game.


    With the contest going back and forth, Akarana took the game into their own hands and were able to extend their advantage in the 60th minute. A clinical set-piece saw Lani Graham-Taufa push the score to a comfortable 24-6.


    With 15 minutes left in the match, South Island produced their best displays of the afternoon as Makaia Tafua, Ethan Faitaua and fullback Kiardyn Hatch put themselves on the scoresheet in quick succession to make the game a tight contest. Missed conversions were costly as they were unable to complete the comeback with Akarana sneaking through 24-20 to end round 1.


    Next week South Island hosts Upper Central Stallions and Akarana meet Counties in the Auckland derby at Trusts Stadium.


    Akarana – 20



    Tupala Faaee (x2), Esom Ioka, Sebastian Su’a, Lani Graham-Taufa.



    Faaee (1/3), Tanielu (1/2)


    South Island – 20



    Tupou Kaufononga, Makaia Tafua, Ethan Faitaua, Kiardyn Hatch.



    Jacob Lowe (2/4)

    March 10 2022


    The premier 20’s competition, The Ruben Wiki Cup is back this year, kicking off on Saturday the 12th of March, with Waikato hosting Upper Central. 


    The National 20’s Ruben Wiki Cup brought a level of competition not seen before in Aotearoa, culminating in plenty of grassroots talent taking the next step in their careers, signing with professional NRL clubs.

     The cup consists of five teams across the motu competing against each other in a five-week round-robin concept ending with a final being played by the first and second-placed teams. Auckland Blue and Auckland White have been replaced by Akarana and Counties Manukau this year.



    Due to Covid protocols, protective layers have been set to create the safest possible competition for everyone involved. Players will be required to provide a negative Rapid Antigen Test, 48 hours prior to their scheduled games, and at this moment in time, there will be no spectators to ensure the 100 limit is kept. 


    In the event of a Covid framework change, spectators will be required to provide vaccination passports. 


    All games will be televised on Sky Sport.


    Week 1 draw:


    Saturday 12th March


    Waikato v Upper Central – 2:00 pm – Davies Park, Huntly.


    Sunday 13th March


    South Island v Akarana – 2:00 pm – Nga Puna Wai, Christchurch


    BYE – Counties Manukau

    07 March 2022

    Another week has passed of scintillating NRLW action, and more of our Kiwi Ferns have made their mark on the game, showing their skill on the highest level.


    Kiwi Fern prospect Leianne Tufuga carried on her momentous start to 2022 by scoring her first ever try in the NRLW. Tufuga capped off a brilliant right-side shift after putting the Roosters in good field position following a barnstorming run. Raecene McGregor also had a solid game racking up 262 kicking metres while Mya Hill-Moana impacted the game off the bench with eight hit-ups for 57 metres.


    Although going down to a clinical Roosters outfit, Georgia Hale again was at her consistent best, making 23 tackles to go along with 70 metres of the bench. Wider squad member, Shannon Mato also looked good, taking ten hit-ups for 83 metres and helping the Titans get on the front foot until an unfortunate concussion ended her evening.


    The Broncos were at their damaging best in their 26-10 victory over the Newcastle Knights. The torrential rain at Wollongong’s Win Jubilee could not stop Amber Hall from dominating the middle. 16 hit-ups for 142 metres which included 5 line breaks and an astonishing 67 post-contact metres, Hall was at the centre of the Bronco’s success. No try this weekend for another Kiwi Fern prospect Roxy Murdoch, but she was solid in her task totalling 17 tackles and 44 metres in her 40 minutes of action.


    A tough loss to take, but the Kiwi Fern contingent in Newcastle continues to grow stronger and stamp their mark on the competition. Five-eight Autumn-Rain Stephens-Daly was immense for the Knights, topping their tackle charts with 29 in the most difficult of weather conditions. Katelyn Vaha’akolo again showed her prowess as one of the most lethal attacking wingers in the world while being denied a try. Vaha’akolo posted 108 running metres and 51 from dummy-half, demonstrating her knack to create space when there isn’t. veteran Anneta Nu’uasala ran for 127 metres, and Maitua Feterika scored her first four-pointer of the campaign off the bench, including 70 metres and a line break. Kiwi Fern captain Krystal Rota also claimed a 96% tackle efficiency, being at her consistent best.


    The conditions of Win Stadium also didn’t favour the dragons as the heavens opened in the second stanza. This wouldn’t stop Madi Bartlett from putting in another solid performance as she ran for 98 metres averaging ten a carry. She added on three tackle breaks and five tackles on route to a 10-0 shut out of the Parramatta Eels.  


    Round 3 Matchups:

    Roosters vs Knights – Saturday 12th March, 2:50pm NZT

    Dragons vs Broncos – Sunday 13th March, 2:00pm NZT

    Eels vs Titans – Sunday 13th March, 3:45pm NZT

    02 March 2022
    as seen on
    Jerry Seuseu and Ben Henry experienced violence as kids, and want to help make things different for future generations.

    Domestic violence was just part of the reality of growing up for former Warriors star Jerry Seuseu.

    “Whether it was my neighbours or relatives or siblings, we were very familiar with what is called a hiding,” he recalls.

    Now, he’s on a mission to change things for future generations.

    Seuseu, along with fellow former Warrior Ben Henry, is a new ambassador for Le Va, an Auckland charity that helps support Pasifika families.

    Workshops at Le Va are now co-facilitated by the New Zealand Warriors and the New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL), and funded through ACC.

    “These days, we are looking at different ways of parenting,” Seuseu says.

    Seuseu said growing up, domestic violence was his reality – something he wants to change for future generations.

    Henry, who now works as the wellbeing and education manager for the New Zealand Warriors, says it’s important to connect with Pasifika dads.

    “Fathers Fono for example, is a two-hour workshop where we just sit down with fathers that come from all walks of life, mostly Pacific islander and Māori men, and the challenges they sort of face as fathers,” he says.

    Henry says the challenges the dads face range from lacking connections to their children, balancing work and family time, to how discipline a child without using violence.

    “They come up with the solutions, and we just help them along the way in the workshop to discover, or to articulate what those solutions are.”

    He says the Fathers Fono programme centres around themes such as building pride around being a Pasifika dad, enhancing the mana of Pasifika men, and reminding them of the importance of their role in their homes and in their communities.

    Seuseu, now the NZRL’s wellbeing manager, says the league decided to partner with Le Va because of the work it was doing in the community.

    “Our NZRL demographics are 80 per cent Māori and Pasifika, so it’s good to have a programme that caters to them and outlines some things we should think about as fathers,” he says.

    “Especially as it relates to violence and addressing some of the violence we do have in our families, and our relationships with our partners.”

    An Auckland University study in 2016 looking at the health and wellbeing of secondary school students found young Pasifika people were twice as likely to be physically punished compared to Pākehā children.

    “We first address these issues by calling out the elephant in the room, using facts and the current rates,” Seuseu says.

    “Then we look at tools and strategies we can use to become better fathers and part of that is just to switch back to the values we have as Pasifika people.”

    Seuseu says those values incude love, kindness, and reciprocity.

    “We’re reminding people that hey, these are the values that helped build up our community in the past, and we should uphold and practise these values on a daily basis.”

    He says his past as a Warriors’ player helps him gather men in the community to have that conversation.

    “When they see someone like myself talking about it, it makes it alright for them to share their story and for us to come together and bond as men and discuss ways we can improve.

    “It is still difficult because some people don’t want to talk about it, but I think the more we do these things and promote it, the easier for us to come together and talk about our shortcomings and where we can improve, mainly as fathers but also as husbands.”

    Henry says the New Zealand Warriors partnered with Le Va to address stigma around mental health.

    “One in every four Pacific Islander or Māori has got some sort of mental health challenge that they’re facing,” Henry says.

    “In a rugby league team, there’s maybe three or four of your teammates that are maybe going through some mental health challenges.

    “This is why an organisation like this is so crucial. It’s getting rid of that stigma and talking about mental health and coming up with solutions.”

    Justine Solomon, manager of strategic Investment at ACC says the agency, along with 10 others has been funding Le Va for about four years as part of a national strategy, Te Aorerekura, aimed at eliminating family and sexual violence.

    “We know If we want to address these problems, we need to invest in the multiple reinforcing factors of prevention. We need to do not just behaviour change campaigns, but community mobilisation much like what Le va are leading here.”

    Solomon says inspiring role models like Henry and Seuseu play an important role in connecting with communities to promote positive roles for men.

    February 24, 2022



    Does NZRL require players to be fully vaccinated?

     For NZRL run and/or sanctioned events and competitions, players, staff, volunteers and spectators need to be fully vaccinated, yes.

    Vaccines are necessary for these events and competitions to run under the Covid-19 Protection Framework.


    Is NZRL mandating vaccinations for players under 12?

    No. Players under 12 are treated as vaccinated. They are still counted toward the capacity limit of an event or gathering but do not contribute to the vaccination status of an event or gathering.


    Do I need to be fully vaccinated to play any rugby league in New Zealand?

    No. If you are unvaccinated, you can still partake in rugby league activity (e.g. 9s, training) subject to a 25 person gathering limit.

    Multiple gatherings of up to 25 can take place (players and team management being one gathering and spectators a separate gathering); however, these must be defined by 2m spaces (2m) and must NOT mix.

    Zones, districts, clubs and venues reserve the right to require proof of vaccination at any organised gathering or event within their respective regions.


    What if there is only one person who is not vaccinated?

     If someone is not vaccinated, the gathering they are involved in will need to abide by the 25 person gathering limit.


    Do spectators need to be vaccinated?

    For NZRL run and/or sanctioned events and competitions, yes. Vaccines are necessary for these events and competitions to run under the Covid-19 Protection Framework.


    Can attendees use a negative Covid-19 test to attend an event or gathering where vaccine passes are required?

     No. A negative test is not a substitute for vaccinations for events or gatherings. If there are unvaccinated people at your event or gathering, then you must follow the rules and limits for where vaccine passes are not used.


    Can one-day or multi-day Tournaments take place at Red if everyone is vaccinated?

    Vaccinated tournament days or weekends involving multiple matches can take place if the total number of players participating is no more than 100.


    Multiple gatherings of up to 100 are taking place, but they are defined by 2m spaces and do not mix. Each group of 100 needs to remain as is for the duration of the event.

    If multiple matches against different opposition teams involve over 100 people mixing, this event should not go ahead.


    Are staff included in the gathering limits?

     No. Team staff, coaches, referees and event staff/volunteers at organised community sport gatherings are classed as workers and do not count towards gathering limits.  However, they still contribute to the vaccination status of an event or gathering.


    Can gatherings in defined spaces share the same entrances, toilets and changing facilities?

    It is okay for multiple gatherings in defined spaces to use the same entrances and share toilets/changing facilities so long as the risks of intermingling groups is limited as far as possible.

    Queuing or congregating should not take place in common areas. Masks should be worn in common areas or facilities accessed by gatherings (like shared toilets).

    The Ministry of Health also recommends ensuring frequent cleaning of bathroom facilities and drinking fountains. Clubs could encourage members to bring water bottles filled from home and provide reminders about how to use drinking fountains most hygienically.


    What if I have a vaccine exemption?

    In the rare case a person meets the specified exemption criteria, the application is submitted to the temporary medical exemptions panel run by the Ministry of Health. If the application is granted, then a copy of the exemption will be provided in written or electronic form, noting the expiry date of the exemption, which is for up to six months.

    If you’re given a temporary medical exemption, you will see a record of this in My Covid Record. When your pass is scanned at venues, your exemption status will not be disclosed to the business. You will be able to gain access like everyone else.


    When is it mandatory to wear a face mask?

    Unless you are eating, drinking or exercising, you need to wear a mask. Players and referees must wear face masks before and after a game, not during.


    Is it okay if I just use a bandana or scarf or a towel as a face covering? 

    No. As of 11.59 pm, Thursday 3 February, in the Red setting, alternative face coverings such as bandannas, scarves and t-shirts are no longer allowed to be used instead of a face mask.


    What if I have a mask exemption?

    You will need to present your Mask Exemption Card or letter from your doctor prior to entering the grounds. We know some people have a disability or health condition where they may not be able to wear a face mask safely or comfortably.

    Mask Exemption Cards are issued by the Disabled Persons Assembly NZ (DPA). While at the facility, please carry your Mask Exemption Card with you in case you are questioned by concerned members or staff.


    What do we do if there’s a positive case at our gathering or event / it becomes a location of interest?

    At Phase 3 (as of 25 February), close contacts no longer need to isolate and locations of interest will not be published.

    Contact tracing will focus on identifying high risk contacts of cases. If someone at your gathering or event tests positive for COVID-19, they will be supported to notify people they may have spent time with while infectious.

    Notified close contacts should monitor symptoms for 10 days. If anyone develops symptoms they need to get a test, and should isolate until they get their result.


    What do I have to do if I test positive for Covid-19?

    You are required to isolate for 10 days. You will be contacted by the Ministry of Health by text and directed to complete a Covid-19 Contact tracing form online. This will assist to target places of interest you went to or were at while infectious. You will be given instructions and will need to advise contacts so they can get tested. For example, if you were at training, you will need to notify your team management and club who will contact fellow players and parents. If you have the NZ COVID Tracer app this will assist in identifying and notifying.


    If I test positive for Covid-19, what happens to my whānau or household?

    If you live with whānau or have flatmates or people living at your address, they are household contacts. Household contacts must isolate for 10 days. They are required to get a Covid-19 test on day 3 and day 10 of isolation.


    What if I am identified as a close contact of someone who is infected with Covid-19 but don’t live at the same address?

    At Phase 3 (as of 25 February), close contacts no longer need to isolate. If you get a notification from your workplace, school or through the NZ COVID Tracer app that you are a Close Contact, you should monitor your symptoms for 10 days. If you develop symptoms get a test, and you should isolate until you get your result.

    If you live with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, you are considered a Household Contact and will need to isolate for 10 days. You must get a test on Day 3 and Day 10 of your isolation. If you develop symptoms you should get a test sooner. If you are a Household Contact and you test positive, you will need to isolate for 10 days.

    Please note Government guidance is subject to change in response to the Omicron outbreak.


    February 12th 2022

    as seen on

    A captain’s knock from Joe Tapine has spearheaded the Māori All Stars to a 16-10 win over the Indigenous All Stars at CommBank Stadium on Saturday night.

    Tapine revelled in the responsibility handed to him by Maori coach David Kidwell, scoring a crucial try and running for 125 metres with seven tackle breaks.

    The match was played in heavy rain but it did nothing to detract from the intensity as both packs muscled up early before the Indigenous All Stars struck first through Jesse Ramien.

    The try was set up by a rampaging David Fifita, who busted the Maori defence wide open down the right and found Ramien on the inside for 6-0. 

    Sensational lead-up work by middle forwards James Fisher-Harris and Joe Tapine led to the Maoris’ opening four-pointer to the elusive Kodi Nikorima in the 25th minute and eight minutes later they had a second through Esan Marsters.

    Indigenous hooker Reuben Cotter looked certain to level the scores at 10-10 on the 50-minute mark but lost the ball as he stretched out to plant it down. Three minutes later Josh Curran also went close for the Indigenous side when he put his body on the line trying to ground a Nicho Hynes grubber but desperate Maori defence denied him.

    The Maori stretched their lead to 16-6 when Tapine produced some neat footwork close to the line and slammed the ball down but exciting young Dragon Tyrell Sloan closed the gap again when he scored off another pinpoint Hynes grubber.

    A mistake by Morgan Harper handed the Indigenous side one last chance to salvage a draw but a desperation defensive play by Reimis Smith denied Laurie Daley’s side.

    Match Snapshot

    Players from both sides blew off some steam in the opening quarter as tensions boiled over on two occasions. The All Stars game is always high on emotion and right from the haka and the war cry through to the final whistle the contest was a beauty and the perfect way to launch the season. 

    • Jordan Rapana was placed on report in the 13th minute for a shoulder charge on David Fifita and then found himself in the sin bin for a second shoulder charge on the stroke of quarter-time. He was joined in the bin by Indigenous forward Andrew Fifita who was marched for running in to join the melee. Jesse Ramien became the third player binned when he committed a professional foul in the final quarter.
    • Kenny Bromwich showed why he’ll be a sensational pick up for new boys the Dolphins with a superb offload to Patrick Herbert who sent it on to Esan Marsters for a Maori try.
    • In his comeback game from a career-threatening throat injury, Andrew Fifita equalled Joel Thompson’s record of seven appearances for the Indigenous All Stars. 
    • Will Smith was forced from the field in the third quarter for a HIA and did not return for the Indigenous All Stars.
    • Patrick Herbert produced a stormer for the Maori to bury the demons of his fateful decision not to pass in the dying seconds of last year’s final against the Roosters.

    Play of the Game

    David Fifita was at his damaging best in the opening quarter, leaving Patrick Herbert, Dylan Walker and Chanel Harris-Tavita in his wake as he raced 45 metres up field and sent a perfectly timed pass inside for Jesse Ramien to open the scoring. A nice pass from new Shark Nicho Hynes put Fifita into space and the 20-year-old made a fearsome sight as he powered down the right side.



    What’s Next

    The NRL season is under a month away and preparations ramp up with a series of trial games starting next Friday with a double-header at Leichhardt Oval featuring the Roosters taking on the Raiders followed by the Sea Eagles against Wests Tigers. On Saturday the Storm and Warriors will raise funds for the victims of the Tongan volcanic eruptions and tsunami in January when they square off at Casey Fields in Melbourne, while the Cowboys and Rabbitohs play in Cairns and the Titans face the Broncos on the Gold Coast. On Sunday it’s a double-header at CommBank Stadium with the Panthers v Sharks followed by Eels v Dragons and rounding out a huge weekend of trials the Knights meet the Bulldogs in Newcastle on Monday.

    as seen on

    February 12th 2022

    Two tries from Autumn-Rain Stephens-Daly were unable to overcome a strong Indigenous All Stars side, as the Māori All Stars went down 18-8 at CommBank Stadium on Saturday night.

    After suffering a heavy 24-0 defeat in last year’s clash the Indigenous side took one back squaring the ledger at 2-2 across the four years of the contest.

    A runaway try by Chapman in the second quarter gave the Indigenous side a 6-0 lead before Bo Vette-Welsh produced a dazzling 30-metre burst and found Tiana Raftstrand-Smith who sent the final pass to Stephens-Daly for the Maoris’ opening try.

    Chapman had her second just after half-time when Upton produced a superb cut-out pass and the Indigenous side had a 12-4 lead thanks to Kirra Dibb’s second conversion.

    Debutante Stephens Daly then grabbed a double of her own courtesy of a brilliant cut-out pass by Vette-Welsh and the Maori were back within four points.

    A barnstorming try from close range for Eels prop Tommaya Kelly-Sines put the game beyond doubt for the Indigenous side as they made it 18-8.

    Match Snapshot

    The speedsters may take all the glory but it was upfront where the foundation was laid with Caitlan Johnston (10 runs for 86 metres) and Keilee Joseph (10 runs for 75 metres) leading the way for the winners while Shannon Mato (22 runs for 191 metres) was inspirational for the Maori.

    • No.1 guns Tamika Upton and Bo Vette-Welsh dug deep into their bag of tricks with try assists, tackle breaks and countless reminders of their class in an intriguing duel.
    • Indigenous hooker Quincy Dodd got through a power of work in the middle with 26 tackles and was a key factor in the victory while Kennedy Cherrington racked up 30 tackles for the Maori.
    • Caitlan Johnston gave her Indigenous team-mates a massive lift during the first half when she powered across in cover defence to bundle rival prop Shannon Mato into touch. Johnston looks set for a huge NRLW season with the Knights.
    • The online defence by the Indigenous team as the Maori launched a number of late raids was inspirational.
    • Chapman’s dazzling debut was rewarded with the Trish Hina Medal as the  player of the match.


    What They Said

    “The girls have bonded and created some unity and they did it for themselves and for their mob and their families. It’s been a massive week and to cap it off like that and how they defended, I’m pretty proud as a coach. The defence in the women’s game is just getting better and better.”  – Indigenous All Stars coach Ben Jeffries

    “What a game. What a week. It was such an awesome way to celebrate two beautiful cultures and we lapped up every second of it. This moment here is more than just a game, to celebrate our heritage and our culture, and I want to congratulate the Indigenous girls on one hell of a match, you girls came out roaring and full of fire.” – Māori captain Corban Baxter at the post-match presentation.

    Press Conference: Maori Women’s v Indigenous Women’s, 2022

    Press Conference: Maori Women’s v Indigenous Women’s, 2022

    What’s Next

    For the majority of players who strutted their stuff in Sydney tonight it’s on to round one of the NRLW season, which kicks off with a massive triple-header at McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle on Sunday, February 27.

    The rugby league community in New Zealand and worldwide is mourning the loss of one of the Kiwis’ greatest and most unique players, a Pasifika and Māori sporting icon and a beloved character, following the passing of Olsen Filipaina, aged 64.

    Filipaina was admitted to hospital with a stomach infection on January 13, exacerbating a long-standing kidney problem. He died on February 10th in Sydney, surrounded by family.

    ‘The Big O’ scored 108 points in 29 Tests for the Kiwis from 1977-86 and was inducted as a NZRL Legend of League in 2007. But the bare figures and accolades tell only a small part of the blockbusting, trail-blazing centre/five-eighth’s story

    Filipaina’s career is framed by his world-beating performances for New Zealand against Great Britain in 1984 and Australia in 1985, but his decade on the international stage is strewn with crowd-pleasing highlights. Meanwhile, idol status at grassroots club level with a pair of Hawks outfits – Auckland’s Mangere East and Ryde-Eastwood in Sydney – bookended eight seasons in the NSWRL premiership, where his brilliance flashed brightly but infrequently, with crusty Australian coaches unable to effectively harness and utilise his dynamic talents.

    Born in Kaikohe to a Samoan father and Māori (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Hāmoa) mother, Olsen moved to South Auckland with his family as a young boy and rose through fledgling Mangere East’s ranks. An inspired spectator in 1971 as New Zealand powered to a stunning 24-3 victory over Australia at a muddy Carlaw Park, a ground he would dominate on countless occasions over the next 15 years, Filipaina captained the Schoolboy Kiwis the following season.

    Filipaina’s explosive performances and prolific tryscoring for Mangere East garnered a debut for Auckland in 1976. A Kiwis call-up quickly followed – just a month after his 20th birthday – at the 1977 World Cup, selected at centre for the matches against Australia and Great Britain, as well as featuring in Auckland’s remarkable ‘Grand Slam’ achievement, where the provincial side beat Australia, Great Britain and France in the space of 17 days.

    On a 1978 tour of Australia that produced few highlights, Filipaina’s blistering form was a vivid silver lining. He starred against the incomparable centre pairing of Steve Rogers and Mick Cronin, before scoring three tries in the Kiwis’ 30-21 victory in their maiden Test match against Papua New Guinea at Port Moresby. The tyro was named New Zealand’s Player of the Year.

    Filipaina’s genius lit up the 1979 season, scoring a staggering 261 points for Mangere East (25 tries, 93 goals), nine tries in 10 games for Auckland, and a try and five goals in the Kiwis’ series loss to the touring Great Britain Lions.

    Boasting remarkable pace and agility for a player with such an imposing frame, a trademark bump that rebuffed myriad defenders and a crafty kitbag of skills – included a phenomenal penchant for a chip-and-regather – Filipaina was an attacking freak. Stadium-shaking defence somewhat belied his gentle, shy nature but completed the picture of one of the era’s great entertainers and game-breakers.

    Balmain belatedly lured Filipaina across the Tasman in 1980. He spent five seasons with the Tigers, moved to Eastern Suburbs for a one-year stint in 1985 and played two seasons at North Sydney. Filipaina played 109 first-grade games (scoring 21 tries and 128 goals) but was regularly relegated to reserve grade, a convenient scapegoat for under-pressure and impatient coaches ill-equipped to let his talents flourish.

    Injury kept Filipaina out of the 1983 Test series against Australia, which included a famous Kiwis upset at Brisbane’s Lang Park. Despite being stuck in reserve grade at Balmain for several weeks midway through 1984, New Zealand coach Graham Lowe had no hesitation in picking Filipaina for the home series against Great Britain. Playing five-eighth at Test level for the first time, the 27-year-old terrorised the Lions. His thundering runs, deft ball-playing and the tourists’ tactic of double- and triple-teaming the leviathan in the No.6 jersey opened up repeated opportunities for his three-quarters Fred Ah Kuoi, James Leuluai, Dean Bell and Dane O’Hara, who between them scored 10 of the Kiwis’ 12 tries in a 3-0 whitewash. Filipaina added 12 goals and was man-of-the-match in the third Test.

    Another stint in reserve grade with the Roosters in 1985 set the scene for Filipaina’s finest hour. He was man-of-the-match in the first two Tests against Australia in Sydney and Auckland – both won by the Kangaroos courtesy of last-gasp John Ribot tries – including a memorable try-assist and four-pointer of his own in the series opener.

    Fourteen years after witnessing the Kiwis’ demolition of Australia first-hand as a 14-year-old at Carlaw Park, Filipaina led a drought-breaking – and equally emphatic and iconic – defeat of the green-and-golds at the same venue in the third Test of the ’85 rubber. He produced two audacious chip-and-chase efforts in the same set in the lead-up to Clayton Friend’s opening try and comprehensively outplayed opposite number and Australian captain Wally Lewis, widely regarded as the world’s best player, for the third straight game in an 18-0 thumping.

    Man-of-the-series honours were a mere formality for the moustachioed cult hero.

    “Olsen is the player who sticks out in my mind,” Lowe recalled for a 1992 documentary. “Wally has spoken to me about it since and said everywhere he looked there was just the big figure of Olsen pounding through – he just inspired everybody.”  

    Filipaina toured Britain and France with the Kiwis at the end of that season, playing in all five Tests and captaining New Zealand in the second Test at Wigan’s Central Park in Mark Graham’s absence. His decorated tenure in the black-and-white jersey concluded with the disappointing series loss in Australia in 1986, which saw him become only the second New Zealander to pass a century of points in Tests after Des White.

    A barnstorming opening try in the second Test at the SCG – steamrolling a defender before accepting a return offload from Graham to dive over – was vintage Olsen.

    Filipaina captained Western Samoa at the 1988 Pacific Cup, where his side lost the Apia-hosted final narrowly to New Zealand Māori, and was named Sportsman of the Tournament.

    Supplementing his football income with early-morning runs on the back of a rubbish truck, Filipaina was affectionately called ‘The Galloping Garbo’ – and the humble rugby league wizard celebrated in one more magnificent on-field success away from the spotlight. The 33-year-old, teaming up with former Kiwis halves partner Friend, captained Ryde-Eastwood to Grand Final glory in the inaugural Metropolitan Cup competition in 1990.

    Filipaina’s mythical status among rugby league diehards has only gathered momentum as the years and decades since his retirement have passed. But he received widespread and richly-deserved recognition in 2020 via the release of Patrick Skene’s captivating, thought-provoking and heart-warming biography, The Big O: The Life and Times of Olsen Filipaina, Pacific Revolution Pioneer. His importance locally was underlined last year when Auckland Rugby League named its newly-established 20s competition the Olsen Filipaina Cup.

    The outpouring of support and love from every corner of the rugby league community during his recent health battle reflected the person – more so than the player – Olsen was.

    New Zealand Rugby League extends its deepest sympathies to Olsen’s family, friends and legion of fans as they farewell a truly extraordinary individual.

    RIP. Arohanui. Alofa telē.

    Written by Will Evans on behalf of New Zealand Rugby League.

    February 9, 2022

    New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) is proud to announce key partner and principal sponsor of the Kiwis, Pirtek, has extended its partnership with NZRL for another four years.

    A market leader in the provision of on-site hydraulic and industrial hose and fitting products and services, Pirtek’s partnership with NZRL is set to span well over a decade, with Pirtek being one of the most recognisable supporters of rugby league across the Tasman.

    This extension means Pirtek will have been principal sponsors of the Kiwis through five World Cup tournaments, including this year’s rescheduled World Cup in England and the 2025 France Rugby League World Cup.

    NZRL CEO Greg Peters says this partnership extension is a special milestone.

    “Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there’s been no international rugby league for over two years, yet Pirtek’s support for our Kiwis and Kiwi Ferns has never wavered.

    “Despite Covid disrupted seasons, Pirtek’s franchise network has provided invaluable support for our grassroots and inaugural women’s and 20’s competitions, coupled with the involvement in our community activations across the country to encourage more tamariki to get involved in rugby league.

    “Our partnership is special. The entire team at Pirtek have been loyal members of our NZRL whānau for well over a decade. They have been front and centre of our greatest international achievements and have shown invaluable support throughout our more challenging times,” Peters adds.

    “I look forward to the team at Pirtek remaining integral members of the NZRL whānau as we enter an exciting new era of rugby league.”

    Chris Bourke, CEO Pirtek, says, “Once again our national Pirtek team is excited about our re-signing as Principal Sponsor of NZRL. We, like all Rugby League fans, are looking forward to the return of international matches in 2022 and beyond.

    Although the past couple of years have been a challenge for all concerned we have worked closely with NZRL and their team to provide appropriate support where practical.

    Sponsorships and partnerships like ours involve loyalty, just like we appreciate from our long term customers throughout New Zealand.

    We all look forward to working closely with NZRL over the next term of our partnership”.

    03 February 2022

    as seen on

    Former Kiwis Jerry Seuseu and Ben Henry will again be familiar faces when the Vodafone Warriors combine with wellbeing provider Le Va and the New Zealand Rugby League to deliver another series of workshops for clubs from the Auckland Rugby League region in the coming months.

    After being with the Vodafone Warriors in a wellbeing role for many years, 132-game club favourite Seuseu is now the NZRL’s wellbeing manager but he remains involved with the Vodafone Warriors’ wellbeing support team.

    Now leading the Vodafone Warriors as player wellbeing and education manager is Ben Henry, who graduated to the welfare and education space after his immensely promising NRL career was cruelly cut short at 52 games only one match into the 2016 season.

    Together with Le Va, Henry and Seuseu are well-versed in bringing mental wealth workshops to clubs from the NZRL’s Akarana and Counties Manukau zones.

    They began a programme again last year but their plans were undone by Auckland’s Covid lockdown.

    Now they’re ready to roll again with an initiative that sees Auckland clubs being transported on the Vodafone Warriors’ bus to be hosted at workshops at the club’s Mount Smart Stadium base.

    As well as players from clubs throughout Auckland, squad members from the Sky Sport Future Warriors programme will be involved in the workshops which combine mental and physical drills targeted at the younger age bracket.

    “The main drive of the workshops is to help young people manage their mental health through developing strong mental health tools and strategies,” said Henry.

    “These are aimed at building the protective factors required to live a robust life in Aotearoa and meet the challenges of modern day living.”

    Seuseu added this year’s mental wealth programme runs off the back of the model used in 2019 and 2020.

    “We will be delivering the latest offering from Le Va, the Atu Mai programme,” he said.

    “It is an anti-violence programme aimed at building mental health strength through understanding and developing players’ cultural identities. Individuals are more resilient if they have a strong sense of whakapapa and identity.”

    The workshops will kick off with a visit from the New Lynn Stags on February 11.

    For more information about the Le Va programmes:

    CLICK HERE for Atu Mai workshops. 

    CLICK HERE for resources and research.

    Wellbeing colleagues collaborate

    Wellbeing colleagues Seuseu and Henry are both accredited through the NRL and are NRL endorsed and funded to deliver wellbeing services to Vodafone Warriors players.

    Seuseu left the Vodafone Warriors in May last year to head up the national programme at the NZRL after 11 years as the Vodafone Warriors’ wellbeing manager.” he said.

    “We are lucky to partner with the Vodafone Warriors to facilitate discussions about the state of wellbeing and offer tools and strategies that are used in high performance sport to grow resilience at the grassroots level starting with the ARL clubs.

    “I am enjoying the switch from high-performance athletes to the grassroots communities.” NZRL Wellbeing Manager, Jerry Seuseu commented.

    “We are more than just a game and it is important to have programmes and strategies to look after our rugby league community. One in five people go through serious mental distress at some point in their lives.”

    Henry has stepped in to lead the Vodafone Warriors’ programme and has five years’ experience as a wellbeing officer.

    While his playing career was shortened by serious injury, he is a perfect example of what could be accomplished as a professional athlete. He completed several qualifications while playing – a certificate in computer programming, a certificate (level four) in business and a certificate in applied engineering. He is the ideal fit to help young players plan for a footy career and to also look ahead to transition away from the game.

    Henry has quickly built a team around him with Jason Fiddes running point in Australia with the NRL players; Fiddes previously worked as a wellbeing officer at the Brisbane Broncos.

    Also back on board is Enroy Talamahina, who continues his four-year relationship with the club. Talamahina is from the Sports Chaplaincy New Zealand service and assists Henry in his role for the players back in New Zealand.

    Anyone interested in the programme, please contact Jerry Seuseu at [email protected] or Ben through [email protected]

    02 February 2022

    The Māori All-Stars have named a star-studded line-up led by Dally M Prop of the Year, Premiership winner, and Kiwi #801 James Fisher-Harris. Jayden Nikorima was also named, completing a redemption story that saw him last play first-grade rugby league back in 2017.

    It’s a family affair as Jayden is set to line up alongside his brother and Kiwi international Kodi Nikorima (Kiwi #793).

    Although injury and suspension have forced changes to each team, this year’s matchup features a diverse array of experience and exciting young talent.

    Kiwi #818 Briton Nikora retains his place alongside Cronulla teammate Royce Hunt. The Shire-based team boasts the most participants in the All-Star contest with seven, including Nico Hynes, Will Kennedy, Jesse Ramien, Braydon Trindall, and Andrew Fifita, who will line for the Indigenous team.

    The Canberra pairing of Joseph Tapine (Kiwi #800) and Jordan Rapana (Kiwi #798) return, as well as the experienced duo of Kenny Bromwich (Kiwi #796) and Kevin Proctor (Kiwi #771). Esan Marsters is again included in the squad while Warrior’s Jazz Tevaga adds to the big-name power of the Māori outfit, playing in his debut All-Star game.

    This year’s contest will also feature debuts from Chanel Harris-Tavita, Morgan Harper, Erin Clark and Reimis Smith, all selected in Kiwis 2021 wider squad. Another player named in the wider squad, Patrick Herbert will be making consecutive appearances for the Māori team.

    Head coach David Kidwell has also named Porirua’s exciting powerhouse TC Robati, making his first appearance in the green and white jersey.

    Kidwell spoke on the squad, “I’m so thankful to have a group of players who are honoured to represent their culture.”

    “This is such an important week for the game, and our players recognise this. They will all do what they can to represent themselves, their whanau and their iwi.”

    Both teams clash on February 12th at Sydney’s CommBank Stadium. Catch all the action live on SkySport.

    Māori All Stars team:

    Briton Nikora (Kiwi #818)

    Chanel Harris-Tavita

    Dylan Walker

    Erin Clark

    Esan Marsters (Kiwi #809)

    James Fisher-Harris (Kiwi #801)

    Jayden Nikorima

    Jazz Tevaga

    Jordan Rapana (Kiwi #798)

    Joseph Tapine (Kiwi #800)

    Kenny Bromwich (Kiwi #796)

    Kevin Proctor (Kiwi #771)

    Kodi Nikorima (Kiwi #793)

    Morgan Harper

    Pasami Saulo

    Patrick Herbert

    Reimis Smith

    Royce Hunt

    TC Robati

    Tuku Hau Tapuha

    02 February 2022

    Māori All-Stars Head Coach, Keith Hanley, has called upon both experienced and fresh Kiwi Ferns to make a solid All-Stars spine in their bid to go back to back against the Indigenous All Stars Women next Saturday.

    Kiwi Fern Captain Krystal Rota is a notable inclusion as she’s joined by her Newcastle and Kiwi Fern teammates, Autumn-Rain Stephens-Daly, and Katelyn Vaha’akolo, both set to make their debuts in the green and white and NRLW this season.

    Bay of Plenty rugby union convert Autumn-Rain Stephens enjoyed a meteoric rise after only switching to rugby league in 2020. During her inaugural Test against Fetu Samoa, Stephens stole the show, earning herself the 2020 Kiwi Fern Rookie of the Year.

    Former Upper Central Stallion Mya Hill-Moana returns to the squad after debuting for the All-Stars in 2020, while Hanley calls on the experience of Kiwi Fern talents; Raecene McGregor, Nita Maynard and Rona Peters.

    Former Manurewa Marlin, Jocephy Daniels was the youngest player to lead the NZ Māori Wāhine Toa side when they took on the Australian Indigenous in Sydney in 2018. Earning an Eels call up for the NRLW, she’s also set to make her debut for the Māori All-Stars next Saturday.

    “I’m knowledgeable about the Māori culture, and so I want to help share that culture with the Australian-based girls to give them another perspective.” – Jocephy Daniels.

    The match will be the first occasion the All-Stars teams have played in Sydney since the concept began in 2010 on the Gold Coast, and it will be the first official fixture of the 2022 NRL season.

    The women’s clash will kick off at 7:20 pm on Saturday, February 12, at CommBank Stadium, with the men’s match to follow at 10:10 pm.

    Māori All Stars (Wāhine)

    Autumn-Rain Stephens-Daly (KF #150)

    Botille Vette-Welsh

    Corban Baxter (c)

    Jocephy Daniels

    Katelyn Vaha’akolo (KF #149)

    Kennedy Cherrington

    Krystal Rota (KF #123)

    Lavinia Gould

    Mya Hill-Moana (KF #154)

    Nita Maynard (KF #137)

    Olivia Kernick

    Page McGregor

    Raecene McGregor (KF #139)

    Rona Peters (KF #75)

    Roxette Mura

    Shannon Mato

    Tiana Raftstrand-Smith

    Zahara Temara

    Coach: Keith Hanley

    23 January 2022

    New Zealand moves to RED at 11:59pm tonight meaning rugby league events that check vaccine passes are able to go ahead with a 100 person gathering limit.

    Any rugby league events that do not wish to check vaccine passes can not go ahead, gatherings are limited to 25 people.

    20th January, 2022

    NZRL is sad to announce the passing of Kiwi #387 Murray Paterson, who was a member of the Kiwis squad that toured Australia in 1959.

    The former Kiwi international and school teacher was extremely beloved by his family and friends. A man who loved the water, Murray lived a life that not only he enjoyed but impacted the people around him.

    A tribute for Paterson was aired on ZM Radio and Murray’s service will be held on Monday 24th of January at 3pm, at Morrison’s Funeral Services in Henderson.

    We send our deepest condolences to his wife Maree, three children Mark, Brett and Greg and everyone closely associated with Murray.

    Kia Kaha.

    18th January, 2022

    As seen on

    The rugby league community will once again rally for a good cause when the Storm and Warriors dedicate their pre-season trial game on February 19 to the people of Tonga.

    The pre-season clash at Casey Fields in Melbourne will raise funds for the communities affected by the volcanic eruptions and tsunami last Saturday.

    The Pacific nation has a rich and proud history of producing players who have starred at NRL at international level, including Storm premiership winner Felise Kaufusi, who played three Tests for Tonga between 2015-17, and Warriors Addin Fonua-Blake, Ben Murdoch-Masila and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak.

    A range of initiatives will be announced in the coming weeks to allow members and supporters of both clubs to donate to the cause at the ‘Unite for Tonga’ clash.

    When tickets go on sale via Ticketmaster at noon this Friday, members and fans will be able to kick off the Unite for Tonga fundraising by making a direct donation via the purchasing process.

    “Tongans have a proud history in rugby league and with Storm,” said Storm CEO Justin Rodski.

    “We are honoured to be able to join with our friends at the Warriors for this special Unite for Tonga match to do what we can to help in this time of need.

    “The full details of the destruction and impact of the eruption on the people of Tonga is still unfolding, but we want to make sure we have done our bit to support the island community as they look to rebuild.

    “We hope the Melbourne Storm and New Zealand Warriors fans can dig deep to support the initiatives we have in place and that life in Tonga can return to normal as quickly as possible.”

    Meanwhile, Warriors CEO Cameron George announced on Tuesday that the club had begun working on a relief package for Tonga.

    “Our hearts go out to Tonga and especially to the families and communities suffering at this difficult time,” said George.

    “Tonga and its people have always held a very special place for us and always will.

    “A number of players in our current squad have immediate family or wider family in Tonga. They’re feeling for them right now and so is everyone associated with the club.

    “Throughout our history we’ve had strong ties with Tonga through a large number of former players and staff and also our support base.”

    31 December 2021

    The NZRL community is mourning the loss of one of New Zealand’s best-ever front-rowers, Kiwi #460 Bill Noonan, who has passed away in Sydney, aged 74.

    Noonan played three Tests for New Zealand in the late-1960s, but arguably carved out a greater legacy as a trailblazer in Sydney, making 196 first-grade appearances for Canterbury-Bankstown and Newtown from 1970-80 – then a record for a non-Australian.

    Noonan played the first of 25 games for Canterbury as an 18-year-old hooker in 1965, featuring in the province’s 19-4 loss to Australia that year and coming in for special praise after matching Newcastle Team of the Century rake Allan Buman in the scrums. He also represented in Canterbury’s 53-6 loss to Great Britain the following season.

    Still only 20, Noonan earned a place in the Kiwis’ squad to tour Australia in 1967. He debuted against Riverina and scored tries in matches against Brisbane and Ipswich, before getting his Test spurs as a replacement in the second clash with Australia, a 35-22 loss at Lang Park.

    Noonan missed selection for the 1968 World Cup but celebrated in Linwood’s CRL premiership success. After touring NSW with a New Zealand Under-23s side, he was recalled by the national selectors to take on the 1969 Australian tourists. The 15-stone tyro played at prop in the 20-10 series-opening loss and scored a try from the second-row as the Kiwis squared the two-match series with an 18-14 boilover, ending a sequence of 15 Tests without a victory.

    It would be Noonan’s last appearance in the black-and-white jersey, however. Following the repealing of the NZRL’s archaic transfer ban, he was one of the first young Kiwi stars to head across the Tasman – and the first major signing by now-legendary Canterbury-Bankstown secretary Peter Moore.

    Moore had travelled to New Zealand to lure Canterbury and Test halfback Graeme Cooksley to the club. Cookesley turned Moore down, but ‘Bullfrog’ returned with the signature of a bruising forward entering his prime instead. Canterbury-Bankstown stumped up a $6,000 transfer fee for Noonan, who was subsequently precluded from representing the Kiwis, as per the rules of the day.

    But Noonan set about becoming one of the Sydney premiership’s most respected forwards over the ensuing decade, coupling natural toughness, a good turn of pace and handy ball skills with a commitment to physical fitness. He played at least 14 games in each of his 11 seasons in the competition and created history (along with clubmate and former Kiwi teammate Henry Tatana, who came off the bench in the same match) by becoming the first Kiwi to play in a Sydney Grand Final in 1974.

    Noonan and the Canterbury-Bankstown pack faced up to an Eastern Suburbs engine-room containing Australian Team of the Century forwards Arthur Beetson and Ron Coote, who inspired Easts to a 19-4 win.

    An occasional captain for the Berries, Noonan played in further finals campaigns in 1975-76 and 1978, taking his tally of top-grade games for the club to 161, before accepting a lucrative deal to join the emerging Newtown Jets.

    Noonan was set to retire after receiving a reduced offer for 1979 from Canterbury-Bankstown, but businessman and Newtown backer John Singleton stepped in.

    “The first thing I said to him was, ‘save your breath John, I am not going to play for Newtown’,” Noonan told Rugby League Week magazine in 2009.

    “He told me he’d pay me $15,000 and I signed the next day.

    “The money wasn’t the only reason — John was a real go-getter and brought some quality players and a new professionalism to the club.”

    Noonan played 35 games in two seasons for the Jets, who were building towards an eventual Grand Final appearance in 1981 under the tutelage of impressive young coach Warren Ryan. He was sent off and suspended for a high shot against his former club in the opening round of 1980 but reclaimed his place in the first-grade pack to play the last 16 games of the season before hanging up the boots.

    In a nice piece of symmetry, Noonan’s last game was in his original position of hooker – his first appearance there in the top flight for more than three years – as Newtown upset semi-finalists Western Suburbs 23-20 at Henson Park.

    Noonan’s record for the most games in the Australian premiership by a New Zealander was eventually broken by Dane Sorensen in 1988, while his status as a New Zealand rugby league great is secure for perpetuity.

    NZRL extends its condolences to Bill’s family and many rugby league friends.

    December 15, 2021

    as seen on

    Amid the myriad gongs handed out for excellence in the current calendar year at the recent 2021 Canterbury Rugby League awards, one unassuming individual received special recognition for quarter of a century of high standards and commitment to our game.

    Gary Smallridge cut his teeth in the CRL premier refereeing ranks 25 years ago, dedicating close to half of his life to one of the most demanding and important (and often maligned and thankless) jobs in rugby league.

    “I was somewhat surprised by the award as I have been plodding along all these years and nothing’s been said,” Smallridge says of his CRL Special Acknowledgement Award.

    “I try and keep under the radar by not going to these types of things – the only other awards night I’ve attended was in Canterbury Rugby League’s centenary year. I would love to see others recognised as well, as 10 years is a milestone – and the average career length – while Keith Bull recently sneaked away after being involved in the game for 50 years.”

    The 59-year-old got his start in refereeing in one of Australia’s rugby league heartlands. Smallridge takes up the story of how he first picked up the whistle:

    “I was playing lower grades in Brisbane when a guy I worked with talked to me about trying out when he found out I refereed touch football. I went along and they had over 100 referees turn up on a Tuesday training.

    “I had to pass a written exam and then-current premiership referee Eddie Ward asked me five oral questions and I got my ticket. I was refereeing 13- and 14-year-old grades and touch judging premier football in the weekends. I did a couple of seasons and then returned to NZ in 1995 and decided to continue.

    “I believe that couple of seasons in Brisbane gave me a good grounding. When I turned up in Christchurch they saw some potential in me, and I was fast-tracked doing my first premier grade in ‘96. Looking back, I think I’d have struggled to make premiers in Brisbane due to the numbers.”

    When asked how he has maintained the motivation to continue refereeing at this level for so long, Smallridge provides an answer straight out of the rugby league cliché handbook, echoing countless others whose craving for a Saturday afternoon footy fix bubbles to the surface as each winter rolls around.

    “You’re a long time retired,” he says.

    “I still love the game and having the best seat in the house helps. Unfortunately, there can be a bit of politics involved around appointments and rankings, and I nearly gave it away when it started affecting family and friends.

    “But I’ve tried to take the attitude of just getting on with the job I’ve been given. That has helped, but at semi-final time you always get the urge to go all the way.

    “Watching teams and individuals develop over the years has been one of the best parts of refereeing in this competition for so long. I loved watching the likes of Riccarton, Kaiapoi and Papanui winning their premierships over the regular big guns, while also seeing the careers of local players like Lewis Brown and Corey Lawrie develop.

    “The challenging part is always going to come back to how you deal with individuals questioning your integrity. I’ve always been able to put it down to my passion for the game at the time; unfortunately there are some who can take (criticism) a step too far, but it’s also a great feeling when a spectator acknowledges that you handled a hard game well.”

    Smallridge has been something of a refereeing bridesmaid during his Canterbury Rugby League tenure, but he has controlled three premier Grand Finals – the first back in 2002, which saw Riccarton Knights claim their maiden title with a 54-14 rout of Linwood Keas.

    Underlining his consistency and reliability over a long period, Smallridge’s most recent appointment to the biggest game on the CRL calendar came just four months ago, handed the duties for the 2021 Grand Final at Ngā Puna Wai. His cool-headed temperament in a pressure-cooker environment contributed to a match fought on a knife’s edge between archrivals Hornby Panthers and Linwood Keas being one of the great modern deciders.

    “I’ve always started a season with the goal of a Grand Final and to do three is a highlight, however my record for Gore Cup finals – usually the second-best ref – will probably never be broken.

    “I believe my style of reffing has led to me being a consistent local referee, but I didn’t have that edge required to go the extra step up. In saying that, I have had a few trips around the country and games that stand out would be Russia playing Canterbury (in 2004) and Canterbury versus Wellington for the 100-year anniversary.

    “Another was Shirley and Woolston in the nineties when it was Black Power versus Mongrel Mob played out at Eaton Field at Paparua Prison, while for a different reason a Kaiapoi versus Sydenham match where I sent all 26 players off was particularly memorable.”

    Recruiting and retaining referees remains one of the greatest challenges in grassroots rugby league. For every Gary Smallridge, there are dozens who walk away from the whistle for one reason or another.

    But the commitment and passion of a dedicated few ensures the refereeing vocation – and consequently the game – continues to subsist, if only barely.

    “The game in Canterbury has been so lucky to have the likes of the Arneson brothers and Lightfoot family who kept the Referees Association going without too much bother,” Smallridge explains.

    “There have always been the same issues in rugby league, but it should be about how we make the game better – not about what people can get out of the game. The referees have lost so much experience over the last few years with retirements and people walking away, feeling aggrieved in some way.

    “We are now struggling to provide coverage for every game even though there is now a clear pathway to higher honours. Instead of having elections we are now pleading for someone to step up into the leadership roles.”

    Smallridge has a simple yet poignant message for anyone contemplating getting involved in refereeing:

    “Go down to a kid’s game and tell me if they deserve an adult to put in the time to support them while they are enjoying themselves.

    “If you want to stay or become involved in sport then being a match official is certainly a good place to start. I never went anywhere in my own league career but have now been involved in Grand Finals and representative games through refereeing.”

    Former NRL stars such as Henry Perenara and Luke Patten have made the shift to the match official ranks at the elite level in recent times.

    Meanwhile, Halswell premiership-winning player and coach Darrell Coad is one of the latest additions to the CRL refereeing ranks – a trend Smallridge believes could be an invaluable stream for grassroots footy to tap into.

    “It’s the best thing that can happen in our game,” Smallridge asserts.

    “Knowledge about what players are thinking or going through during matches allows a better feel for the game. A sin-bin or send-off can cost a team dearly but a quiet word in the ear of a player on the edge from someone who has been there can have a calming effect.

    “(The late) Darryl Hawker is one who is missed in the referee ranks – and the game in general – as he had performed of every role that the game had to offer and would share that knowledge to everyone involved.”

    New Zealand Rugby League and its affiliates have increasingly put measures in place to make the game a safer and more hospitable environment for match officials.

    The message that referees are human and make errors and analyse their own performance to the extent any player does cannot be understated.

    “If a referee can finish a game and they are not talking about him then he’s done a good job,” Smallridge says.

    “I’ve probably been lucky in my career that I can’t think of any incidents where I have been intimidated or threatened to the extent that I have thought about giving it away, but unfortunately too many volunteer referees have.

    “If a referee is out there trying his best, then our mistakes shouldn’t cost a team a game. I’ve lost count of the times when I checked the 10 metres outside me and missed the knock-on in the play-the-ball. It’s not a nice feeling but it’s a common mistake.

    “It is good to see that we are trying to look after match officials in all sports but again we need to look at ourselves as a society when it comes to violence and intimidation for perceived mistakes during a game.

    “Twenty-five years has flown by and I have enjoyed every minute, but I don’t think I’ve ever had the perfect game. No one is harder on a referee than himself and so it is always good to get assessed or graded by someone who knows the game. Some of my best gradings though were with people who know the game – Chris Baxter, ‘Jigsy’ (Brent Ringdahl), Frank Endacott – over a beer in the clubrooms after a game. Knowing what players and coaches go through certainly helped my game but they, and spectators, probably need to know what we go through as well.”

    So how much longer can we expect to see Smallridge blowing time on, marshalling the 10 metres and pointing to the spot after a tryscoring movement at Leslie Park, Murphy Park, Linwood Park and Ngā Puna Wai?

    “I know I’m on my last legs – well, knees actually – and have had a retirement plan in action for a while now, but I’m still enjoying it.

    “I’ve been saying ‘one last year’ for the last 10 but wanted to lose my spot to someone coming up the ranks, so they must fight for it – unfortunately they keep retiring before me! I retired from representative football years ago and although I want to see others develop there is nothing better than being asked to control a representative fixture still, so I keep doing them as well if appointed.

    “I’m 60 in September next year, so if the goal is to do premiers at 60 then that means two more seasons – but is that good for the game?”

    Reflecting on the past 25 years, Smallridge takes the opportunity to thank the myriad people who have aided his Canterbury Rugby League refereeing odyssey.

    “Firstly, there’s Jacquoi (Smallridge), who at 10 years old followed me around to games and trainings as I was a solo father for a while – it would be all quiet forming a scrum or something and I would hear ‘come on, Gary’.

    “Also the Arneson and Baxter brothers, the Lightfoot family, Jim Stokes, Neville Pritchard, Steve Toms, Steve Martin, Jason Wilson and the many more CRLRA members; current and former CRL employees over the years, especially Duane Fyfe and Tracy Fleet; and the touch judges, match managers and ball boys who have assisted me during every game.
    “A special and everlasting thanks to the Blackler family, especially Ken, who as a former referee was a great and loyal supporter, trainer and assessor to me while also giving his daughter’s hand in marriage to me.

    “And Sharyn – we met after a league game and you have supported me through the last 22 years of my career. Sorry about the lawns and the housekeeping during the winter but I promise there’s not long to go now!

    “Lastly thanks to all involved in the great game of rugby league – it’s been an honour and a privilege to be involved. Thank you one and all.”

    14 December 2021

    Despite another Covid riddled year, this has not deterred the passion of our rugby league communities across the motu. A plethora of talent and staff committed their best towards the game as NZRL is pleased to announce the 2021 NZRL Grassroots Awards.

    The Grassroots Rugby League Club of the Year Award for 2021 was highly contested. NZRL would like to recognise runner up clubs; Turangawaewae, Bell Block Marist, Whiti Te Ra and the Timaru Outlaws. Each club has significantly contributed to the growth of the game and its opportunities in their respective regions.

    The Otara Scorpion’s dedication and commitment both on and off the field saw them awarded the prestigious Grassroots Club of the Year Award for 2021.

    Situated in the heart of South Auckland, the Otara Scorpions have done incredible mahi to cater towards its staff, players and community. As a club, they managed to open new clubrooms, start a Junior Academy development programme and most notably, organise several high-profile drive-thru vaccination events that saw thousands of their community members rally together to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

    CEO of NZRL Greg Peters says, “In what was another testing year, Otara RL Club put the needs of their communities above all else, epitomising our More Than A Game and Kiwi Way philosophies. Thank you to all involved in the club for their important mahi; they’ve had a widespread and positive impact on the wellbeing of our communities.”

    The Men’s National Competition Player of the Year was awarded to Upper Central Zone’s Tony Matautia. Matautia’s Stallions side came away with the National trophy after his scintillating hat-trick in the final, earning him Player of the Match.

    After a stellar season with Canterbury, Kiwi Fern #144 Charntay Poko was named the National Women’s Competition Player of the Year. Poko brought her international professionalism and leadership, guiding her Canterbury side to a Sky Sport Women’s championship victory.

    The NZRL 16s Youth Competition Player of the Year went to Mid-Central’s Kylem Vunipola. Described by his coaching staff as ‘effective, well-mannered and considerate,’ Vunipola starred both on and off the field, making the fullback spot his own each week.

    Tome Poona of Upper-Central Zone took out this year’s NZRL 18s Youth Competition Player of the Year. The NZRL School’s representative captained his side to a grand final success earning the Player of the Final accolade. Poona showed exceptional leadership in a difficult, Covid interrupted season.

    The National 20s Player of the Year went to competition MVP Zyon Maiu’u. The Kelston Boys product led his undefeated Auckland Blue side right to the grand final, where they were unable to overcome an inspired Central Districts outfit.

    After that fairy-tale run to the trophy, Central Districts Head Coach Daniel McEwan received the National 20’s Coach of the Year Award.

    Upper Central Head Coach Jeremy Siulepa took home National Coach of the Year, and Mid-Central Vipers 16s Head Coach Shaun Egan was awarded the National Youth Coach of the Year. Both coaches successfully led their sides to competition titles throughout several regional lockdowns.

    Paki Parkinson took home Match Official of the Year for the second year running after refereeing the National Competition Final.

    The 2021 Pirtek Volunteer of the Year was awarded to July winner Raymond Greaves.

    Four years ago, Raymond began volunteering for Physical Disability Rugby League (PDRL); he brings passion and vitality at every opportunity, investing hours into creating, planning, and executing disability-specific programmes for PDRL players.

    Pirtek CEO Chris Bourke commented, “Although he has only been a volunteer for the past four years, Raymond provides a truly positive experience for Physical Disability Rugby League and the people involved. Raymond is now Head Coach and exemplifies the core values of NZRL’s Kiwi Way, being family first, innovative, inclusive, respectful and humble.” 

    NZRL CEO Greg Peters says, “These awards recognise exceptional work in our grassroots, domestic and community space both on and off the field. We congratulate each recipient on their outstanding achievement.

    “Thank you to those in our rugby league communities who continue to go above and beyond for our game. In what was another challenging year, it’s the dedication of our people that keep rugby league thriving – thank you.”

    2021 Grassroots Community Award Winners

    Club of the Year – Otara Rugby League Club (Counties Manukau)

    Men’s Competition Player of the Year – Tony Matautia (Upper Central Zone) 

    Women’s Competition Player of the Year – Charntay Poko (Canterbury) 

    16’s Youth Competition Player of the Year – Kylem Vunipola (Mid-Central Zone) 

    18’s Youth Competition Player of the Year – Tome Poona (Upper Central-Zone) 

    20’s Player of the Year – Zyon Maiu’u  (Auckland) 

    20’s Coach of the Year – Daniel McEwan (Central Districts) 

    Youth Competition Coach of the Year – Shaun Egan (Mid Central Zone)

    National Competition Coach of the Year – Jeremy Siulepa (Upper Central Zone) 

    Match Official of the Year – Paki Parkinson 

    Pirtek Volunteer of the Year – Raymond Greaves (Physical Disability Rugby League)

    14 December 2021

    Jahrome Hughes (Kiwi #819) has been named the 2021 Kiwis Player of the Year, Isaiah Papali’i (Kiwi #817) took home Young Kiwi Player of the Year, while James Fisher-Harris (Kiwi #801) was awarded the inaugural NZRL People’s Choice Award.

    Hughes was a standout for Melbourne, who won a record-tying 19 games in a row thanks to the Kiwi’s leadership and consistency in the halves. Hughes ended the 2021 NRL season with nine tries, 19 try assists and 13 line-break assists, cementing his status as one of the competition’s premier players.

    Kiwis Head Coach Michael Maguire says the Player of the Year award was no easy decision.

    “Kiwi boys across the competition have led their teams to new heights in 2021; the likes of Fisher-Harris, Brandon Smith, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, and Joey Manu were all standouts for their clubs. However, Jahrome’s growth into a leader at the Storm saw him deserving of this year’s accolade.

    “Jahrome’s consistency in the spine was evident; he led his team to a record win streak and saw them through to the semi-final. His improvement over the last couple of years has been exceptional, and his game management and kicking game reached a new level in 2021.

    “He has solidified himself as one of the game’s best halves and is well-deserving of the Kiwis Player of the Year title,” Maguire concludes.

    Isaiah Papali’i (Kiwi #817) was awarded the 2021 Young Kiwi Player of the Year after his breakout season with Parramatta, making 109 tackle breaks and 809 tackles for the year. The young Kiwi’s trophy cabinet for 2021 also includes the VB Hardest Working Player of the Year and Dally M Back Rower of the Year.

    Head Coach Maguire says, “From the first time I had Isaiah in the Kiwis squad, to now, he’s grown into one of the game’s most dangerous back-rowers.

    “His performance this year stood out; he really stepped up at Paramatta, and he’s well-deserving of the accolades he’s received in 2021.”

    Maguire adds, “What’s exciting about his growth is that Isaiah is still young, he’s got years of footy left in him, and he’s well on track to being one of New Zealand’s best players.”

    This year, NZRL also introduced the inaugural People’s Choice Award, where fans had the chance to vote for their best Kiwi player of the 2021 season.

    It was a tight race to the finish between Hughes, Smith and Fisher-Harris, but a late surge by voters saw the Penrith stalwart, James Fisher-Harris take home the title.

    Fisher-Harris had arguably his best season, earning 154 metres a game, averaging 100 post-contact metres in the lead up to his maiden NRL Premiership and second Dally M Prop of the Year accolade.

    Head Coach Maguire says, “I know how competitive these awards are, so there’s no surprise it was a tight race to the finish. James is extremely deserving of this; he had an exceptional season, he’s the best prop in the game and an asset to our Kiwis squad.”

    Maguire adds, “This year, we have watched many Kiwi players play their best seasons. The depth we are seeing, plus the calibre of football on display is exciting. I’m looking forward to a busy 2022 International season and seeing these boys come together for their country once again.”

    10 December 2021

    as seen on

    Titans NRLW player Karli Hansen is confident she can lead the team around the park as playmaker in 2022.

    Hansen, who made a barnstorming international debut for the Kiwi Ferns in 2020, was so determined to play in the NRL Telstra Women’s Premiership this season she quit her full-time job in New Zealand and waited patiently as four flights were cancelled.

    With the Titans’ inaugural season now confirmed to start in early 2022, Karli says the team is counting down the days until they can begin training and play together as a team. 

    “I’m so excited, we can’t wait to be together.”

    Asked what position she will be eyeing in the Titans line up, the Kiwi playmaker is confident that she can secure the number seven jersey for the coming season. 

    “My coaches, like Ricky Henry from the Kiwi Ferns, they’ve really helped me and guided me to be a confident halfback.

    “I have confidence in myself that I can be the seven of this team.”

    While the squad is yet to officially begin training together, Karli says social media and group chats have helped them to build relationships before pre-season starts.

    “The girls are becoming a lot more comfortable with each other now we are able to talk more often and be together in person as well.”

    “It’s going to help us a lot, knowing who we are off the field is as important as who we are on the field.”

    The Titans will kick off their inaugural NRLW season when the delayed 2021 competition starts on February 27. 

    With pre-season training to begin early in the New Year, players and staff are eagerly awaiting the start of the NRLW season. 

    01 December 2021

    16 Women Coaches from 15 different sports across Aotearoa New Zealand have been selected for High Performance Sport New Zealand’s second intake to Te Hāpaitanga, a women’s coach development initiative.

    Te Hāpaitanga – the act of elevating, lifting and empowering.

    Te Hāpaitanga is one of a number of HPSNZ initiatives in our ongoing commitment to Women in High Performance Sport. It is a holistic coach development initiative designed to enable more females to pursue and maintain a career in high performance coaching in Aotearoa New Zealand.

    Over 18 months Te Hāpaitanga will provide these 16 women coaches a range of opportunities that test and develop their coaching capability and allow them to develop new skills to navigate a complex and challenging career in high performance sport.

    The 16 Women Coaches are;

    • Lucy Brown, Snow Sports, Queenstown
    • Fiona Bourke, Rowing, Cambridge
    • Danielle Cranston, Hockey, Auckland
    • Elyse Fraser, Cycling, Christchurch
    • Alana Gunn, Football, Christchurch
    • Honey Hireme-Smiler, Rugby League, Hamilton
    • Krystal Kaua, Rugby Sevens, Mount Maunganui
    • Arna Masjstrovic, Surf Life Saving, Gisborne
    • Terena Ranui, Football, Hamilton
    • Tamara Reed, Triathlon, Palmerston North
    • Julie Seymour, Netball, Christchurch
    • Holly Sullivan, Boxing, Christchurch
    • Heelan Tompkins, Equestrian, Rotorua
    • Leanne Walker, Basketball, Hamilton
    • Emily Willock, Canoe Racing, Gisborne
    • Angela Winstanley-Smith, Water Polo, Christchurch

    NZRL GM of High Performance and Football, Motu Tony says, “Having Honey on the Te Hapitanga programme is great recognition for Honey and rugby league. Honey had an outstanding playing career, and we are excited that she now wants to coach at the highest level possible. The Te Hapaitanga programme will help Honey develop her coaching skills and experience further. We are incredibly grateful to High Performance Sport NZ for recognising Honey and the rugby league through this opportunity.”

    In 2020 HPSNZ announced the inaugural intake of 12 women coaches to Te Hāpaitanga. Those women are now reaching the final stages of their 18-month journey.

    Football’s Maia Vink, who was among that group, describes her experience; “Te Hāpaitanga has been an accelerant for me to understand the value that I bring, see my own purpose clearly, intimately work with some brilliant minds in sport, leadership and pedagogy, and enhance our performance systems as a team.”

    “The conversations I have are richer, I am more aware of where to draw my attention to, when to lead, when to listen, and how to trust my intuition. In the moments I’ve faced challenges, my mentorship group has helped me shift my thinking and revealed strengths in me, I didn’t know were there. I am able to connect people together in deeper, more meaningful ways which has had a massive impact in our team and will lay the foundation of my coaching for years to come.”

    Te Hāpaitanga connects emerging female coaches with their peers and established female high performance coaches providing mentoring and inspiration. The initiative accelerates the growth and development of emerging female coaches by mitigating current and future challenges to pursuing a career in high performance coaching. And it works by integrating the national sporting organisation (NSO) and an experienced coach mentor intoeach coach’s development journey for better access to existing resources, knowledge and experiences.

    23rd November, 2021

    The end of the rugby league year is wrapping up, which means it is time for the 2021 NZRL Awards, where the country’s best rugby league talent is celebrated.

    This year, NZRL has introduced the first-ever Kiwis People’s Choice Award. This means you, the fans, have the chance to choose who you rightly believe deserves the top individual honour as the best New Zealand player in the game.

    2021 presented another year without international fixtures, so this year’s Kiwis awards are based solely on how players performed for their respective professional clubs, whether in the NRL, SuperLeague etc.

    Many Kiwi talents showed their class and superstardom in the 2021 NRL season, such as Second-rower of the year Isaiah Papali’i and premiership winner James Fisher-Harris. Melbourne’s halfback and hooker duo of Jahrome Hughes and Brandon Smith should not be dismissed as well, so the choice will not be an easy one.

    Former Junior Kiwi Captain Isaiah Papali’i produced a breakout year for his new club, averaging 150 metres per game whilst making 809 tackles and scoring seven tries. Papali’i earned himself a contract at the Tigers from 2023 onwards after taking home the Dally M Second-Row of the year award.

    Arguably the best prop in the game for a few years now, James Fisher-Harris was his consistent best. The Whangarei Marist junior averaged 154 metres per game and 100 post-contact metres; his tireless work rate and leadership led his Penrith side to a classic grand final victory at Suncorp Stadium. JFH’s efforts were justified as he received his second straight Dally M Prop of the Year, cementing himself as one of rugby league’s best.

    Another viable candidate includes Melbourne’s barnstorming #9 Brandon Smith. “Hectic Cheese” set up ten tries and scored 11 of his own, and even kicked the NRL’s first-ever 20/40. Smith, like his compatriots, was rewarded with a position on the Dally M team of the year at hooker outplaying his competition.

    Don’t forget about Jahrome Hughes, the former Titan and Cowboy solidified himself as not just one of the best halves in the game but one of its best players. After moving from Hooker to fullback, Hughes spent this season as Melbourne’s #7 and repaid Craig Bellamy’s faith in him with nine tries, 19 try assists and 13 line-break assists. He steered Melbourne around the park and directed them to a record-tying 19 victories on the bounce.

    Cast your votes here –

    Voting closes on Monday 29th November, finalists will be narrowed down!

    See your People’s Choice Kiwi of the year in action in June 2022!

    22nd November, 2021

    Kiwi #726 David Fa’alogo has been announced as the Mt Albert Lions Premier Men’s Head Coach for the upcoming 2022 Fox Premiership season. The Mt Albert junior returns after playing over 250 first grade games across the NRL and Superleague whilst also representing the Kiwis from 2006-09, including a World Cup in 2008.

    Fa’alogo’s history with the Lions dates back to 2001, joining the club with his brother Sala. They found instant success winning the Bartercard Cup in 2002 under the guidance of coach John Ackland.

    “My game developed in a big way during my years at Mt Albert,” says Fa’alogo.

    “It is a family orientated club, which made Sala and myself feel connected and right at home, the club has also continued to support both my brother and my family over the years.”

    The return of Fa’alogo is a timely blessing for the Lions as Club Administrator Dave Mcdermott commented, “The local game has struggled as of late due to the last couple of seasons being unfinished due to covid.

    “Player exodus has affected the team as of late with players leaving to play abroad, and the insurgence of David brings a hunger to play for the club.”

    Fa’alogo added, “It is a time of uncertainty for Mt Albert, but together with Matt Sturm and our coaching staff, we intend to continue developing both of junior and senior players coming through the club and build off the great work done in past years.

    “It is important to play consistent and competitive footy each week and show what this historic club is capable of.”

    The Lions were third on the table and progressed to the competition’s semi-finals before the Premiership was cancelled due to Covid-19.

    19 November 2021

    In exactly one year’s time, the biggest and best Rugby League World Cup in history will reach its thrilling climax in a showpiece weekend in Manchester featuring the wheelchair final followed by the double-header men’s and women’s final at Old Trafford. 

    Today (November 19) Rugby League World Cup 2021 tournament organisers have confirmed the full revised 61 match schedule for the tournament in 2022.

    Five weeks of world-class sporting action begins at St James’ Park, Newcastle on October 15 before Headingley Stadium, Leeds opens the women’s tournament on November 1 and a double-header at the iconic Copper Box, London kicks off the wheelchair event on November 3. Full schedule is available here.

    Only five RLWC2021 fixtures (four match-days) have been affected during the rescheduling of 61 matches staged at 21 iconic venues, across 18 host towns and cities. These changes involve the switching of two fixtures between existing venues in Leeds and Hull and the relocation of fixtures from Anfield Stadium and M&S Bank Arena.

    In the men’s tournament there will be one venue swap with the match between Australia and Fiji on the opening day (October 15) now taking place at Headingley Stadium, Leeds due to a clash with another event in Hull. In return, the MKM Stadium, Hull will now host New Zealand v Jamaica in Group C on October 22 – a fixture that was due to be played in Leeds.

    Wigan’s DW Stadium will provide the stage for the double-header which features the second men’s quarter-final as well as England women v Canada women on November 5.

    Manchester will create further sporting history by hosting all three tournament finals over a weekend of global Rugby League celebration. Manchester Central in the heart of the city centre will now host the wheelchair final on November 18. The following day (November 19) the showpiece men’s and women’s double-header final will take place at Old Trafford, Manchester.

    All 32 teams across the 21 competing nations participating in the men’s, women’s and wheelchair tournaments have fully committed to the revised tournament schedule in 2022.

    General admission tickets and hospitality for all 61 matches will be back on-sale from 9am GMT today in line with the full schedule reveal. Tickets can be purchased via:

    Fans who have already purchased tickets for fixtures that have been changed will be contacted with information on their options from November 24. A dedicated refund window will be available from then until November 30.

    Jon Dutton, RLWC2021 Chief Executive Officer, said:

    “We have achieved our objective in delivering minimal disruption to the existing 61-match schedule and I want to place on record my thanks to all those who have made it possible.

    “Every host town and city who joined us on this journey remains involved and they will set the stage for the very best that the sport has to offer. There are world class, compelling matches, across all three tournaments at some of the most iconic venues across England.

    “We are delighted to make tickets available to purchase again and supporters can now look forward to being part of this unique global event. With match dates and locations confirmed, the excitement will only intensify as we look to the horizon and the biggest and best Rugby League World Cup.”

    19 November 2021

    New Zealand Rugby League is pleased to announce the National 20s Ruben Wiki Cup Competition returns for 2022, kicking off Saturday, March 12th, with the final taking place over Easter weekend. 

    Six teams will battle it out for the Ruben Wiki Cup; Akarana, Counties Manukau, Upper Central (Bay of Plenty, Coastline, Gisborne and Hauraki), Waikato, reigning champions Central Districts (Hawkes Bay, Taranaki, Manawatu & Wellington), and South Island. 

    The Ruben Wiki Cup games will broadcast live on Sky Sport 4 to domestic and international audiences, acting as a key development pathway for future high-performance opportunities. 

    The Ruben Wiki Cup not only showcases New Zealand’s U20s domestic game but it provides clubs and districts with the opportunity to recruit and retain rangatahi talent, an age group notorious for significant drop-offs in sporting activity, according to Sport NZ.

    NZRL GM of High Performance and Football, Motu Tony, says: “The National 20s Ruben Wiki Cup was a great success last year, and we look forward to stepping it up a level in 2022.

    “The competition provided several opportunities for players with NRL and affiliated NRL clubs while also allowing coaches, managers, trainers and match officials the opportunity to gain further development and experience.

    “The Ruben Wiki Cup will continue to expand year on year, providing broadcasted playing opportunities for our best young Kiwi talent across the country. 

    “Thank you to Sky Sport for their ongoing support of our game; I look forward to a great competition come 2022.”


    • Revised tournament schedule for 2022 to be released on 19 November – one year out from the men’s and women’s showpiece double-header final at Old Trafford, Manchester
    • All 32 teams across the 21 nations participating in the men’s, women’s and wheelchair competitions have fully committed to the tournament which will kick off on 15 October at St James’ Park, Newcastle
    • The rescheduling has impacted only 5 matches (4 match-days) across the 61-match schedule
    • General admission tickets and hospitality for all 61 matches will go on sale from 9am GMT on Friday 19 November via:

    The road to the rescheduled Rugby League World Cup 2021 (RLWC2021) officially begins today (15 November) as organisers confirm the 61-match schedule will be revealed in full on Friday 19 November at 9am GMT.

    In recent weeks, organisers have worked collaboratively with all tournament partners to finalise the 61-match schedule which will kick off at St James’ Park, Newcastle on 15 October 2022 when England men take on Samoa men. The tournament will then culminate in spectacular fashion at Old Trafford, Manchester on 19 November 2022 with the men’s and women’s double-header final.

    In a unique and busy year of international sport and events, staged both domestically and overseas, only five RLWC2021 fixtures (four match-days) have been affected during the rescheduling of 61 matches staged at 21 iconic venues, across 18 host towns and cities.

    These changes are the switching of two fixtures between existing venues and the movement of two events to alternative venues.

    Despite collective best efforts this has resulted in the disappointing loss of both Anfield Stadium and the M&S Bank Arena, Liverpool from the schedule due to the Anfield Road expansion and prior commitments respectively. However, Liverpool will still play a key role during the tournament with the city providing the training bases for Italy and Tonga. The details of the venue switch and replacement venues will be revealed this Friday, 19 November.

    All 32 teams across the 21 competing nations participating in the men’s, women’s and wheelchair tournaments have fully committed to the tournament in 2022. In addition, organisers can also confirm the re-introduction of the Physical Disability Rugby League World Cup, hosted in Warrington, which will welcome Ireland as a sixth participant.

    General admission tickets and hospitality for all 61 matches will be back on-sale from 9am on 19 November in line with the full schedule reveal. For all the latest tournament news and ticket information sign up:

    Fans who have purchased tickets for the small number of revised fixtures will be contacted with information on what will happen next with their tickets. A dedicated refund window will be available from Wednesday 24 November to request refunds.

    In unprecedented coverage in the UK, the BBC have reaffirmed that every minute of all 61 RLWC2021 matches will be shown live and free across their platforms.

    Jon Dutton, RLWC2021 Chief Executive Officer, said:

    “For everyone involved in this trailblazing tournament, today is a very important and exciting milestone on our journey to 2022.

    “We have suffered a setback, but since that moment in August we have dedicated all our energy towards rebuilding.

    “A huge amount of work has gone in behind the scenes and thanks to so many people we have the opportunity to deliver a bigger and better tournament next autumn.

    “I want to thank all partners, in particular the UK Government, our broadcast and commercial partners, the administrators of the competing nations for their full commitment, as well as our host towns, cities and venues for providing the perfect stage for the best players in world to shine.

    “I also want to extend a special thanks to the incredible number of loyal fans who held onto their tickets and have continued to support this event that will see the men’s, women’s and wheelchair tournaments take place simultaneously for the first time ever.”

    Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston, said:

    “Rugby league means so much to many people across the country, so I’m delighted

    the Rugby League World Cup is on track to kick off next autumn.

    “The UK has a strong record of hosting major international sporting events and this will be

    another fantastic opportunity to showcase our towns and cities, and to inspire our young

    people to get involved in sport.

    “The Government is a keen supporter of rugby league, and we absolutely can’t wait to host

    the world’s best teams in what is set to be a bumper year of sport and culture in 2022.”

    Troy Grant, IRL Chairman, added:

    “Everyone appreciates that international Rugby League has a huge part to play in the future growth of the sport and the tournament is something the world of Rugby League can now look forward to with great excitement.”

    “The IRL would like to thank RLWC2021 Chair Chris Brindley and CEO Jon Dutton as well as the wider RLWC2021 team for the thorough and time effective response to postponement and with the full schedule to come this week players, administrators and fans can start to plan their role in creating sporting history.”

    11 November 2021

    New Zealand Rugby League is pleased to announce that the Sky Sport Women’s Premiership will take place from the 26th March, with the final set for the 16th April ahead of the mid-year Kiwi Ferns Test and again in October as part of the wider 2022 National Competition.

    This year, the Women’s Premiership and Championship were amalgamated into a singular Women’s National Competiton without the Auckland teams due to Covid-19 restrictions.

    2022 will see the Sky Sport Women’s Premiership coincide with the rescheduled NRLW in March, allowing players unable to relocate to Australia the opportunity to bid for a place in the Kiwi Ferns squad.

    Luisa Avaiki, Head of Women’s Rugby League at NZRL, says, “It’s really exciting for our girls to have an opportunity early in the year and then again come October, not only for Kiwi Ferns prospects but all women involved in our game.

    “Having an enriched calendar, especially after this Covid riddled year, means women and girls across the country will further develop, grow and strengthen their skillsets due to the increased playing opportunities we can provide.

    “Thank you to Sky Sport for their above and beyond support of our women’s game and commitment to its growth across the country,” Avaiki concludes.

    2022 will also see NZRL introduce a series of inaugural tournaments for the 16s to 18s Girls age group, including the District 9s Tournament (February – April), NZRL Secondary Schools Girl’s Tournament (August) and NZRL Girl’s Youth Tournament (October).

    GM of Football and High-Performance, Motu Tony, says, “It’s great to be able to showcase a women’s rugby league calendar that reflects the growth our female game continues to experience.

    “Female participation has nearly tripled since 2016, and youth participation for girls has increased 14%.

    “Being able to offer a District 9s competition, Youth Tournament and Secondary School Tournament for young female players is a huge milestone that will only see this space further accelerate with momentum.

    “These tournaments will enable us to field NZ Girl’s representative teams and provide an opportunity for our future NRLW and Kiwi Ferns players to excel in the game.

    “Next year will be the biggest year yet for our women’s game, and we have every reason to be excited.”

    10 November 2021

    Today, Tāmaki Makaurau has moved to Alert Level 3.2, where contact training and rugby league activity remains suspended.

    All contact sports involving the sharing of equipment cannot be played at this level.

    At Alert Level 3.2, outdoor gatherings have increased to 25, only if outdoor activity can be done safely. Face coverings need to be worn while keeping a 2-metre distance from those in your gathering.

    Outdoor training and exercise classes are permitted if you can maintain a safe distance without coming into contact with those around you.

    Clubrooms and other indoor recreational facilities remain closed.

    NZRL encourage all those in our rugby league communities to get vaccinated against Covid-19; for more information, please visit

    Continue to use the NZ Covid Tracer app with Bluetooth tracing turned on, and stay home if you are unwell. Call your doctor or Healthline on 0800 358 5453 for advice about getting tested.

    NZRL will continue to update you with the latest information, subject to government updates.

    8th November 2021

    as seen on

    Former Kiwis international Te Maire Martin will return to rugby league just two years after retiring because of bleeding in his brain.

    The Daily Telegraph reports Martin has signed a development contract with Brisbane Broncos, subject to final medical clearance.

    The report says Brisbane coach Kevin Walters sees Martin as a replacement for Anthony Milford to play outside star recruit Adam Reynolds.

    Playing for North Queensland Cowboys, the 26-year-old Kiwi took suffered a bad concussion against Melbourne Storm in 2019, with brain scans revealing a bleed after Martin had complained about severe headaches.

    Martin’s agent Andrew Purcell is confident the final medical clearance will be granted.

    “When he retired there was a headline ‘if I play again I could die’ and that wasn’t factually correct,” Purcell told The Telegraph.

    “No brain expert ever said that. Te Maire was coming off contract and was advised to have a spell. 

    “Then he retired for two years and started playing a bit of footy with his brothers in New Zealand.

    “He felt OK and started playing country footy then rang me up and said he was keen again. He’s had multiple tests and all the scans came back with the green light.

    “He feels like he can start fresh and he’s grateful the Broncos have opened the door.”

    Martin will train with Brisbane’s NRL squad, but will begin the season playing for Wynnum Manly in the Queensland Cup.

    Martin is still in New Zealand, waiting for clearance to travel to Australia.

    Starting his career with the Panthers, Martin graduated to the first-grade side after starring in their development sides.

    The Waikato native played 14 games in two seasons at Penrith, before a big-money move to North Queensland Cowboys as a long-term replacement for Johnathan Thurston.

    Martin made 42 appearances for the club in two and a half seasons before retiring.

    Pirtek’s prestigious Volunteer of the Month is given to a volunteer who displays the core values of NZRL’s Kiwi Way, which are being family first, innovative, inclusive, respectful and humble.

    We are honoured to announce the winner for October 2021 is Glenora’s Val Liuaga.

    Val is a champion for her local West Auckland club, the Glenora Bears. She works tirelessly every weekend from 6 am going between Te Atatu Park, Duck Park and Henderson Park, where she prepares the fields and all aspects needed for Juniors to play their games.

    Liuaga also volunteers in the tuckshop, team fundraisers, and maintenance of the ground and change rooms when needed.

    Val is vital to the health and growth of the Glenora Bears from the junior teams up to its Premier side, lending a hand whenever she can.

    Pirtek CEO Chris Bourke commented on this months winner, “Val Liuaga is the epitome of volunteering. She does not complain but gets to work and does it the best she can. That is the definition of volunteering, getting stuck in and doing the job!”

    “The Mighty Glenora Bears are a privileged rugby league club to have someone like Val on board with them; with her care and commitment to the club, Val ensures each team and weekend runs smoothly. Val sacrificing her weekends for the club is a testament to her character and drive to see the club function and be successful.”

    “Val is a very worthy winner of the Pirtek Volunteer of the Month, and we congratulate her and thank her for her dedication to the great game of rugby league.”

    Volunteers will be chosen based off how well they demonstrate our Kiwi Way values:

    We are family first – stronger together.

    Innovative and Courageous – punch above our weight.

    We are responsible.

    We are inclusive, respectful and humble.

    Each winner receives $200 worth of vouchers.

    #TheKiwiWay #MoreThanAGame

    31 October 2021

    It was a North v South battle in the National Competition Bronze final between the Wellington Orcas and Otago Whalers.

    The Wellington Orcas opened the scoring through Sam Filippo, who scored a double within the first ten minutes.

    Despite the slow start, once the Southerners got their hands on the ball, they never looked back, scoring 28 unanswered points. The Whalers had all the momentum leading 28 – 10 at the break.

    An unfortunate Wellington error under the high ball saw Otago jump on a loose carry to open the scoring for the final forty, extending their lead by 24 points.

    It was the Whalers with all the confidence as a series of offloads put Jake Fowler over for his second and Otago’s seventh only five minutes into the second stint.

    The Orcas found momentum scoring their first four-pointer since the opening ten minutes, decreasing the margin to 26. A confidence boost saw Bronson Marino cheekily plant their fourth shortly after.

    Two conversion misses from the Orcas kept the score 40 – 18 with 20 to go.

    The Southerners put any chance of a comeback to bed as they went on to score two unanswered four-pointers. Wellington had the final say on the full-time hooter, but the Whalers got the win with a convincing 50 – 22 victory.

    30th October 2021

    The sun was shining over Nga Puna Wai as favourites Canterbury and Upper Central Zone clashed with the NZRL National Competition trophy on the line.

    Upper Central burst out of the blocks as late replacement Karly Karauna scored in just under two minutes to capitalise off a Canterbury mistake taking an early 4-0 lead.

    Canterbury then began to warm into the game, getting on the front foot and converting through U20’s Canterbury representative Uriah Tuli as the Bulls went in front six points to four.

    An untimely Canterbury error let the Stallions back into the affair, and fullback Denzil Manu converted that pressure into points which Canterbury would go on to regret. A few minutes later, backrower Kaisa Matautia bulldozed his way over the Canterbury line as Upper Central scored back-to-back and took hold of the game. Connor Hohepa converted to make it 14-6 in the 18th minute, a lead that the Stallions would take into the break.

    Upper Central started the second stanza as they started the first as Matautia helped himself to a second, four minutes into the half.

    The Stallion outfit continued to pile on the pressure asserting their will in the early stretches of the second half, and points followed. Stallion’s hooker Russell planted a deft grubber kick which he regathered and slickly offloaded to Johnson Peri, who barged his way over to extend the margin. Connor Hohepa made the score 26-6 with thirty minutes left, converting from the left side of the uprights.

    Johnson Peri’s 40/20 marched Upper Central up the field and again resulted in points, this time, Matautia completed his hat trick on the left edge. Denzil Manu continued the onslaught as he pounced onto a superb attacking kick from Connor Hohepa and made his way over to extend the lead to 36-6 with just under 20 minutes remaining.

    With only ten to go, Canterbury stand-out Penitito Ilalio forced his way over, with substitute Delane Luke scoring two minutes later to tighten the gap to 36-18.

    A late try on the buzzer by Zion Kamana was not enough to seal a Canterbury comeback as the underdog Upper Central Zone went on to claim the NZRL Men’s National Competition title, winning 36-22.

    30th October 2021

    Canterbury and Wellington put on an entertaining finals match at Christchurch’s Nga Puna Wai. The Bulls, showing their class to defeat a valiant Orcas side 20-8.

    Both teams came out firing on the defensive end, not willing to give an inch, and it was the South Island outfit who found themselves in an attacking position first. A slew of Wellington errors proved costly as Canterbury ran out to an early 14-0 lead, scoring three tries and one conversion in the first quarter of the game.

    With two mins left in the first half, Wellington pushed to put points on the board. A pinpoint cross-field kick from Maryanne Collins saw Sarahcen Oliver make a skilful grab and score an amazing try for Wellington, as the Orcas tightened the margin to 14-4 going into the break.

    Charntay Poko’s powerful drive up the middle was unlucky not to be rewarded with points as the pass to Angela Petero was deemed forward.

    Another beautiful cross-field kick unfortunately wasn’t capitalised on and resulted in a missed opportunity for the home side.

    Wellington forced their way back into the game through captain Aggy Faraimo, but Cantebury’s defence was too strong, saving a sure four-pointer.

    Canterbury looked to seal the game with a full set of six in Orca territory. Wellington tried valiantly to hold off Cantebury, but despite their efforts, Sailiai Pau went over, grabbing a hat trick in the process. Poko converted to make it 20-8 with only six minutes remaining.

    Despite a last-ditch effort from Wellington, it was Cantebury who went on to claim the Women’s National Premiership for 2021 with a 20 – 8 victory over the Orcas on home soil.

    28th October, 2021

    as seen on

    When Mike Lemalie removes his 30 kilogram weighted vest and dives into the ocean at Stirling Point in Bluff on October 30, it will be more than just sore legs and blisters he is hoping to heal. 

    A member of the Southland Rugby League community, Lemalie will be walking 60 kilometres in gumboots from Bluff to Invercargill return, with the last 4km through the Bluff township in a weighted vest, to raise money for youth mental health services through Gumboot Friday. 

    Lemalie spent several years as a player/coach for Bluff Rugby League Club, which included winning three competitions in a row finishing the 2009 season undefeated. 

    It’s a cause that is deeply personal for Lemalie. His son died by suicide in December 2016. 

    “The motivation behind the weighted vest is just walking through Bluff with all the heavy weight and burden of all the kids we’ve got down here, and just walking to the point, and washing it away with the water,” he said. 

    Since his son’s death, he had been actively assisting youth in Bluff to open up and get help through counselling services, which he believed should be free and available to all youth in New Zealand. 

    “Kids need to be able to open up and talk, we can’t help them if they don’t open up. At my son’s funeral I said that to all his friends, and they took me up on it…. It’s just being an ear, I don’t have all the answers, and if I don’t have the answers I try and get them. And that’s how Caroline Loo [From the Invercargill Loss and Grief centre] helped at the start,” he said. 

    “I first started going to the counselling sessions with some of the kids, and I still use her as a point of contact for some of them. It’s good, one kid has got his life back on track, and he’s doing really good with his sports, that’s one of the main goals we’ve talked about, to get back to sports.” 

    He decided to complete the walk when Gumboot Friday founder Mike King announced earlier this year that the Ministry of Health had rejected his request for funding to provide free counselling for young people. 

    “Originally it was just supposed to be to Invercargill, but I thought ‘I live in Bluff, so why not walk home’.” 

    The tight-knit community of Bluff had whole-heartedly supported the effort, and many people had been in contact to volunteer their time. 

    His work colleagues at Sanford had already ordered 40 hi-vis vests in anticipation of the amount of people that would be walking the route alongside Lemalie. 

    So far, he has received more than $4000 in donations. 

    Data released by the Office of the Chief Coroner on Monday, revealed there were 44 cases of suspected suicide in Southland and Otago in 2020, down from 47 cases in 2019. 

    The rate of death by suspected suicide per 100,000 people in Southland and Otago was 11.7, slightly higher than the national rate of 11.3. 

    Able Minds chief executive Sarah Dowie said the fact the number of suspected suicides had fallen by just 21 was a confronting reminder that more work needed to be done to address mental health issues. 

    Lemalie began his rugby league journey in 1992, joining his local club the Wainuiomata Lions from u12’s to u18’s. Mike developed his love for the game in these adolescent years  

    He spent years in Gisborne and returned to Lower Hutt to play for St Bernard’s College. Lemalie left the game for a few years but his passion did not disappear, rearing to strap on the boots again Mike returned six years later in 2003 playing for Southland club, Bluff. 

    In 2006, Lemalie represented Cooks Rugby League and then returned to Bluff as a player coach till 2009. 

    Mike has been a representative for the Southland Senior Men’s as both a player and a coach, whilst also coaching both the u15 and u17 Southland teams at the NZRL Youth Tournament. 

    Currently Lemalie works in the Southland district controlling senior games and also delving into its junior competition.  


    1737, Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor 

    Lifeline – 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland 

    Youthline – 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email [email protected] or online chat 

    Samaritans – 0800 726 666 

    Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) 

    What’s Up – 0800 942 8787 (for 5–18 year olds). Phone counselling is available Monday to Friday, midday–11pm and weekends, 3pm–11pm. Online chat is available 7pm–10pm daily. 

    Kidsline – 0800 54 37 54 (0800 kidsline) for young people up to 18 years of age. Open 24/7. – or email [email protected] or free text 5626 

    Anxiety New Zealand – 0800 ANXIETY (0800 269 4389) 

    Rural Support Trust – 0800 787 254 (0800 RURAL HELP) 

    Supporting Families in Mental Illness – 0800 732 825