As seen on nzherald.

In the sporting world of rugby league and rugby, we are used to seeing the All Blacks’ Barrett brothers or the Savea siblings wreaking havoc on their opponents.

Now the Onesemo-Tuilaepa twins are making moves on the field and are fast becoming names to look out for as they come through the ranks of representative rugby league.

Demielle and Christabelle Onesemo-Tuilaepa, 19, were chosen to represent New Zealand as part of the Ahi Kā Aotearoa squad, who travelled to the Gold Coast last month to play in this year’s Harvey Norman Women’s Championship.

They took on teams representing parts of Australia, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and First Nations.

The sisters took part in this year’s RISE Talent Development Programme – an initiative set up to help better prepare young players for the demands of high-performance environments, with a focus on female players aged 17 to 21 years old.

The talented twins come from a family of 10 and hail from the villages of Lepā and Vavau in Samoa. They began their athletic careers from a young age.

“We played our first rugby game back in 2018, in Savaii, for the girls’ secondary schools rugby competition; then our village rugby team for the Lepā and Lotofaga union,” Demielle said.

“From here, my sister Christabelle and I were the youngest to be named in the Manusina squad at only 14 years old.

“[We] were chosen to play for the New Zealand U18 Barbarians Sevens team in the 2020 World School Sevens Tournament. I believe we were also the youngest on the team.”

‘Our dad had to look for equipment from all parts of Upolu’

Christabelle remembers the days she and her siblings were running around the rugby fields every weekend, helping to set things up before the players arrived.

Their parents are heavily involved in rugby in Samoa and have played at professional level. They describe their mother as a “huge advocate” for women in rugby and has always pushed them to work hard.

“I look back now. My siblings and I used to wake up early on Saturday mornings to help our parents set up the fields for the Atua i Saute Rugby Union in Lepā.”

By 7am, the twins would be at the fields setting up the pole paddings, sideline flags, ice, water and even music for the respective teams. Then after the tournaments, they would wash uniforms or take anyone who was injured to the hospital.

“So to now be the ones playing – I appreciate all the hard work that goes into organising sports tournaments,” Christabelle said.

[The sport] is not popular among Samoan women and the twins did not get to attend many rugby league tournaments because their village is about an hour from Apia.

“I remember that when we first started playing…our dad had to go look for players and equipment from all parts of Upolu, as the resources available were limited,” Christabelle said.

“If equipment was available, it was usually for the men’s team.”

The twins say there is a massive difference in resources. In New Zealand there is a coach, assistant coaches, trainer, manager, physio, wellbeing support, great facilities and gear.

“The establishment of development programmes for both men and women would hugely improve the sustainable development of rugby and sport in Samoa. This is something I would be keen to do in the future,” Christabelle said.

When the twins moved to Aotearoa for better opportunities, they found the environment was completely different from Samoa and they faced some challenges.

“Funny, I didn’t know the rules for my first league [game],” Christabelle laughed.

“My sisters and I were Googling ‘rugby league rules’ in the car on our way to our first rugby league game at Richmond, to learn it quickly.”

Demielle said women’s rugby in New Zealand is well-developed, with many pathways and opportunities for players to develop and succeed, such as the opportunity to represent New Zealand on the Ahi Ka 2024 team.

“It is not light on me that many girls, especially those who I played with in Samoa, do not have the same opportunities to also develop in the league.”

‘Hard work beats talent’

The girls encourage aspiring players to be disciplined and to work hard.

“A quote I live by is: ‘Hard work beats talent’. You can be a talented player but you have to put in the hard work to achieve your dreams and goals,” Demielle said.

Christabelle’s advice is simple: “Remember your why and let that fuel your drive to achieve your dreams.”

The future remains hopeful for the twins as they work toward a professional career in rugby league for the Kiwi Ferns or Black Ferns for rugby union; as well as becoming role models and inspirations for the upcoming generations that want to play league.

Read more on nzherald.

Off the back of Ahi Kā Aotearoa’s recent campaign in the Harvey Norman Women’s National Championships, Sharnyze Pihema was named the joint Player of the Tournament and recipient of the Tahnee Norris Medal.

Teammate Monica Samita was named alongside her in the Tournament Team. Their selection was hard-earned with the Championships being an elite pathway tournament, where players from across Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, and Papua New Guinea showcase their skills in the representative arena.

The Ahi Kā Aotearoa squad was selected from the successful ‘RISE’ Talent Development Programme. In partnership with the NRL, the RISE programme was delivered earlier this year across multiple sessions around the country. RISE aims to better prepare young players for the rigours of high-performance environments such as the NRLW, targeting female players aged 17-21.

Pihema shared, “Coming through the RISE programme, I feel it was beneficial not only for me but the other ladies as well… it showed us how much the game is growing and how important it is to keep the programme up for generations to come.

“Hopefully over the next few years, the programmes in New Zealand will continue to develop further than where they are now.”

Pihema co-captained the young Ahi Kā side in their successful 2024 campaign, which saw them win two matches despite being an under-21 squad playing against open women’s representative teams.

The 19-year-old hails from Manurewa in South Auckland with roots tying her to Ngā Puhi, Ngāti Kahungunu, and Samoa.

Reflecting on the moment she was awarded the MVP title Pihema said, “It was a massive shock to me, I didn’t expect my name to be called for MVP as there were many players that I thought were more worthy of the award. I was honoured and privileged to be that player”.

In humble fashion, the lock did not mention her formidable ball-running, reliable defence, and overall outstanding physicality and athleticism which earned her the MVP title.

Pihema got her first taste of rugby league in intermediate before becoming a Manurewa Marlins junior. Throughout her younger years, she participated in the New Zealand Māori Rugby League Rangatahi Kōtiro tournaments, represented the Auckland Vulcans in the National Youth Tournament, and featured in the New Zealand Secondary Schools team.

“It was tough to move up grades as the competition was getting harder each time, but I now understand that if I didn’t continue to move up, I wouldn’t be where I am now.

“My mother has supported me and my footy dreams since the day I picked up a rugby ball. No matter how difficult life was, she always managed to make time for my games and trainings.”

The young athlete’s years of dedication and training saw her earn selection for the NSWRL Manly Sea Eagles under-18s Tarsha Gale Cup team, in 2023.

“Playing in the Tarsha Gale competition was a good opportunity for me to see what the level of footy is like going forward.

“My advice to young girls wanting to pursue league would be to always take every opportunity you get. If you’re asked to go to a training with the top side, go. If you’ve been invited to a program to develop your skills, go. If your mate asks you to go run some extras before or after training, go.”

Her teammate 20-year-old Monica Samita also impressed on the Championship stage to rightfully earn her place in the Tournament Team. The skilful hooker is no stranger to elite-level football, as a returnee to the team from their inaugural campaign in 2023.

Samita shared, “I had a lot of expectations to help my teammates by helping with preparation for this competition and sharing my experience, but I also learnt a lot from my teammates.

“This year I enjoyed the team culture we had, getting to meet new people and run alongside them doing what we love.”

Not only was Otahuhu Leopards junior one of the most experienced in the squad, but also one of the most accomplished. In 2022 Samita was part of the winning Akarana Falcons team at the National Youth Tournament, then the New Zealand Resident Clubs team. She made her international debut for the Tonga National Women’s team later that year as one of the youngest in the squad.

Most recently, in 2023 Samita was selected for the first-ever Ahi Kā team before joining the runner-up Akarana Falcons Sky Sport Women’s Premiership side. In November, she earned her second international Test cap with the Tonga Women’s team in the Pacific Championships Eden Park triple-header.

“Over the years I’ve learnt a lot of lessons and taken a lot of losses, to become a better player and improve my performance as an athlete. I’m very grateful for the opportunities that I’ve been given, but there is still a lot of improvement to do for me to become the player that I aspire to be.”

Samita credited her remarkable football success to hard work, and the support of her family and coaches, sharing, “‘Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.’ This is something I always fall back on and have always been reminded of when I’ve felt like giving up and quitting.

“My parents have always supported me, especially my dad who has shown dedication and made countless sacrifices throughout the years. My previous coaches have all supported me…without their experience and knowledge I wouldn’t be half the player I am today.”

The achievements of the Ahi Kā Aotearoa team, Pihema, and Samita, are testament to the high calibre of local talent that has been fostered through the growing grassroots and domestic representative pathways.

Samita shared, “Look at the likes of Mele Hufanga, Krystal Rota, Mya Hill-Moana and so many more New Zealand women who have gone through the same pathways as us to get to where they are [in the NRLW].

“My ultimate football goal is to one day become an NRLW player for the Warriors, and to be able to put on the Black and White jersey one day.”

Her captain Pihema said, “My biggest footy goal is to make the NRLW but with that comes my mother. I want my mother to be able to be there the day I debut in my first game.”

There is no shortage of young New Zealand girls who, like Samita and Pihema, have dreams of playing in the NRLW and donning the Black and White jersey. Dreams of playing in the NRLW are much closer to home now, with the Warriors confirming an NRLW team for the 2025 season.

Sharnyze Pihema and Monica Samita are just a small reflection of the highly talented upcoming generation of female rugby league footballers in New Zealand, who we will undoubtedly see playing in the NRLW and Kiwi Ferns one day.

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24 March 2024

 

Ahi Kā Aotearoa team list:

  1. Amarnee Shepherd
  2. Monica Samita
  3. Paris Pickering
  4. Shaniah Lui
  5. Marewa Samson (CC)
  6. Tamara Ruaporo
  7. Pearl Tuitama
  8. Christabelle Onesemo-Tuilaepa
  9. Kyla Lynch-Brown
  10. Demielle Onesemo-Tuilaepa
  11. Sade Schaumkel
  12. Tiana Thomson
  13. Sharnyze Pihema (CC)
  14. Henilietta Lokotui
  15. Manea Waaka
  16. Madi Odering
  17. Monika Fakaosilea
  18. Michaela Poimatagi-Matautia
  19. Ella Bussey-Timo
  20. Kaya Whaitiri-Dee

NB: Jersey number does not correlate to position for all players, players will have the same jersey number throughout the entire tournament.

 

Ahi Kā Aotearoa  v  New South Wales Country

Tries: #1 Amarnee Shepherd, #11 Sade Schaumkel

Conversions: #6 Tamara Ruaporo (2)

Ahi Kā Aotearoa faced the New South Wales Country open women’s side, in their final match of the Harvey Norman Women’s National Championship. This nail-biting game came down to the very last minutes leading up to the final whistle.

The New South Wales side opened scoring seven minutes in, with a barging run from one of their formidable props 5 metres from the try line to score.

The Aotearoa wāhine quickly struck back just minutes later, with a pinpoint kick from #9 Kyla Lynch-Brown, collected well by #1 Amarnee Shepherd.

The fullback beat two defenders with her speed and footwork to cross and get their first points on the board. Halfback #6 Tamara Ruaporo then successfully converted to equalise.

Just before the half, New South Wales capitalised off a well-placed kick to score through their right edge and take the lead again. The halftime score was set at 12-6 to the Australian side.

The first ten minutes of the last half was scoreless, seeing a physical battle for possession and another opportunity to cross the white line.

It was the New South Wales women who put points on the board first, again off the back of a well-executed kick and chase.

Ahi Kā were not to be outdone, creating momentous go-forward down the pitch finished with an excellent grubber from #12 Tiana Thomson, causing errors from the Australian defenders in the in-goal. The loose ball was swiftly snatched and grounded by #11 Sade Schaumkel for her first try of the tournament.

Another successful two-pointer from #6 Ruaporo would be the last of the game, the Ahi Kā Aotearoa team narrowly going down 18-12 to New South Wales Country.

23 March 2024

 

Ahi Kā Aotearoa team list:

  1. Amarnee Shepherd
  2. Monica Samita
  3. Paris Pickering
  4. Shaniah Lui
  5. Marewa Samson (CC)
  6. Tamara Ruaporo
  7. Pearl Tuitama
  8. Christabelle Onesemo-Tuilaepa
  9. Kyla Lynch-Brown
  10. Demielle Onesemo-Tuilaepa
  11. Sade Schaumkel
  12. Tiana Thomson
  13. Sharnyze Pihema (CC)
  14. Henilietta Lokotui
  15. Manea Waaka
  16. Madi Odering
  17. Monika Fakaosilea
  18. Michaela Poimatagi-Matautia
  19. Ella Bussey-Timo
  20. Kaya Whaitiri-Dee

NB: Jersey number does not correlate to position for all players, players will have the same jersey number throughout the entire tournament.

 

Ahi Kā Aotearoa 20 v  Western Australia 0

Tries: #15 Manea Waaka, #4 Shaniah Lui, #13 Sharnyze Pihema, #2 Monica Samita

 

Ahi Kā Aotearoa came out of the gates strong, scoring in their opening kickoff set. A Western Australia error allowed for an opportunity 20 metres out from the try line. Hooker #2 Monica Samita darted from dummy half, before spreading the ball left for winger #15 Manea Waaka to score her second try of the tournament.

The remainder of the half seesawed as both teams battled for an opportunity to score, Western Australia struggling with penalties and errors. The Aotearoa wāhine struck again just before the half, with a long cut-out pass from #9 Kyla Lynch-Brown to the left edge, which centre #4 Shaniah Lui expertly chipped then regathered to score.

With the score set at 8-0 to Ahi Kā at the break, the women did not lose momentum scoring only four minutes into the second half. Co-Captain and loose forward #13 Sharnyze Pihema made a barging run 15m down the right edge, ploughing through five Western Australia players to cross for a try.

Just over five minutes later a brilliant individual try was scored by fullback #1 Amarnee Shepherd when she gathered a lost ball just over halfway, before showing her excellent pace to beat all defenders as she sprinted over 40 metres to score.

The final try was scored in the dying seconds of the match by nifty hooker #2 Monica Samita. Five metres out from the try line she shot from dummy half, before dummying and beating three defenders to score her first try of the tournament.

 

Ahi Kā Aotearoa will play their final game in the Harvey Norman Women’s National Championship tomorrow 24 March at 1:30pm NZT. Watch the free livestream here.

22 March 2024

 

Ahi Kā Aotearoa team list:

  1. Amarnee Shepherd
  2. Monica Samita
  3. Paris Pickering
  4. Shaniah Lui
  5. Marewa Samson (CC)
  6. Tamara Ruaporo
  7. Pearl Tuitama
  8. Christabelle Onesemo-Tuilaepa
  9. Kyla Lynch-Brown
  10. Demielle Onesemo-Tuilaepa
  11. Sade Schaumkel
  12. Tiana Thomson
  13. Sharnyze Pihema (CC)
  14. Henilietta Lokotui
  15. Manea Waaka
  16. Madi Odering
  17. Monika Fakaosilea
  18. Michaela Poimatagi-Matautia
  19. Ella Bussey-Timo
  20. Kaya Whaitiri-Dee

NB: Jersey number does not correlate to position for all players, players will have the same jersey number throughout the entire tournament.

 

Ahi Kā Aotearoa 8 v  Northern Territory 6

Tries: #9 Kyla Lynch-Brown, #15 Manea Waaka

 

The Ahi Kā women came out firing straight from the kickoff with strong, physical defence and promising attacking drives.

They were quickly rewarded for their efforts at the five-minute mark when a Northern Territory error led to a full 6-tackle set from halfway up the field.

The set was successfully completed by spreading the ball through the right edge for winger #9 Kyla Lynch-Brown to score.

10 minutes later the strong and sizeable Northern Territory forward pack barged down the field finding the white line to equalise, followed by a successful conversion.

Another close attempt from Ahi Kā near the try line came just before halftime, but the Northern Territory defence did well to force an error setting the score at 4-6 in their favour at the half

Another strong start to the second half saw Ahi Kā build up excellent go-forward and momentum before the ball was shifted to the left edge and given through the hands for centre #15 Manea Waaka to score in the 25th minute.

The remainder of the half saw an intense back and forth as Northern Territory attempted to get points on the board, but Ahi Kā continuously fought hard with outstanding defence to keep them out and claim victory at full time.

 

Ahi Kā Aotearoa will face Western Australia tomorrow 23 March at 1:30pm NZT, watch the free livestream here.

21 March 2024

Ahi Kā Aotearoa team list:

  1. Amarnee Shepherd
  2. Monica Samita
  3. Paris Pickering
  4. Shaniah Lui
  5. Marewa Samson (CC)
  6. Tamara Ruaporo
  7. Pearl Tuitama
  8. Christabelle Onesemo-Tuilaepa
  9. Kyla Lynch-Brown
  10. Demielle Onesemo-Tuilaepa
  11. Sade Schaumkel
  12. Tiana Thomson
  13. Sharnyze Pihema (CC)
  14. Henilietta Lokotui
  15. Manea Waaka
  16. Madi Odering
  17. Monika Fakaosilea
  18. Michaela Poimatagi-Matautia
  19. Ella Bussey-Timo
  20. Kaya Whaitiri-Dee

NB: Jersey number does not correlate to position for all players, players will have the same jersey number throughout the entire tournament.

 

Ahi Kā Aotearoa 0 v New South Wales City 8

In this opening match of the tournament, a light drizzle fell on an overcast Pizzey Park. Upon kickoff both sides struggled with the wet conditions, coming up with errors resulting in scrums.

The opening try was scored at the 5-minute mark after the NSW side contested a scrum 20 metres out from their try line, stealing the ball and spreading it to their left winger who scored.

The remainder of the first half saw an arm-wrestle as both sides made outstanding physical defensive efforts, keeping scoring at bay setting the halftime score at 4-0 to NSW City.

The second half saw more set-completions and excellent go-forward from the Ahi Kā women, particularly from the outside backs and the Onesemo-Tuilaepa twins who bolstered the front row.

Their efforts were rewarded with a few close opportunities at the try line, but ultimately the strong NSW defence shut them out.

The second and final try came in 35th minute from a nifty offload for NSW to score again on their left edge. The final whistle blew minutes later with the score at 8-0 to New South Wales City.

 

Ahi Kā Aotearoa will face Northern Territory tomorrow 22 March at 1:30pm NZT, watch the free livestream here.

15 March 2024

New Zealand Rugby League is pleased to announce that the following players have been selected for the Ahi Kā Aotearoa travelling squad, to compete in the Harvey Norman Women’s Championship in the Gold Coast from 21 – 24 March.

Following a successful inaugural campaign in 2023, the team returns to the Championship with a squad of under-21s wāhine selected to represent New Zealand Rugby League, off the back of the successful ‘RISE’ Talent Development Programme.

In partnership with the NRL, the yearly RISE programme saw an expansion from 2023. Previously only delivered in Auckland, earlier this year the programme was delivered across multiple sessions in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch.

RISE aims to better prepare young players for the rigours of high-performance environments such as the NRLW, targeting female players aged 17-21.

The Harvey Norman Women’s National Championship is an elite pathways tournament, allowing players from across Australia and New Zealand to showcase their skills in the representative arena.

The tournament consists of teams split into three grades across a four-day draw held in Pizzey Park, Gold Coast from March 21. Ahi Kā Aotearoa will play four games, facing the New South Wales City, Northern Territory, and Western Australia representative teams in their grade.

NZRL Head of Women’s Rugby League Luisa Avaiki says, “It is exciting to have a New Zealand team in the Championships again, what an amazing opportunity for our young wāhine to showcase their talent at an elite tournament.

“This is important for the development of female rugby league in New Zealand, and will hopefully lead to opportunities for girls in the NRLW and Kiwi Ferns. I look forward to seeing our female rugby league continue growing.”

Entry to the event is free across all four days and games will be live-streamed on the NRLW YouTube channel.

 

NZRL congratulates the following players:

Amarnee Shepherd Waikato
Christabelle Onesemo Auckland
Demielle Onesemo Auckland
Ella Bussey-Timo Canterbury
Henilietta Lokotui Auckland
Kaya Whaitiri-Dee Hawkes Bay
Kyla Lynch-Brown Canterbury
Madi Odering Canterbury
Manea-Faith Waaka Canterbury
Marewa Samson Waikato
Michaela Poimatagi-Matautia Auckland
Monica Samita Auckland
Monika Fakaosilea Auckland
Paris Pickering Auckland
Pearl Tuitama Auckland
Sade Schaumkel Auckland
Shaniah Lui Auckland
Sharnyze Pihema Auckland
Tamara Ruaporo-Ngatuakana Wellington
Tiana Thomson Auckland

 

Coach George Carmont Auckland
Assistant Coach Ake Pereira Wellington
Manager Mel Tukapua Canterbury
Head Trainer Shannon Maclachlan Wanaka
Assistant Trainer Jimmy Matson Tauranga
Physio Melissa Falani Gold Coast

 

Ahi Kā Aotearoa Schedule:

Thursday 21 March: Ahi Kā Aotearoa v New South Wales City – 12:30pm NZT

Friday 22 March: Ahi Kā Aotearoa v Northern Territory – 1:30pm NZT

Saturday 23 March: Ahi Kā Aotearoa v Western Australia – 1:30pm NZT

Sunday 24 March: Ahi Kā Aotearoa v TBC – TBC

 

Follow NZRL’s social channels to keep up with their journey throughout the tournament.

September 27 2023

Tanaia-Aroha Herniman and Maia Crutcher featured in the inaugural U19 Ahi Kā Aotearoa team, who competed in the Harvey Norman Women’s Championship in the Gold Coast earlier this year. Now, the girls are preparing to move to Sydney together in the coming months, having signed on with the Manly Sea Eagles for their 2024 U19 Tarsha Gale Cup squad.

The Ahi Kā Aotearoa representative team Tanaia and Maia were part of comprised U19 players who participated in the ‘RISE’ Talent Development Programme, delivered in partnership with the NRL. The programme aims to better prepare young players for the rigours of high-performance environments such as the NRLW, targeting female players aged 17-19.

With the Ahi Kā team, Tanaia and Maia faced the First Nation’s Gems, QLD Ruby’s, NSW Country Women, and South Australia in the Championship. The Harvey Norman Women’s National Championship is an elite pathways tournament allowing players across Australia and now New Zealand to showcase their skills in the representative arena. “There’s a lot more opportunities for us as girls to get out there”, shared Tanaia.

Tanaia hails from Whangaparaoa, while Maia proudly comes from Whakapara, north of Whāngarei. Maia was part of the Northern Swords Wāhine Squad for the 2022 National Women’s North Island Championship. The 18-year-old has come up through the grades for the last three seasons at the Hibiscus Coast Raiders, and previously participated in NZ Māori Rugby League kōtiro tournaments. “The game has definitely grown ever since I first started playing, it’s good to see”, she reflected. Having previously played rugby union for Whangaparaoa College, Tanaia made the code switch to league and although only in her second year of playing she has already made a name for herself to earn sought-after recognition and opportunities.

As newcomers competing in their first National Girls Youth Tournament, Maia and Tanaia featured in the squad of 2022 champions and 2023 finalists, the Akarana Falcons. The girls earned selection for the Falcons after stellar seasons for the Hibiscus Coast Raiders in the Auckland Rugby League 18s competition this year. The pair shared much anticipation for the next step in their rugby league journey, which takes them to join the Manly Sea Eagles for the 2024 NSWRL U19 Tarsha Gale Cup season. As she now prepares to make the move to Sydney with her teammate and friend, Tanaia shared, “We’re super excited to be able to have this opportunity.”

“It’s a massive opportunity; we’re super humble and truly grateful,” said Maia.

 

18 May 2023

 

In game one of the Harvey Norman Women’s Championship, Ahi kā Aotearoa suffered their first defeat to the First Nation Gems 14-8.

The game started with a cultural salute as the First Nation Gems welcomed Ahi Kā onto the field with an indigenous welcome for their inaugural year.

The game started in a classic arm wrestle match as both teams battled in the first half for possession and territory of the field. The First Nation Gems capitalised off their first opportunity as they forced an error in Ahi Kā’s half, using this to get the first try of the game.

First Nation Gems quickly followed up with another try as they utilised the quick ruck speed they generated to catch the Ahi Kā Aotearoa team off guard to go right through the middle.

Ahi Kā found their groove as they strung together solid runs to gain excellent field position right before halftime. A lovely cut-out ball to Marewa Samson, who delivered some beautiful quick hands to put Kyla Lynch-Brown in for a try, leaving the halftime score 10-4.

Ahi Kā started the second half off firing as they managed to regather the kick restart. Great scrambling defence from the First Nation Gems robbed the NZ side of a try to even the score. Quick play of the balls and fast ruck speed would be the catalyst for the next First Nation Gems try, as the score would be 18-4 with five minutes to go.

Vice-captain Monica Samita would scoot out at dummy half to crash over the line to give Ahi Kā a fighting chance in the game with three minutes to go. With the one minute left and NZ desperately trying to create opportunities, a shift on the final tackle put Marewa Samson in space, who would offload to Kyla Lynch-Brown, who managed to run 30 metres before she got run down by some great scrambling defence from the First Nation Gems to close the game out 14-8.

18 May 2023

 

The Harvey Norman Women’s Championship in the Gold Coast kicks off today as Ahi Kā Aoteroa takes on the First Nation Gems at Pizzey Park at 2.30 pm (NZT).

Coach Frank Fuimaono has named a strong team to kick-start the competition announcing 2022 NZ Clubs representative Summer Van Gelder as captain for the 2023 campaign.

Along with the Ahi Kā Aotearoa squad, several NZ girls are also competing today, as Alexis Tauaenai and Tatiana Finau, who were both a part of the 2022 NZ Clubs team, are playing for the NSW City squad. Keep an eye out for them throughout this week’s tournament.

 

Today’s game is streamed live on NRL.com

 

Ahi Kā Aotearoa vs First Nation Gems

 

Pizzey Park, Gold Coast

2.30 pm  

 

1 Summer VAN GELDER (c)
2 Kyla LYNCH-BROWN
3 Manea WAAKA
4 Amarnee SHEPHERD
5 Marewa SAMSON
6 Ronise MATINI
7 Tamara RUAPORO
8 Genesis SMITH-HURIWAI
9 Monica SAMITA (vc)
10 Nina FAAMAUSILI
11 Ilaisaane TAUFA
12 Monika FAKAOSILEA
13 Sade SCHAUMKEL
14 Sina TUITUPOU
15 Tanaia-Aroha MERTIN-HERNIMAN
16 Charlie-Kaige KAMUTEMU
17 Destinee MEXTED
18 Maia CRUTCHER
19 Ana ALLEN
20 Henilietta LOKOTUI

 

11 May 2023

 

New Zealand Rugby League is pleased to announce that the following players have been selected to represent the inaugural Ahi Kā Aotearoa in the Harvey Norman Women’s Championship in the Gold Coast from 18 May – 21 May.

The Ahi Kā Aotearoa squad comprises players selected from last year’s inaugural National Girls’ Youth Tournament, who participated in the ‘RISE’ Talent Development Programme delivered in partnership with the NRL earlier in the year.

An experienced management team accompanies the players to the Gold Coast, with former Kiwi Fern players Ake Pereira and Kath Keremete on board as an Assistant Coach and Trainer. Head Trainer Shannon Maclachlan was involved in the most recent Kiwi Ferns’ World Cup campaign, and team manager Mel Tukapua has previously managed NZ16s and NZ18s teams.

 

NZRL congratulates the following players:

 

Amarnee SHEPHERD Waikato
Ana ALLEN Northland
Charlie-Kaige KAMUHEMU Auckland
Destinee MEXTED Northland
Genesis SMITH-HURIWAI Bay of Plenty
Henilietta LOKOTUI Auckland
Ilaisaane TAUFA Auckland
Kyla LYNCH-BROWN Canterbury
Maia CRUTCHER Northland
Manea WAAKA Canterbury
Marewa SAMSON Waikato
Monica SAMITI Auckland
Monika FAKAOSILEA Auckland
Nina FAAMAUSILI Auckland
Ronise MATINI Auckland
Sade SCHAUMKEL Auckland
Sina TUITUPOU Auckland
Summer VAN GELDER Auckland
Tamara RUAPORO NGATUAKANA Wellington
Tanaia-Aroha MERTIN-HERNIMAN Northland
Head Coach Frank FUIMAONO Auckland
Assistant Coach Ake PEREIRA Wellington
Manager Mel TUKAPUA Canterbury
Head Trainer Shannon MACLACHLAN
Assistant Trainer Kath KEREMETE Northland
Physio Melissa FALANI

 

Ahi Kā Aotearoa schedule

 

Ahi Kā Aotearoa vs First Nation’s Gems – 2.30pm NZT

Ahi Kā Aotearoa vs Qld Ruby’s – 1.30pm NZT

Ahi Kā Aotearoa vs NSW Country Women – 2.30pm NZT

 

Follow NZRL’s social channels to keep up with their journey throughout the competition.

27 April 2023

New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) is proud to announce that its inaugural Ahi kā Aotearoa under-19s girls team will compete in the Australian Harvey Norman Women’s National Championship in May.

NZRL will select 20 players to represent Ahi kā Aotearoa off the back of the successful ‘RISE’ Talent Development Programme delivered in partnership with the NRL earlier in the year. The RISE programme better prepares young players for the rigours of high-performance environments such as the NRLW, targeting female players aged 17-19.

The formation of Ahi kā Aotearoa follows a successful year of female participation in the rangatahi age group here in NZ, which saw the introduction of the first National 16 & 18 Girls 9s Tournament, National Secondary Schools Girls Tournament, National Youth Tournament and the first National Representative fixtures for 16s & 18s Girls age groups.

The Harvey Norman Women’s National Championship is an elite pathways tournament allowing players across Australia and now New Zealand to showcase their skills in the representative arena.

The tournament consists of 12 teams split into three pools across a four-day draw held in Pizzey Park, Burleigh, from May 18. Ahi kā Aotearoa will be one of three teams alongside NSW and Queensland that feature under-19s talent only, with the remaining nine sides set to be a mix of 19s and open players.

GM of High-Performance and Football at NZRL Motu Tony says, “This is a really exciting opportunity for our young NZ wāhine to showcase their skills across the Tasman, which will hopefully lead to the NRLW and the Kiwi Ferns.

“Thank you to the NRL for extending this invitation, this is an important aspect in the development of female rugby league in New Zealand. I look forward to seeing our game (female) maintain its tremendous growth.”

A tournament draw and squad lists will be released in early May. Entry to the event is free across all four days.