13 December 2023


After outstanding international seasons, James Fisher-Harris [Kiwi #801] and Georgia Hale [Kiwi Fern #122] have both been awarded the Player of the Year for 2023. The Kiwis and Kiwi Ferns Rookie of the Year award goes to Matthew Timoko and Annessa Biddle, while Rocco Berry has been named the Kiwis A Player of the Year.


James Fisher-Harris [Kiwi #801] solidified his position as one of the top front rowers in the game in 2023. Fisher-Harris led the Kiwis to a historic thrashing of the Kangaroos, producing 142 run metres in the team’s effort to win the Pacific Championships. Thanks to his outstanding performances in the Pacific Championships, the Kohukohu star also won the prestigious 2023 IRL Golden Boot award.


In her ninth season of International Rugby League, Georgia Hale [Kiwi Fern #122] takes home Kiwi Ferns Player of the Year as well as the 2023 IRL Golden Boot award. Hale’s captaincy heroics helped the Kiwi Ferns break a seven-year drought with their recent win against the Jillaroos. Hale topped the tackle count, producing 130 tackles and 388 run metres over the international season.


NZRL GM of Football & High-Performance Motu Tony says, “The impact both Georgia and Fish have not only on their teammates but their communities especially here in New Zealand is inspiring.


To have a year where our two New Zealand captains not only led their teams to historic victories over Australia but also both took home their respective Golden Boots is something special.


Winning the Golden Boot awards is a testament to their work ethic, dedication to the jersey and ability to lead from the front.”


Matthew Timoko had an outstanding international debut, with the 23-year-old producing class performances across all three matches. The Ellerslie Eagles junior recorded one try, 416 run metres, and 14 tackle breaks throughout the Pacific Championships campaign.


Annessa Biddle takes home Kiwi Ferns Rookie of the Year after exploding onto the international scene. Biddle displayed her dominant ball-running ability and versatility, initially starting on the wing then moving into second row for the final two matches. The Otara native was instrumental in the victory against Tonga’s women, producing one try, 135 run metres, and 24 tackles.


Rocco Berry is the Kiwis A Player of the Year after a stellar test match against the Tonga A men. Berry produced a try-saving tackle and a spectacular try assist using great footwork and an even better flick offload. His feats ignited a late-game surge which saw the Kiwis A side come from behind to claim victory 36-26.


NZRL GM of Football & High-Performance Motu Tony says, “In a year where we saw 16 debuts in the Black & White jersey plus the return of the Kiwis A, it was no easy feat for our coaches to choose only one stand-out rookie.


The depth of this next generation of Kiwis and Kiwi Ferns is exciting and positions us well for the 2026 Rugby League World Cup. I look forward to seeing these young players continue to develop and shine on the international stage



2023 New Zealand Rugby League Award Winners


New Zealand Kiwis Player of the Year – James Fisher-Harris

New Zealand Kiwi Ferns Player of the Year – Georgia Hale

New Zealand Kiwis Rookie of the Year – Matthew Timoko

New Zealand Kiwi Ferns Rookie of the Year – Annessa Biddle

New Zealand Kiwis A Player of the Year – Rocco Berry


15 November 2022


New Zealand’s Joey Manu and Raecene McGregor, and England’s Sebastien Bechara, are the 2022 IRL Golden Boot winners as the Men’s, Women’s and Wheelchair international player of the year.

Manu, McGregor and Bechara received the Golden Boot awards in Manchester on Tuesday after a comprehensive judging process involving former Test greats, rugby league pioneers and members of the media.

Golden Cap recipient Adrian Morley, who is one of just nine players to have played 50 or more Tests, presented the Men’s Golden Boot to Manu – the sixth Kiwi to win the award since its inception in 1984.

McGregor is the first New Zealander to be awarded the Women’s Golden Boot, which was introduced in 2018 and won by Jillaroos centre Isabelle Kelly, who passed the honour to team-mate Jessica Sergis the following year.

The Wheelchair Golden Boot was introduced in 2019, with Bechara’s England team-mate Jack Brown being the inaugural winner but due to COVID the award has not been presented for the past two years.

Manu has been a revelation at fullback for the Kiwis – a position he doesn’t usually play for the Sydney Roosters – and was a stand-out in the mid-season Test against Tonga, as well as each of New Zealand’s World Cup matches.

Significantly, McGregor and Bechara also played mid-season Tests and their performances helped them to edge out Golden Boot rivals.

“Joey and Raecene have been a standout players for New Zealand this entire year,” said NZRL CEO Greg Peters.


“Out of the six Test matches the Kiwis have played, Joey has been MVP of half of those (v Tonga, Lebanon and Fiji) and has been one of our best throughout the World Cup. Raecene was only recently crownded Dally M Player of the Year and to add the best player in the international game to her calibre of awards is outstanding.


“Players like Joey and Raecene inspire generations of young Kiwis and Kiwi Ferns coming through at every level. They wear the jersey with pride and play an integral role in our game.


“I can’t think of any two more deserving, this is a great day to be a Kiwi and they have both done their countries proud.”

IRL chair Troy Grant said: “The IRL Golden Boot is one of the oldest and most prestigious awards in rugby league, and recognises performances at international level.

“In the past it has been won by some of the greatest players to have played the game, such as Wally Lewis, Mal Meninga, Ellery Hanley, Andy Farrell, Peter Sterling, Andrew Johns, Benji Marshall, Stacey Jones, Darren Lockyer, Johnathon Thurston and Cameron Smith.

“Now Joey, Raecene and Sebastien join them after each producing a series of outstanding performances for their nations, from the mid-season internationals to the World Cup.

“On behalf of the IRL, I would like to congratulate Joey, Raecene and Sebastien, as well as the players who were selected on the short lists for the Men’s, Women’s and Wheelchair Golden Boot awards.

“In each case, the stand-out performances of the winner in the mid-season Test gave them an edge over other contenders coming into the World Cup, which may have helped to decide the awards.

“I would also like to thank all who helped participate in the judging process, including giants of the international game, Cameron Smith, Honey Hireme-Smiler, James Graham, Karen Murphy and Ruben Wiki.”

Smith (Australia), Graham (England and Great Britain) and Wiki (New Zealand), who are Golden Cap recipients, helped selected Manu as the Men’s Golden Boot winner after a panel of journalists and commentators chose a short list of candidates.

Manu ran a world record 401 metres with the ball in New Zealand’s mid-season Test against Tonga and has ran more than 300 metres in each of his five World Cup appearances.

Kiwis Head Coach Michael Maguire says, “Joey has definitely been a standout this year. He set the bar high in a great mid-year Test match against Tonga and continued on the form throughout the World Cup.


“Joey has a big career in the Kiwi jersey ahead of him. If he keeps going the way he is, I’m sure he will get a few more Golden Boots, along with going down as one of the greats for the Kiwis.”

The Women’s Golden Boot was chosen by a panel, which included Jillaroos and Kiwi Ferns greats Murphy and Hireme-Smiler, commentator and former England star Danika Priim, refereeing pioneer Julia Lee, and members of the media.

McGregor’s award caps a stunning year for the Kiwi Ferns halfback, who was uncontracted for the postponed 2021 NRLW season until winning player-of-the match for the Māori All Stars.

After helping Sydney Roosters to the NRLW Premiership early in the year, she was awarded the Dally M Medal as the best player of the 2022 NRLW season.

Kiwi Ferns Head Coach Ricky Henry commented, “Rae is a special player, she’s one of those rare players, it’s been a fantastic year for her.


“She’s grown in this space not only as a leader but as a playmaker, she’s quality and the best in her position.


“Having her in our campaign has given us a lot of confidence not only with her ability to game manage but how she makes the players around her look good too.


“To be awarded Golden Boot is a massive achievement considering the amount of high-profile players that have been around the game for a long time.”

The Women’s Golden Boot award was presented to McGregor, who was accompanied by sister and Test team-mate Page, by long serving RFL executive and RLWC2021 director Karen Moorhouse.

Bechara has also been consistently one of the best players every time he has played, starring in England’s mid-season Test win over France, who they will again meet in the World Cup final at Manchester Central on Friday night.

He edged England team-mate Jack Brown, who is based in Australia and did not play the mid-season Test, and France’s Jérémy Bourson.

The IRL Wheelchair Golden Boot was presented by Wheelchair Rugby League pioneer, Malcolm Kielty, MBE, who was on a panel of officials, coaches, referees and members of the media to choose the award.

Short lists:

Men: Josh Addo-Carr (Australia), Jarome Luai (Samoa), Joey Manu (New Zealand), Victor Radley (England), George Williams (England).

Women: Elsie Albert (Papua New Guinea), Tarryn Aiken (Australia), Amber-Paris Hall (New Zealand), Raecene McGregor (New Zealand), Courtney Winfield-Hill (England).

Wheelchair: Sebastien Bechara (England), Jérémy Bourson (France), Jack Brown (England), Nicolas Clausells (France), Diab Karim (Australia).

Golden Boot Winners

1984 Wally Lewis (AUS)
1985 Brett Kenny (AUS)
1986 Garry Jack (AUS)
1987 Hugh McGahan (NZL)
1987 Peter Sterling (AUS)
1988 Ellery Hanley (ENG)
1989 Mal Meninga (AUS)
1992 Garry Schofield (ENG)
1991-98 No award given
1999 Andrew Johns (AUS)
2000 Brad Fittler (AUS)
2001 Andrew Johns (AUS)
2002 Stacey Jones (NZL)
2003 Darren Lockyer (AUS)
2004 Andrew Farrell (ENG)
2005 Anthony Minichiello (AUS)
2006 Darren Lockyer (AUS)
2007 Cameron Smith (AUS)
2008 Billy Slater (AUS)
2009 Greg Inglis (AUS)
2010 Benji Marshall (NZL)
2011 Johnathan Thurston (AUS)
2012 Kevin Sinfield (ENG)
2013 Johnathan Thurston (AUS)
2014 Shaun Johnson (NZL)
2015 Johnathan Thurston (AUS)
2016 Cooper Cronk (AUS)
2017 Cameron Smith (AUS)
2018 Tommy Makinson (ENG)
2019 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (NZL)
2020 No award given
2021 No award given
2022 Joey Manu (NZL)

2018 Isabelle Kelly (AUS)
2019 Jessica Sergis (AUS)
2020 No award given
2021 No award given
2022 Raecene McGregor (NZL)

2019 Jack Brown (ENG)
2020 No award given
2021 No award given
2022 Sebastien Bechara (England)


16 July 2022

New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) held its annual general meeting on Saturday, where women’s rugby league great Honey Hireme-Smiler MNZM was welcomed as an Appointed Director to the NZRL Board.

Hireme-Smiler, a dual international, has been an exceptional flag bearer for New Zealand women’s rugby league.

The former Kiwi Fern’s captain boasts an impressive 18-year professional playing career which includes 32 Tests for the Kiwi Ferns, two World Cup victories, and a place in the NRL women’s team of the decade (2010s).

The Kiwi Fern legend is well steeped in the community game, playing for Hamilton City Tigers and representing Wai-Coa-Bay at the 2019 NZRL National Women’s Tournament. She then led the Kiwi Ferns to World Cup Nines glory before retiring at the end of the 2019 season.

The three-time Kiwi Fern Player of the Year was awarded the inaugural Veronica White Medal for her outstanding contribution to the community through rugby league and was later appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to the code.

The Putaruru-born star has previous governance experience as an emerging Director for Waikato Rugby and continues to give back via coaching, mentoring, and her numerous ambassador roles, including as a senior disability sport advisor with the Halberg Foundation.

She was recently selected as one of 16 women’s coaches around the country enrolled in the High-Performance Sport New Zealand’s (HPSNZ) Te Hāpaitanga programme and, in her spare time, works as a dual-code presenter and commentator for Sky Sport.

“Honey is an exceptional addition to the NZRL Board,” says NZRL Chairman Hugh Martyn.

“She is a voice for many who play our game, and she is well respected in the New Zealand sporting community. Her passion for the women’s and disability space and her experience at a high-performance and grassroots level will see her bring valuable insight and direction to the organisation.”

Hireme-Smiler’s election also maintains NZRL’s 40% self-identifying female board composition.

Incumbent Director Grant Stapleton has been reappointed for a further four-year term.

Martyn said, “Grant has been on the NZRL board since 2019 and has been a key member of this team. We are extremely privileged to have him for another four years.”


THE NZRL BOARD IS Hugh Martyn (Chair), Howie Tamati (President), Natasha Tere (Deputy Chair), Justin Leydesdorff, Tawera Nikau, Jeni Pearce, Grant Stapleton and Honey Hireme-Smiler.


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.


March 15 2022

Into round three of the NRLW competition, the Kiwi Ferns continue to stamp their mark on the game.


The Roosters were too much for the Knights earning their first win of the season. Playmaker Raecene McGregor looked much sharper this game. Her excellent decision-making created the space that led to both the Roosters’ opening two tries. Mya Hill-Moana continues to make an impact every chance she gets on the field.


It was a tough loss to take for the Titans, as they fell short against the Eels, but that didn’t stop Georgia Hale from being her best out on the field. Hale managed to make a 100% efficiency tackle rate with her 65 meters again, demonstrating why she is among the game’s elite.


A brave Brisbane Broncos outfit dug deep to fight off the Dragons 22-18 in an enthralling top-of-the-table clash. Amber Hall once again showcased why she is one of the best forwards in the game—managing a team-high 164 running metres in her 50 minutes of action.


The Newcastle Knights suffered their third defeat against the Roosters. Despite the loss, Charlotte Scanlan was immense for the Knights, topping their tackle chart with 36 tackles and a 97.3% efficiency rate. One of Newcastle’s most consistent performers, Annetta Nuuausala, led from the front again with a try, 85 running metres, four tackle busts, three offloads and 18 tackles. Autumn-Rain Stephens-Daly made two crucial tackles in both halves. Late in the first half, a crunching tackle on one of the Rooster’s standouts, Jessica Sergis, leading to a Roosters mistake. Stephens also made another strong fifth play tackle on the Rooster’s try line to force another error close to the line.


The NRLW ladder after round 3.


Round 4 Matchups:

Titans vs Broncos – Saturday 19th March, 2:50 pm NZT

Eels vs Roosters – Sunday 20th March, 2:00 pm NZT

Knights vs Dragons – Sunday 20th March, 3:45 pm NZT

22 February 2021

The most influential Māori sportspeople of the past 30 years have been crowned and four rugby league greats have been honoured in one of the most prestigious sporting lists.


Dubbed The Little General during his standout career with the Warriors and the Kiwis, Jones was, according to broadcaster Dale Husband, “so popular he could have been Prime Minister”. Played 48 tests and 238 NRL games for the Warriors before turning to coaching. Ex-Warriors and Kiwis teammate Wairangi Koopu said Jones transformed both teams. “The small rarea bird flies up high in the kahikatea tree. That’s how you’d sum up Stacey Jones.”


The star of the Kiwis’ only Rugby League World Cup winning team in 2008, Benji Marshall is about to enter his 19th NRL season, having played over 300 first grade games. Won a NRL title with Wests Tigers in 2005 when he produced an amazing flick pass in the grand final. Golden Boot winner in 2010 as international player of the year. “He could have played State of Origin, he definitely could have played for Australia, but he chose the black jersey over a Kangaroos jumper,” said ex-Kiwi Tony Kemp. “To me, that says everything. The guy’s an absolute legend.”


One of the most respected players in NZ Rugby League history and across the entire NRL scene, Wiki starred during 12 seasons with the Canberra Raiders, winning the 1994 premiership as a centre. Ended his 311-game career with three seasons as a Warriors prop. The most capped Kiwi with 55 tests and a NRL Hall of Famer. Former Kiwis captain Hugh McGahan said of Wiki: “He’s got conviction, he’s got resilience, he’s got power. He never knew the meaning of the word, ‘giving up’.’’


Her 32 Test tenure in the Kiwi Ferns jersey includes four World Cups spanning 18 seasons. Putararu-born Hireme-Smiler was named World Cup MVP in 2013 and also appeared for the Black Ferns a year later at the 2014 Rugby World Cup, as well as starring in the Black Ferns sevens team. Former Warriors and Kiwis forward Wairangi Koopu claims Hireme’s ease at switching between the two codes earned her the nickname of “Honey Bill Williams”. She was named in NRL.com’s Women’s Rugby League Team of the Decade (2010s) and appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to the game, cementing her standing as one of women’s rugby league’s all-time greats.

Most influential Māori sportspeople of the past 30 years

1. Lisa Carrington – Te Aitanga-A-Māhaki/Ngāti Porou (Canoeing)
2. Michael Campbell – Ngāti Ruanui/Ngāi Rauru (Golf)
3. Wynton Rufer – Ngāti Porou (Football)
4. Jason Wynyard – Ngāti Maniapoto/Ngāpuhi (Wood Chopping)
5. Pero Cameron – Ngāpuhi (Basketball)
6. Zinzan Brooke – Ngāpuhi (Rugby)
7. Stacey Jones – Ngāti Maniapoto/Ngāpuhi (Rugby League)
8. Farah Palmer – Tainui/Ngāti Maniapoto (Rugby)
9. Benji Marshall – Ngāi Tuhoe (Rugby League)
10. Dame Noeline Taurua – Ngāpuhi (Netball)
11. Aaron Smith – Ngāti Kahungunu (Rugby)
12. Portia Woodman – Ngāpuhi (Rugby)
13. Ruben Wiki – Ngāpuhi (Rugby League)
14. Trent Boult – Ngāi Tahu/Ngāti Porou/Ngāi Te Rangi (Cricket)
15. Eric Rush – Ngāpuhi (Rugby)
16. Winston Reid – Tainui/Te Arawa (Football)
17. Peter Martin – Te Arawa (Paralympics Athletics)
18. Leilani Joyce – Ngāti Hine/Ngāi Te Rangi/Tainui (Squash)
19. Suzie Bates – Ngāi Tahu (Cricket/Basketball)
20. Honey Hireme-Smiler – Ngāti Raukawa/Ngāi Haua/Waikato-Tainui (Rugby League/Rugby)
21. Nathan Nukunuku – Ngāti Porou (Softball)
22. Temepara Bailey – Ngāpuhi (Netball)
23. Shane Bond – Ngāi Tahu (Cricket)
24. Sarah Hirini – Ngāti Kahungunu (Rugby)
25. Joelle King – Ngāti Porou (Squash)
26. Raelene Castle – Ngāpuhi (Sports Administrator)
27. Kayla Whitelock – Rangitāne (Hockey)
28. Cathy Millen – Ngāi Tuhoe (Power Lifting)
29. Cameron Leslie – Ngāpuhi (Paralympics Swimming/Wheelchair Rugby)
30. Shannon McIlroy – Ngāti Porou (Lawn Bowls)

8 November 2020

Veteran Kiwi Fern and trailblazer Honey Hireme-Smiler has today announced yesterday’s International against Fetu Samoa was her last.

Her 32 Test tenure in the Kiwi Ferns jersey includes four World Cups spanning 18 seasons. She was named in NRL.com’s Women’s Rugby League Team of the Decade (2010s) and appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to the game, cementing her standing as one of women’s rugby league’s all-time greats.

Born in Putaruru, Waikato, Hireme first represented New Zealand against the New Zealand Māori in a non-Test match in 2002. The 22-year-old scored ten tries at the following year’s World Cup, including a double in the 58-0 defeat of New Zealand Māori in the final, and was named in the Team of the Tournament.

Kiwi Ferns fixtures were scarce in the ensuing years, but the blockbusting centre was one of several players to back up for their successful World Cup title defence in 2008.

Hireme, who by now was representing Counties-Manukau, captained the Kiwi Ferns at the 2013 World Cup, where they relinquished their crown to Australia via a 22-12 loss in the final. Despite the defeat, Honey was named Player of the Tournament.

After turning out for the Kiwi Ferns at the 2017 NRL Auckland Nines, Hireme ended a three-year absence from the Test rugby league arena at that year’s World Cup. The Papakura Sisters star played four matches on the wing and was the tournament’s top try-scorer with 13 – more than double her closest rival. Hireme scored six tries in the pool-stage thrashing of the Cook Islands, a hat-trick in the semi-final defeat of England and a brilliant first-half double in the gallant loss to Australia in the final.

Hireme was snapped up by St George Illawarra for the inaugural NRLW premiership, playing all three of the Dragons’ games and averaging 129 metres. She was outstanding in New Zealand’s subsequent Test loss to Australia in Auckland, making three line-breaks and a game-high 214 metres in the 26-24 thriller as she showcased her trademark speed, power and fend.

Hireme was named 2018 Kiwi Ferns Player of the Year, following on from NZRL Women’s Player of the Year nods she received in 2007 and 2012.

Having returned to the Waikato – playing for Hamilton City Tigers and representing Wai-Coa-Bay at the NZRL National Women’s Tournament – Hireme was named Kiwi Ferns captain for the mid-2019 Test against Fetu Samoa. She scored two tries and again ran for over 200 metres in the 46-8 win.

Honey signed with the Warriors but sat out the 2019 NRLW campaign to be with her mother, Caryn, who sadly passed away on September 25. Just weeks later she returned to the field to lead the Kiwi Ferns to World Cup Nines glory; Hireme scored four tries and was named in the Team of the Tournament.

The inspirational 38-year-old was a shining light in the Kiwi Ferns’ 28-8 Test loss to the Jillaroos in Wollongong, scoring their only try of the second half and running for a team-high 127 metres.

2020 saw Honey miss out on the NRLW Warriors campaign due to injury but represent the Upper Central Stallions with pride as they took out the inaugural NZRL National Women’s Championship.

Honey was then called up for the 2020 Kiwi Ferns camp in preparation for what would be the only New Zealand International for 2020 against Fetu Samoa Invitational.

The Kiwi Ferns veteran in amongst nine debutantes showed her class, helping lead the Ferns and new aged squad to a 28-8 victory. Unbeknown to most, this was Honey’s last Test for the Kiwi Ferns as she made the difficult decision to call time on her 18-year career.

“Leaving the jersey in a better place!” says Honey.

“Deciding to retire has been a really hard decision, my heart and my mind would play footy till I’m 50, but my body tells me my time is done. I love my team, my sport and I love to compete, I have given all I can as a player and have always aimed to give nothing less than my absolute best.

“Although I may not be out on the field, making an impact, I will continue to serve the game off the field for many years to come. Every teammate, every coach, every manager, trainer, medical staff, support person, mentor, fan, friend and most of all my loving whānau, Thank you for being a part of this journey, for your guidance, support and love I am truly grateful to you all.

“Hanging up the boots with love: Hunz, Honey-Bill, Aunty, Whaea, Nan, Honey Hireme-Smiler.”

Greg Peters, NZRL CEO, says, “On behalf of everyone in our rugby league communities we would like to thank Honey for her outstanding service to the game and for all she’s achieved.

“She’s paved the way for countless women to get involved and succeed in rugby league, and she will continue to serve as an invaluable role model both on and off the field for years to come.

“We are extremely lucky to have had someone of her calibre wear the Black and White jersey for so long and we can’t thank Honey enough for her over and above dedication to the game and its communities – which I’m sure will never end.

“She absolutely will be missed, and it’s sad to see her call time on such an outstanding career but she’s an exceptional ambassador that embodies everything great about this sport, there is no doubt she has left the jersey in a better place.”

5 November 2020

Just six months ago, there was a very real prospect that no women’s rugby league would be played in New Zealand or Australia in 2020.

Since then, however, the inaugural Sky Sport NZRL National Women’s Premiership – with matches played alongside the men’s provincial fixtures for the first time – and the third NRLW Premiership have unfolded, while the season is set to conclude this Saturday with a clash between the Kiwi Ferns and Fetu Samoa at Mt Smart Stadium.

It’s appropriate that the only major rugby league international to be played in this part of the world in a heavily disrupted, ultra-challenging year for all sports involves the New Zealand women’s team. The Kiwi Ferns are celebrating the 25th anniversary of their trailblazing tour of Australia – and a quarter century of resilience, selflessness, perseverance, pride and passion integral to elevating the women’s game to its current standing.

The New Zealand Women’s Rugby League Federation was officially registered and accepted by NZRL in February 1995. Just four months later, a 23-strong squad of pioneers – captained by Juanita Hall and coached by Janie Thompson – set off on a 21-day, seven-match tour of Australia.

“It was an absolute honour and privilege to be selected for the inaugural Kiwi Ferns alongside my peers, and to captain the team was extremely priceless,” Hall says.

“I remember clearly standing on the stage in Nelson (after the National Tournament), shocked to be selected – and I didn’t initially hear that I was captain. I think I was the last to be named.”

By the time they returned home, the New Zealand team had won all seven games and scored 204 points (including 42 tries) while conceding only 30 (including just six tries).

Four days after a hard-fought 16-6 win over a President’s XIII at North Sydney Oval in their opening assignment – fighting back from 6-2 down at halftime – New Zealand backed up for the first-ever international against Australia.

New Zealand’s line-up for that historic encounter at Lidcombe Oval was (Auckland unless otherwise stated): Tammi Wilson, Lynley Tierney, Eva Epiha, Zavana Aranga (Wellington), Debbie Syme (West Coast), Therese Mangos, Leah Witehira, Juanita Hall (c), Maria Auega (Wellington), Luisa Avaiki, Eileen Rankin, Nadene Conlon, Rachel White. Interchange: Nicole Presland, Golly Baker, Wendy Cunningham, Sharlene Hannah (West Coast).

The tourists overcame another four-point halftime deficit to carve out an 18-14 victory. Wellington hooker Maria Auega had the honour of scoring the maiden try in women’s rugby league internationals, while halfback Leah Witehira, prop Luisa Avaiki and winger Lynley Tierney dotted down in the second half to drive New Zealand to the win.

“Putting on the black-and-white jersey for the first time, and standing proud and emotional with hand over heart at our first international in Sydney, singing the national anthem, and thinking to cherish that moment in history, thanking God, my parents and family, and the pride of  representing my country – I will never will forget it,” Halls recalls of that illustrious occasion. 

Despite playing two more midweek matches – a 26-4 defeat of Sydney and a 46-0 rout of Canberra – before the second Test the following weekend, New Zealand overwhelmed Australia 14-6 in Canberra to complete a series whitewash. Wingers Tania Martin (Auckland) and Laura Waretini (Canterbury), and interchange Sara White (Auckland) were the new faces in the Test team.

The tour wrapped up with a pair of shutouts of Queensland, winning 48-0 and 36-0. Although she missed opening two games, Waretini finished as the top try-scorer on tour with nine, while Zavana Aranga led the pointscoring charts with 44 (3 tries, 16 goals).

Michelle Driscoll (Auckland), Kaylene Ihaia (Wellington) and Megan Tahapeehi (West Coast) were the tourists who did not feature in the Test matches.

The undefeated side cemented their status as fledgling women’s rugby league’s benchmark, which would go unchallenged for almost two decades.

“No one can ever take the black-and-white jersey from you, always treasured. Being the first New Zealand rugby league team to win a Test series against Australia, on Australian soil, since the 1950s is a great honour,” Hall beams.

“I would like to pay tribute and honour the wonderful late Bernie Wood, NZRL Life Member and Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for his vision and passion, for making it possible for the creation of the inaugural Kiwi Ferns of 1995. One could say he is the ‘father’ of the Kiwi Ferns.”

But the tour was unmistakably challenging – for Hall personally and for the squad as a whole – for a variety of reasons.

“Being captain of a new national team and not having someone to seek advice from for help to handle all that the role entailed (was difficult). I personally sought out the great Kiwi legend Fred Ah Kuoi for his advice which was extremely helpful, invaluable and encouraging.

“The financial side of having to pay over $2000 each was extremely hard on all players, in addition to working full-time, being stay-at-home mums, and young university students.

“Additionally, the youth and vitality of our team and management, not familiar with our newly-held status as ambassadors of New Zealand women in league, and finding our feet during our tour. There was no media training or support for us on how to handle certain situations.

“Then I was injured due to a hotel mishap in the bathroom – I should have sued them! – and was unable to play our end-of-tour games in Queensland.”

Australia made its first trip across the Tasman in 1997, losing both internationals in Wellington (34-26) and Auckland (40-16). Great Britain was swept 3-0 on its three-Test tour to New Zealand in 1998. New Zealand suffered its first loss in 1999, in the second Test against Australia, but still won the series 2-1.

The Kiwi Ferns – co-captained by ’95 originals Nadene Conlon and Nicole Presland – powered to a commanding triumph in the inaugural Women’s Rugby League World Cup in 2000, beating hosts Great Britain 26-4 in the Warrington-hosted final.

The Ferns defended their world champions crown in devastating style on home soil in 2003, scoring 372 points and conceding just four in six games. They overwhelmed NZ Māori 58-0 in the final. Captain Luisa Avaiki was named Player of the Tournament, while Honey Hireme – in the second season of a Kiwi Ferns tenure that now spans 19 years – scored 10 tries.

The New Zealand side had just three matches from that emphatic success until the next World Cup in 2008, but they were no less convincing in retaining the title. The Kiwi Ferns, again led by Avaiki, thrashed Australia 34-0 in the final at Suncorp Stadium. Veteran centre Trish Hina starred with two tries and three goals in the decider – almost matching her effort in the 2000 final, when she bagged two tries and two goals.

But their decade-long, 20-Test unbeaten run came to an end via an 18-16 loss to Australia in 2009. The Kiwi Ferns had just two more internationals – comfortably accounting for England 2-0 at home in 2010 – prior to the 2013 World Cup, where the Hireme-led team lost their title to the Jillaroos 22-12 in the Headingley final.

While a tough result to swallow for the traditional top dogs, it saw the Kiwi Ferns-Jillaroos rivalry step up a notch: The trans-Tasman adversaries have faced each at least once every season since until 2020. Women’s rugby league made a significant step forward in 2014 when Australia and New Zealand squared off prior to the Australia-Samoa men’s Four Nations encounter in Wollongong, the Ferns prevailing 12-8.

Of equal importance was the staging of a three-match series between the Kiwi Ferns and Jillaroos at the 2015 NRL Auckland Nines. The high-quality clashes in an abbreviated format – marked by thrilling tries and ferocious tackles that turned several Kiwi Ferns players into viral sensations – showcased women’s rugby league to a wider audience and was regarded as a highlight of the Nines weekend, as it would be again in 2016-17.

Meanwhile, a women’s fixture became part of an Anzac Test double-header bill from 2015, with international matches belatedly broadcast live on TV and receiving long overdue media coverage.

The 2017 Women’s Rugby League World Cup was the first to be held parallel to the men’s tournament, with the Jillaroos outlasting the Kiwi Ferns, captained by Laura Mariu, 23-16 in an epic final in Brisbane. Hireme crossed for an astounding 13 tries at the tournament.

Following the first NRLW premiership in 2018 – which featured a healthy contingent of Kiwi Ferns throughout the Warriors (coached by New Zealand great Avaiki), Broncos, Roosters and Dragons squads – the Jillaroos and Kiwi Ferns produced out an equally enthralling post-season contest at Mt Smart Stadium, the Australians notching three straight victories over their archrivals for the first time in a 26-24 nail-biter.

In 2019, the Kiwi Ferns recorded a 46-8 win over Fetu Samoa in Auckland and a 28-8 loss to the Jillaroos in Wollongong at Test level either side of their triumph in the inaugural World Nines tournament.

COVID-19 put paid to any hope of a New Zealand-Australia Test in 2020, but the Kiwi Ferns’ showdown with Samoa is nevertheless a fitting way to mark the team’s 25-year milestone. A host of debutants will accompany captain Krystal Rota, fellow stalwart Maitua Feterika and 39-year-old Kiwi Ferns legend Honey Hireme-Smiler.

Acknowledging the players, coaches, administrators and volunteers who ‘dug the well’ for women’s rugby league in New Zealand will undoubtedly play a key role in the Kiwi Ferns’ build-up to this week’s match. Kiwis & National Teams Manager Conlon and Head of Women’s Rugby League Avaiki continue to fly the flag for the 1995 originals on the NZRL staff, while Conlon’s exhaustive research has this week culminated in the assigning of Kiwi Ferns numbers for all 147 New Zealand women’s internationals.

“It has been good to see how far the Kiwi Ferns and women’s rugby league has come, with all the great achievements of the past, present and for future Kiwi Ferns,” foundation skipper Hall says.

“The progress and been slow and steady – compared to the Australian competitions of both local club and NRLW, we a slightly behind. The lack of teams in grassroots club level is evident.

“With the Warriors’ team entry into the NRLW competition, it has given a huge boost for women in rugby league. This has been enthralling and fabulous to watch, and for the next generation to aspire to.  

“However, kudos to NZRL for their efforts in progressing and improving New Zealand women in league.

“I have to mention also the amazing stalwarts and hardworking former Kiwi Ferns – the likes of Luisa Avaiki Nadene Conlon, Tammy Wilson, Lynley Tierney and many others – who have continued to promote, support and do a fabulous job within in their roles in NZRL.”


Great Britain550
Cook Islands220
NZ Māori440
Pacific Islands110
Papua New Guinea110

Authored by Will Evans

27 October 2020

Warriors NRLW captain Georgia Hale and Knights NRL star Connor Watson have been awarded Veronica White and Ken Stephen medals for their community work.

The pair were honoured in a ceremony at ANZ Stadium before the Telstra Premiership grand final on Sunday.

Hale, in addition to being a wonderful role model and trailblazer on the field, is constantly helping others with genuine passion via her role as the Warriors’ community coordinator.

The lock was also nominated for last year’s Veronica White Medal.

The 25-year-old, who was named the 2020 Young New Zealander of the Year, has made a difference on countless school visits.

Hale has been devoted to assisting rural communities, children, the intellectually disabled and a variety of charities.

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted the club’s outreach programs, but Hale continued to assist through Zoom calls as well as her own food-bank collections and wellbeing sessions with friends and family.

“We couldn’t be prouder of Georgia. She brings enormous credit on herself in the most selfless manner,” Warriors CEO Cameron George said when Hale was named Young New Zealander of the Year.

NRL CEO Andrew Abdo paid tribute to Watson and Hale and said both were exceptional ambassadors for rugby league.

“It is so fitting for us to showcase these two exceptional people on our biggest day of the year,” Mr Abdo said.

“So many of our players undertake a significant amount of work off the field – much of it done very quietly – tonight was our chance to acknowledge that work. Rugby League brings communities together and Connor and Georgia have led the way in 2020.”

The Ken Stephen Medal is brought to you by My Property Consultants while the Veronica White Medal is supported by Apprenticeship Careers Australia. Both medals are part of the Kayo NRL Community Awards 2020.

Justin Morgan has made the difficult decision to step away from his role as Head Coach of the Kiwi Ferns.

A change in work commitments has meant the availability of his time is no longer viable as the Ferns build towards a World Cup victory come 2021.

NZRL GM of High Performance, Motu Tony says: “Justin has done an exceptional job as Head Coach and has laid a strong foundation for the Ferns heading into World Cup year next year. It’s disappointing for us to see him step aside, however, we respect and fully understand his decision.”

NZRL thank Justin Morgan for his efforts as Head Coach guiding the Ferns to an impressive World Cup 9s championship and a convincing Test win against Fetu Samoa.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my time coaching these women, the talent within the Ferns camp is outstanding and we have built some exciting momentum as a group,” says Morgan.

“Unfortunately, circumstances change and with that in mind, it would be unfair of me to maintain my position. However, I’m fully confident this group will be able to capitalise on the groundwork we have already made and see success come 2021. It’s been a privilege and thank you to NZRL for the opportunity. ”

NZRL will be advertising for a new Head Coach role in due course.

NRL.com has compiled a women’s Team of the Decade after input from key figures in the game including the likes of current Jillaroos coach Brad Donald, Channel Nine commentator Jo Barrett and Ladies Who League’s Mary Konstantopoulos.

Australia will meet Fiji, Italy and Scotland in Group B, while New Zealand were drawn against Ireland, Jamaica and Lebanon in Group C and Tonga play Cook Islands, Papua New Guinea and Wales in Group D.

In the women’s tournament, New Zealand were drawn in the same pool as Australia in a massive boost for the likes of England and PNG.

However, most interest in the Throne Room at Buckingham Palace centred on which team Prince Harry picked as England’s opponents in the opening match on October 23, 2021. The match will be played at St James’ Park in Newcastle.

Tournament organisers couldn’t have hoped for a better outcome as Samoa have the potential to be a massive drawcard if Williams chooses to play for them.



World Cup pools

Men’s Group A – England, France, Greece, Samoa

The host nation narrowly lost the 2017 final 6-0 to Australia and would be expected to top their pool but Great Britain’s disastrous Southern Hemisphere tour at the end of last season and the retirement of Sam Burgess have raised concerns.

Samoa are the obvious threat but their only win since 2016 was a 24-6 defeat of PNG in last year’s Pacific Test.

Men’s Group B – Australia, Fiji, Italy, Scotland

It would take a stunning upset for the Kangaroos to fail to top their pool but Tonga showed what is possible by beating Australia last November in Auckland and Fiji aren’t too far behind.

The Bati have qualified for the semi-finals of the last three World Cups and will be battle-hardened by Tests against New Zealand and Tonga this year.

Scotland drew with New Zealand in 2016 and Samoa at the 2017 World Cup but its hard to see them or Italy making it out of their pool.

Men’s Group C – New Zealand, Ireland, Jamaica, Lebanon

This is probably the most wide-open pool, with the exception of the current No.1 ranked Kiwis.

Jamaica qualified for their first World Cup by beating the USA more than a year ago, while Lebanon are likely to field a young team after the retirements of Robbie Farah and Tim Mannah from the team that made the quarter-finals in 2017.

Ireland were unlucky not to have advanced to the 2017 quarter-finals in place of Samoa and would have under the format for the 2021 tournament.

However, the results in Group C are likely to come down to which of Ireland, Jamaica and Lebanon has the best heritage players to help claim second spot.

Men’s Group D – Tonga, PNG, Wales, Cook Islands

After beating Great Britain and Australia at the end of last season, as well as New Zealand at the 2017 World Cup, Tonga are aiming to win the 2021 tournament and few doubt they are capable.

Besides Tonga, Group D is also wide open as PNG beat Great Britain at the end of last season and Cook Islands have the potential to field a strong line-up if all of their heritage players make themselves available.

Wales have been disappointing in recent seasons but the tournament being in the UK will be of benefit to the Dragons.

Women’s Group A – England, Brazil, Canada, PNG

The Orchids, Ravens and Brasileiras would have been doing handstands after being drawn in Group A with England.

Brazil will meet the host nation in the opening game of the women’s World Cup at Emerald Headingley Stadium on November 9, 2021.

Women’s Group B – Australia, Cook Islands, France, New Zealand

Most interest in the women’s draw was always going to revolve around which side of the draw the Kiwi Ferns were in and France and the Cook Islands now face a tough World Cup campaign.

The Jillaroos are the defending World Cup champions and also won the 2013 final but New Zealand had won every tournament before that.

Wheelchair Group B – France, Wales, Scotland, USA

Defending World Cup winners France will meet Wales, Scotland and USA in pool B.

The 2021 World Cup is the first in which the men’s, women’s and wheelchair tournaments have been staged concurrently, with all three finals to be played on the same weekend.


Brad Walter – NRL

As seen on Warriors.kiwi by Richard Becht 

A year in which Honey Hireme-Smiler endured the loss of her mother has ended with her contribution to rugby league being recognised in New Zealand’s 2020 New Year Honours.

The 38-year-old has been appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to the code.

It comes only weeks after the Putaruru-born star led the Kiwi Ferns to glory when they shocked the much-vaunted the Jillaroos in the World Cup 9s grand final in Sydney.

Despite the on-field success, Hireme-Smiler’s year was clouded by her mother Caryn’s brave battle with cancer before she passed away in September. She kept vigil at her mother’s bedside for many weeks in Hamilton and later in Putaruru.

Hireme-Smiler and her partner Rochelle Smiler were also married, having their service at Waikato Hospital’s chapel so Caryn could witness the wedding.

Hireme-Smiler, a dual rugby league-rugby union international, has been an exceptional flag bearer for New Zealand women’s rugby league.

A Kiwi Fern since 2003, she was signed by the Warriors for their 2019 WNRL campaign but was ultimately unable to play for the club as she stayed in Hamilton to support her mother.

Also recognised in the 2020 New Year Honours for his services to rugby league was long-time West Coast referee Grant Gibson.

Sharp-eyed fans may have noticed the Sky Sport logo on the back of the Kiwi Ferns Nines jersey – well, a sponsorship and support partnership is now official between Sky Sport and New Zealand Rugby League; with a specific focus on the Kiwi Ferns, New Zealand’s national women’s Rugby League team.  But the agreement goes much further with a raft of support designed to grow the game and its appeal to women and girls throughout the country.

“At the risk of repeating myself, our support for the Kiwi Ferns and women’s rugby league, is yet another example of how we’re going all out to grow and promote every aspect of women in sport in New Zealand from production and promotion through to playing and performing,” says Martin Stewart, CEO Sky.

“Women’s sport is fast gaining ground – it’s exciting, inspirational and the more we showcase how women and girls are achieving success, the more positive messages we can send about the benefits of being involved in sport.”

The agreement between Sky Sport and NZRL runs through until September 2023.  The Kiwi Ferns will wear the Sky Sport logo on their jerseys and other kit whenever they represent New Zealand with all games being broadcast on Sky Sports and available through Sky Go and other Sky platforms.

Greg Peters, CEO NZRL says, “We are experiencing an explosion in the women’s game, and this high-profile partnership shines a brighter spotlight on this across all levels of the code.

“Sky’s support will provide more international playing opportunities for the Ferns as we look to carry on the momentum from this year’s outstanding World Nines win. Test football aside, Sky has come on board as an official naming rights sponsor for our new National Women’s Rugby League Competition and is also supporting our NZRL Roadshows we plan on implementing across the country next year designed to connect with and grow our younger playing generation.

“We are very much committed to growing the female game at all levels and we are extremely grateful that Sky Sport not only shares this vision but is willing to support us in such a large capacity.

Collectively, we are excited about what we can achieve and what momentum we will be able to create in the space as we work towards the 2021 World Cup.”

Kiwi Ferns Captain, Honey Hireme-Smiler, says,  “We play because we love our country and we love rugby league and every girl who puts on that Black and White jersey is determined to represent New Zealand to the best of their ability. What’s awesome about this is that a partner like Sky Sport gives us more opportunity to showcase that commitment and at the same hopefully inspire the next generation of Kiwi Ferns coming through.

With this kind of support from grassroots through to the highest level of the game, Sky Sport is nailing its colours to the goalpost, says Stewart.

“We’ll grow our customer base by giving them access to the widest possible spectrum of sport.  But it means more than simply whipping out a ‘chequebook’ and buying rights.  We’re investing in sport itself, we’re investing in growing the game and we’re not leaving anyone behind.”

NZRL is pleased to announce that Australian based apparel brand, BLK, will be its official apparel provider from 1 January 2020 through to 31 December 2023.

“We are no stranger to the quality BLK provide as we have partnered with this world-renowned clothing brand in the past,” says NZRL CEO, Greg Peters.

“We are excited to be working with BLK over the next couple of years as we head into busy periods of growth for the organisation on and off the field, as well as the soon approaching 2021 World Cup.” Peters concludes.

“Three years ago BLK made a very clear brand decision to only partner with teams that create global excitement, treat all athletes equally regardless of gender and believe in the power of sport not just the business of sport,” says BLK CEO, Tyron Brant.

“It is wonderful to have the Kiwis and Kiwi Ferns back in BLK; we are excited to bring the full power of our global reach, innovation and creativity to partner with New Zealand Rugby League and grow both brands globally.”


Head of Women’s Rugby League at NZRL and Kiwi Ferns assistant coach Luisa Avaiki has had double success at The Trusts Sports Waitakere Excellence Awards.




The former Kiwi Ferns captain and long-time international collected the Douglas Charitable Trust Coach of the Year award and was also named the winner of the major award of the year The Trusts Supreme Award.

Avaiki again guided the Warriors in the second NRL women’s premiership. The club opened with a win over the Sydney Roosters, lost to the St George Illawarra Dragons and then stunned the Brisbane Broncos by handing them their only defeat in the competition’s first two seasons.

During the year, Avaiki was also Kiwi Ferns assistant coach when they beat Fetu Samoa 46-8 in June and again for their end-of-season campaign when they upset the Jillaroos to win the inaugural World Cup 9s title.



Ali Brigginshaw helped guide the Australian Jillaroos to a 28-8 victory over the Kiwi Ferns at WIN Stadium.

The Kiwi Ferns had all the running early but couldn’t convert territory into points with a try-saver from Tiana Penitani highlighting the Jillaroos’ defensive attitude in the opening stages.

A treble of penalties relieved pressure for the Australians and it didn’t take long for Brigginshaw to strike with a weaving run before finding Tallisha Harden in support.

The Jillaroos went over for their second within minutes with Brigginshaw regathering her own short kick – New Zealand fullback Apii Nicholls conceding a penalty try in the process for reach out with her leg.

Australia’s momentum continued with a slice of luck from the scrum base with debutante Kirra Dibb placing a 40-metre kick down-field which landed perfectly in the hands of Sergis to score under the posts.

An error from the Jillaroos at the kick restart opened the door for the Kiwi Ferns to get on the board midway through the first half with Maitua Feterika continuing where she left off from the NRLW to steamroll her way over from close range.

A penalty goal to the Jillaroos on the stroke of half-time enabled the home side to take a 18-4 lead into the break.

Honey Hireme’s battle with Sergis was one-way in the opening half but the Kiwi Ferns veteran returned serve three minutes after the interval to finish off a sharp backline movement.

New Zealand were denied another try-scoring chance when Hannah Southwell pulled off a miraculous saver on Raecene McGregor close to the line.

Local girl Keeley Davis went close for the Jillaroos at the other end of the field but was ruled held up as the scoreline remained a 10-point difference for most of the second half.

The Kiwi Ferns lost Nita Maynard to a head knock and the Jillaroos had woes of their own when Penitani spilt a ball with the line wide open with 16 minutes remaining.

Australia wrapped up the result through another local, Shellharbour’s Shakiah Tungai, who converted her own long-range special near full-time in front of a strong crowd of 8184.

Head Coach Justin Morgan has named two debutantes for the much-anticipated Test match against the Jillaroos at WIN Stadium in Wollongong on Friday, October 25 (5.40pm kick-off local time; 7.40pm NZT).

Prop Billie-Jean Ale and Centre Jules Newman will both play their first Test match for New Zealand after standout seasons at the Warriors this year.

Ale has been in the game for 19 years, representing Mt Albert in the Auckland Premiership, Akarana at a provincial level, as well as the Warriors in the inaugural NRLW Premiership.

She was first named in the Kiwi Ferns’ wider squad for the 2008 World Cup but never took the field. In the meantime, she represented Fetu Samoa in 2011 and again in this year’s one-off Test against the Kiwi Ferns in June. Eleven years later, she will finally run out in the Black and White.

Newman was named in the Ferns’ wider test squad earlier in the year and impressed at the World Nines scoring a crucial try in the 17-15 victory over the Jillaroos.

After a standout introductory year to rugby league she will play her first test match for the Kiwi Ferns tomorrow.

Also running on in the centres will be the much-decorated Kiwi Ferns Captain, Honey Hireme-Smiler, who first donned the Kiwi Ferns jersey 17 years ago.

2019 World Nines Women’s player of the tournament, Raecene McGregor will run out in the halves alongside Warriors playmaker Charntay Poko.

Sydney Roosters’ winger Kiana Takairangi, who scored a double on debut for the Ferns in June, will look to carry on her impressive form alongside Sydney teammate and experienced hooker Nita Maynard.

Warriors speedster Atawhai Tupaea makes her return to the Black and White, as well as St George Illawarra Dragons second-rower, Maitua Feterika.

“This is what we have been building towards and I know the girls can’t wait to get out there,” says Morgan.

“The Nines was a good confidence boost but we know what lies ahead. The Jillaroos are a top-quality side and they will bring their best game, but we have the team to rise to the challenge. We are lucky to have a couple of returning faces, determined debutantes and players with years of test match experience. All in all this team is full of passion and pride for their country so I have no doubt this will shape up to be a great test match.”




1        Apii NICHOLLS (Warriors)

2        Kiana TAKAIRANGI (Roosters)

3        Honey HIREME-SMILER (C) (Warriors)

4        Jules NEWMAN (Warriors)

5        Atawhai TUPAEA (Warriors)

6        Charntay POKO (Warriors)

7        Raecene McGREGOR (Broncos)

8        Annetta-Claudia NUUAUSALA (Warriors)

9        Krystal ROTA (Warriors)

10       Amber HALL (Broncos)

11       Onjeurlina LEIATAUA (Warriors)

12       Crystal TAMARUA (Warriors)

13       Georgia HALE (Warriors)

14       Nita MAYNARD (Roosters)

15       Teuila FOTU-MOALA (Dragons)

16       Billy-Jean ALE (Warriors)

17       Maitua FETERIKA (Dragons)

18       Madison BARTLETT (Warriors)

19       Kanyon PAUL (Warriors)

20      Aieshaleigh SMALLEY (Warriors)

Following the Kiwi Ferns’ spectacular Rugby League World Cup 9s victory over the Jillaroos, head coach Justin Morgan has named a largely unchanged squad ahead of the much-anticipated Test match against the Jillaroos at WIN Stadium in Wollongong on Friday, October 25 (5.40pm kick-off local time; 7.40pm NZT).

Returning Kiwi Ferns veteran and St George Illawarra Dragons second rower Maitua Feterika comes into the fold due to the in-doubt Aieshaleigh Smalley, who picked up an ankle injury at the nines.

Warriors hooker Kanyon Paul has also been named after her standout debut performance over the weekend after she replaced the unavailable Lavinia Gould.

Powerhouse props Annetta Nuuausala (Warriors) and Amber-Paris Hall (Brisbane Broncos) will be hungry to take the field after supporting from the sideline throughout the weekend’s tournament.

Also determined to be involved will be Warriors forward Billy-Jean Ale and centre Jules Newman. Ale was named in the Kiwi Ferns’ wider squad back in 2008 but has yet to take the field in the black and white although she represented Fetu Samoa in 2011 and again in this year’s one-off Test against the Kiwi Ferns in June.

Warriors centre Jules Newman was named in the Ferns’ wider Test squad earlier in the year and will be eager to make her Test debut against the Jillaroos after a strong performance at the World Cup 9s.

“We are coming off a high after the Nines victory but know the biggest challenge is still ahead,” says Morgan.

“The Jillaroos will come out firing but so will we. We are really lucky to have a team of this calibre who will be up for the challenge. This is a new week and the intensity has lifted, everyone is eager to get back out there.”



Click HERE for tickets to Australia v New Zealand Double Header in Wollongong.





1        APII NICHOLLS (Warriors)

2        KIANA TAKAIRANGI (Roosters)

3        HONEY HIREME-SMILER (c) (Warriors)

4        JULES NEWMAN (Warriors)

5        ATAWHAI TUPAEA (Warriors)

6        CHARNTAY POKO (Warriors)

7        RAECENE McGREGOR (Broncos)


9        KRYSTAL ROTA (Warriors)

10      AMBER-PARIS HALL (Broncos)

11      ONJEURLINA LEIATAUA (Warriors)

12      CRYSTAL TAMARUA (Warriors)

13      GEORGIA HALE (Warriors)

14      NITA MAYNARD (Roosters)

15      TEUILA FOTU-MOALA (Dragons)

16      BILLY-JEAN ALE (Warriors)

17      MAITUA FETERIKA (Dragons)

18      MADISON BARTLETT (Warriors)

19      KANYON PAUL (Warriors)

20      AIESHALEIGH SMALLEY (Warriors)


The Kiwi Ferns are the inaugural women’s World Cup 9s champions following an incredible 17-15 victory over Australia.

The Ferns went into the match the underdogs after the Jillaroos handed it to them the night before, however, after a dominant win over England, the Ferns were no short of confidence and ready for redemption.

Jillaroos flyer Tiana Penitani opened the scoring with her fifth try of the tournament but the Ferns bettered that as player of the tournament Raecene McGregor brilliantly stepped through to score in the bonus zone.

Australia fought back to take an 8-7 advantage into half-time after their co-captains combined, Ali Brigginshaw popping a smart offload for Kezie Apps to power over.

The Kiwi Ferns scored first after the break via speedster Jules Newman before Corban McGregor gave the advantage back to the Jillaroos again with a bonus-zone try.

But a dummy-half barge-over from stand out Nita Maynard gave the Kiwi Ferns what turned out to be a winning lead, with goal-kicking proving the difference.

The Kiwi Ferns take out the World 9’s Title and will look to go back to back at the Trans-Tasman double header next Friday.

Updated: 7:30pm AED

Men’s semi-final 1: Kiwis 22 beat England 6

New Zealand became the first team through to the men’s World Cup 9s final after cruising to a 22-6 win against England.

Shaun Johnson was largely to thank for the Kiwis’ fast start. He firstly produced a try-saver on Jermaine McGillvary that jolted the ball loose, allowing Ken Maumalo to scoot away for the opening points.

Next, the mercurial playmaker perfectly summed up a blindside overlap to put Jamayne Isaako over in the corner for a 10-nil lead at the break.

Reimis Smith drove a dagger into England’s hearts with a try to start the second stanza before McGillvary latched onto a cross-field kick to get his side on the board.

There was no big fightback, however, as Isaako crossed for his sixth try of the tournament to ensure the Kiwis progressed to the decider.

Kiwi Ferns 33 v England 4(women)

A sensational team try finished off by Kanyon Paul was the highlight of the Kiwi Ferns’ 33-4 win over England which locked up a berth in the final against Australia.

All the Kiwi Ferns’ big guns got their hands on the ball before Paul plunged over in the bonus zone to put New Zealand on a collision course with their arch rivals in the women’s decider.

Krystal Rota opened the scoring for the Kiwis before England hit back through Amy Hardcastle but it was all New Zealand from there.

After leading 19-4 at the break the Kiwis stretched their advantage early in the second when Rota crossed wide out for her double.

Hireme then crossed for her second try to join Jillaroo Tiana Penitani as the tournament’s leading try-scorer with four.

Kiwis 46 defeated USA 0 (men)

New Zealand have tuned up for the World Cup 9s semi-finals with a runaway 46-0 win over the USA at Bankwest Stadium.

With playmaking maestro Shaun Johnson calling the shots the Kiwis ran in four first-half tries to blow the Hawks off the park.

Warriors winger Ken Maumalo got the scoring underway when he scored try off a lovely Kodi Nikorima pass and then it was Johnson’s turn to cross the stripe when he dazzled the defence to score in the bonus zone.

Jamayne Isaako and Bailey Simonsson rounded out the scoring in the opening nine minutes as the Kiwis led 19-0 at the break.

There was a slight scare for the Kiwis when Johnson limped off early in the second half but he is expected to be fine for the semi-finals.

Even with Johnson off the field the continued to flow as Maumalo bagged four tries and New Zealand’s offloads proved too much for the USA.

Kiwis 18 defeat PNG 17 (men)

Canberra’s Bailey Simonsson scored the match-winning try for New Zealand in a nail-biting affair against a resurgent Papua New Guinea side.

Kiwis half Shaun Johnson made his presence felt early. He put Jamayne Isaako into the clear and then backed up the Broncos winger to take the pass back inside. Johnson then danced around Kumul defenders to ground the ball beneath the posts for a five-point try.

The Kumuls had two tries disallowed in either corner for putting a foot into touch. But their first points came off the long arm of Edene Gebbie, reaching over into the black box as PNG responded with their own five-pointer to lock up scores 7-7 at half-time.

Then lead changed four times in seven minutes in the second half.

PNG edged ahead ahead through Edwin Ipape sending a flick pass to teammate Nixon Putt to score. But the Kiwis grabbed the lead back (14-13) with their second five-pointer, through Jeremy Sharshall-King this time. The Kumuls weren’t done with Storm’s Justin Olam scoring, but Simonsson gave the Kiwis the last laugh.

Kiwi Ferns 24 beat Papua New Guinea 12 (women)

The Kiwi Ferns bounced back from the 22-8 loss to Australia on Friday night with a five-tries-to-two win over the PNG Orchids on a sunny Saturday morning to stay in the hunt for Saturday night’s final.

A brace to winger Kiana Takairangi set up New Zealand’s 14-6 half-time lead. She beat the Orchids for pace in her first and then benefitted from a weaving Nita Maynard run for her second.

PNG’s Ua Ravu scored her second try of the tournament by running around Ferns centre Honey Hireme-Smiler but then the New Zealander made up for the error scoring a double herself either side of the break.

Kangaroos 25 beat Kiwis 12

Australia opened their World Cup 9s in scintillating fashion with Josh Addo-Carr running free and David Fifita running rampant in a 25-12 win over New Zealand.

It took Addo-Carr less than a minute to open his tryscoring account when he cashed in on Wade Graham’s skilful lead-up work.

The Storm flyer made it two soon after and again Graham was the provider, this time with a perfectly weighted kick for ‘The Fox’ to chase.

New Zealand hit back when Jamayne Isaako latched onto a long ball from Shaun Johnson to score but the home side was in again when Fifita and Ryan Papenhuyzen combined to put Kyle Feldt over.

Rampaging Bronco Fifita then powered across for a four-pointer of his own to put the result beyond doubt but Johnson had some more magic up his sleeve to send Isaako across for a second try.

Fifita then capped a stunning night when he showed off all his athleticism to cross wideout.

Jillaroos 22 beat Kiwi Ferns 8 (women)

The instructions from Jillaroos coach Brad Donald were to start fast and Australian co-captain Ali Brigginshaw obliged by setting up the first two Jillaroos tries before scoring one of her own.

A chip-chase paid off for the Broncos half as she scored a five-point try under the Bankwest Stadium goal posts. It blew the score out to 22-0 and despite two comeback tries by the Ferns through speedster wingers Atawhai Tupaea and Jules Newman, Australia enjoyed a comfortable 22-8 win.

“They came out firing and we couldn’t keep up. We were definitely behind the eight-ball at the start and gave them too much possession. We ended up chasing our tails all day,” Ferns utility Nita Maynard.

New Zealand Kiwis playmaker Shaun Johnson and Kiwi Ferns centre Honey Hireme – Smiler have today been confirmed to captain the national teams in the inaugural World Cup Nines at Sydney’s Bankwest Stadium on Friday and Saturday.

Johnson (29) and Hireme (38) aren’t only the most seasoned international players in each of the squads but they can also draw on significant experience in the nines game.

Johnson appeared in each of the four NRL Nines tournaments at Eden Park in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, captaining the Vodafone Warriors in the first three before the legendary Ruben Wiki led the side in 2017.

Hireme also featured on the same stage twice in 2016 and 2017 for the Kiwi Ferns against the Jillaroos.

The first appearances for the pair were in central Sydney today when the Kiwis and the Kiwi Ferns gathered with every squad at the Botanical Gardens overlooking the harbour.

The full squads from the 16 competing countries – 12 men and four women – were captured in a number of photos including a spectacular one of all teams lined up together.

Johnson leads a 16-man team which features eight players yet to play for the Kiwis. The squad assembled in Sydney on Monday, having its first field session at Leichhardt Oval yesterday.

The Kiwi Ferns also trained for the first time yesterday. One change has been made to the side with Warriors hooker Kanyon Paul coming into the Kiwi Ferns for the first time as a late replacement for unavailable Brisbane dummy half Lavinia Gould.

The Kiwi Ferns open their campaign against the Jillaroos on Friday night with two more pool games against England and Papua New Guinea on Saturday night. The top two teams go into the final.

The Kiwis meet the Kangaroos on Friday night and have two more pool games against Papua New Guinea and the United States on Saturday. The top two teams from the group go into the semi-finals involving the winners of the other two pools. England is grouped with Wales, France and Lebanon in one pool while Tonga Invitational leads the remaining pool alongside Toa Samoa, Fiji Bati and Cook Islands.


Kiwi Ferns head coach Justin Morgan has named a vastly-experienced side ahead of the much-anticipated Test match against the Jillaroos at WIN Stadium in Wollongong on Friday, October 25 (5.40pm kick-off local time; 7.40pm NZT).

The side includes Broncos NRLW grand final playmakers Lavinia Gould and Raecene McGregor, both named in New Zealand’s World Cup Nines squad yesterday.

They both scored in the Broncos’ impressive 30-6 win over St George Illawarra and are now joined by teammate and powerhouse prop Amber-Paris Hall in the Test squad.

The Warriors, the only team to beat the double premiership-winning Broncos, supply 13 of the 19 Ferns players, including Warriors captain Georgia Hale, star fullback and 2017 Kiwi Ferns player of the year Apii Nicholls, veteran hooker Krystal Rota and experienced front rowers Annetta Nuuausala and Aieshaleigh Smalley.

Warriors winger Madison Bartlett and halfback and NRLW Dally M finalist Charntay Poko, made their Kiwi Ferns debuts in the 46-8 victory over Fetu Samoa in June.

The selection also features much-decorated Warriors recruit, Honey Hireme-Smiler, who first donned the Kiwi Ferns jersey 17 years ago. She missed the NRLW season on compassionate grounds to support her seriously ill mother Caryn who sadly passed away on September 25.

Warriors centre Jules Newman was also named in the Ferns’ wider squad against Fetu Samoa and will be looking to earn a starting spot against the Jillaroos.

Sydney Roosters’ winger Kiana Takairangi, who scored a double on debut for the Ferns against the Samoans, will look to carry on her impressive form alongside Sydney teammate and experienced hooker Nita Maynard.

Winger/centre Atawhai Tupaea makes her return to the black and white while prop Billy-Jean Ale comes into the side after playing for Fetu Samoa in June.

“We are really lucky to have a team of this calibre,” says Morgan.

“There is a real valuable mix of experienced leaders and young talent in the squad, all of them eager to take the field and do their country proud.

“The last time we faced the Jillaroos it was a hard-fought battle until the end and that narrow loss stills hurt so I know the girls will be ready to come out firing and put that behind us. These players have been in impressive form throughout the NRLW competition, so I’m looking forward to what lies ahead.”


Click HERE for tickets to Australia v New Zealand Double Header in Wollongong,





Player Club Tests for NZ

Warriors and Kiwi Ferns champion Honey Hireme has tonight been awarded the inaugural Veronica White Medal for her outstanding contribution to the community through rugby league.

And Canberra Raiders grand finalist and former Kiwi international Iosia Soliola has won the men’s equivalent, the Ken Stephen Medal.

Both medals were awarded as part of the NRL grand final celebrations in front of a packed ANZ Stadium.

Both players demonstrated significant community engagement throughout the course of this year and were selected by a panel of judges from across the game.

NRL head of government and community relations Jaymes Boland-Rudder congratulated Hireme and Soliola on their outstanding off-field achievements and paid tribute to all of the female and male nominees (Vodafone Warriors prop Agnatius Paasi was one of the four men’s finalists).

“These are two prestigious awards and it’s fitting that Honey and Sia are being celebrated on the biggest stage and at the biggest occasion in the rugby league calendar,” said Boland-Rudder.

“Both players – and all of our nominees – undertake an enormous amount of work off the field each year, much of it unknown and behind-the-scenes, simply because they wish to make a positive and genuine impact among communities.

“In the case of Honey, she has been an undisputed leader within her local rugby league community for a long time, encouraging young girls to play the game of rugby league and support one another in their everyday lives.

“For Sia, he’s been a pillar of strength for the Raiders this year and even more so in helping those in need, from young children to those facing homelessness and at a disadvantage in life.

“I’d also like to pay tribute to the enormous generosity that thousands of players, coaches, referees, fans and volunteers in our game deliver to unite, excite and inspire communities on a daily basis.”

This is the first year the NRL has awarded the Veronica White Medal and the 31st year of the Ken Stephen Medal.

To read more about both medals, along with the work that Hireme and Soliola have undertaken this year, click here.

For vision of Hireme and her Veronica White Medal story, click here.

For vision of Soliola and his Ken Stephen Medal story, click here.


As seen on warriors.kiwi by the NRL


Thinking of going to the Rugby League TRIPLE-HEADER at Eden Park on November 2nd?



Join the Mad Butcher and the former Kiwis listed below. Mix and mingle with Rugby League royalty in the Mad Butcher lounge in the West stand at Eden Park – plus reserved match tickets directly in front of the lounge in the Lower West stand.

Gates open – 1:30pm
Samoa v Fiji – 2:20pm
Great Britain v New Zealand – 5pm
Australia v Tonga – 7:40pm

For more detail contact Bryan 021 848 411 or email BryanD@experiencegroup.co.nz


Ray Baxendale (Kiwi #519) — played 16 Tests and 23
other matches for Kiwis from 1975 to 1981. West Coast and
Canterbury second-row forward. Captained South Island. Also
played for Wakefield Trinity.

Tony Coll (Kiwi #503) — played 30 Tests and 35 other
matches or Kiwis from 1972 to 1982. West Coast second-row
forward for 12 years. Captained Kiwis in 1977 World Cup and
South Island to beat Australia.

Bruce Gall (Kiwi #559) — played 3 Tests and 19 other
matches on tours to Britain, France, Australia and Papua New
Guinea in 1980 and 1982. Taranaki forward who also played for
Balmain in Sydney.

Mark Graham (Kiwi #535) — played 29 Tests and 16 other
matches for Kiwis from 1977 to 1988. Auckland backrow
forward who also played for Brisbane Norths, North Sydney
and Wakefield Trinity. Captain in 18 Tests and on two tours to
Britain and France.

Dane O’Hara (Kiwi #528) — played 36 Tests and 27 other
matches for Kiwis from 1977 to 1986. Auckland wing who
played for Hull FC from 1981 to 1989. Captained Kiwis in 1980
home series against Australia.

Lyndsay Proctor (Kiwi #507) – played 13 Tests and 16 other
matches for Kiwis from 1974 to 1978. Auckland prop who also
played for New Zealand XIII in 1981and for New Hunslet club
in England.

Ken Stirling (Kiwi #489) – played 22 Tests and 21 other
matches for Kiwis from 1971 to 1978. Auckland scrum-half who
played all seven Tests of New Zealand’s 1971 Grand Slam year.
Captain in 14 of his Tests.

Graeme West (Kiwi #517) – Played 18 Tests and 19 other
matches for Kiwis from 1975 to 1985. Taranaki forward who
captained Kiwis in 4 Tests. Also captained Wigan to win 1985
Challenge Cup final at Wembley.


Head coach Justin Morgan has named an experienced Kiwi Ferns squad not short on strike power to take the field at the inaugural World Cup Nines at Bankwest Stadium in Sydney on October 18 and 19.

Brisbane playmakers Lavinia Gould and Raecene McGregor back up from the Broncos’ impressive NRLW grand final win over St George Illawarra on Sunday when they both scored in the dominant 30-6 victory.

The selection also features the much-decorated Honey Hireme. She missed the NRLW season on compassionate grounds to support her seriously ill mother Caryn who passed away on September 25.

Of the 16 players selected, 13 were in the squad involved in the 46-8 one-off Test win over Fetu Samoa at Mount Smart Stadium in June.

The Warriors, the only team to beat the double premiership-winning Broncos, supply 11 players.

New Zealand is one of four women’s teams playing for the World Cup title alongside Trans-Tasman rivals Australia, England and Papua New Guinea.

“This is going to be a tough competition against top tier international rivals, and our goal is to lift that world title at the end of the day,” said Morgan.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing what these guys bring to the table especially following on from the NRLW competition where a lot of these players were in impressive form. This is a new tournament and with that brings a new level of play. It’s going to be exciting.”

The Kiwi Ferns World Cup Nines squad assembles in Sydney next Tuesday.

Following the Nines, the Ferns switch mode to Test football with their clash against the Jillaroos in Wollongong on Friday, October 25.


Click HERE for tickets to the World Cup Nines.

Click HERE for tickets to Australia v New Zealand Double Header in Wollongong,



















Tickets are on sale at 12pm today for the Australia vs New Zealand Double-Header Test matches set to take place on October 25th at WIN Stadium in Wollongong.


Thousands of rugby league fans are expected to join the strong local support for the only Test Matches scheduled on Australian soil in 2019.


“The Australia-New Zealand rivalry is a special one and it will be the only occasion this year fans can witness both the male and female teams competing in official Test Matches,” NRL Chief Commercial Officer Andrew Abdo said.


“It is the best players in both the NRL and NRLW competing for the unofficial title of the world’s best.


“We hosted a great crowd for the last international played in Wollongong in 2014, and we are excited to be returning to this important rugby league region again this year.”


It will be the first time the Australian Kangaroos have faced the New Zealand Kiwis at WIN Stadium, with the women’s sides having clashed at the venue back in 2014.


New Zealand Rugby League Chief Executive Officer Greg Peters said: “Trans Tasman rivalry showcases everything that is great about our game.  To be able to see four of the World’s top Rugby League teams with points to prove in action on one day will make for a not to be missed fan experience. The Men’s match will also form part of the inaugural Oceania Cup and may well decide the winner of that trophy.”


The Harvey Norman Jillaroos held on for a nail-biting win over the Kiwi Ferns at Mt Smart on October 13 last year, while the Australian Kangaroos will be looking to avenge their 26-24 loss against the New Zealand Kiwis from the same day.


Tickets are available through Ticketmaster and nrl.com/tickets. Event-goers can also catch free train and shuttle services to and from WIN Stadium using just their event ticket, making public transport an attractive travel option for the event.


The Australia v New Zealand Double Header is supported by the New South Wales Government via Destination New South Wales.


The women’s and men’s matches will be broadcast live nationally across the Nine Network, Fox Sports and NRL Live Pass, and well as Sky NZ in New Zealand.

Richard Becht & Photosport.nz

While a Counties Manukau side laden with Warriors NRL premiership players dominated the final, Akarana and Warriors loose forward Georgia Hale claimed the top individual honour on the last day of the NZRL national women’s tournament at Bruce Pulman Park in Papakura today.

The Stingrays just squeezed into the decider after edging the Mid-Central Vipers 14-12 in their semi-final yesterday but they responded by overpowering the Akarana Falcons 32-4 in the final to retain their crown.

Kiwi Ferns and Warriors centre Amber Kani opened the scoring for Counties Manukau before Akarana responded through another Warriors NRLW player in centre Jules Newman, who switched to rugby league just a few months ago.

That would be the only joy for the Falcons as the Stingrays struck again through Kiwi Ferns and Warriors hooker Krystal Rota to take a 10-4 lead into halftime.

Rota had a second after the break while Kiwi Ferns and Warriors fullback Apii Nicholls also crossed.

While she was in the beaten Akarana side, Kiwi Ferns star and Vodafone Warriors community relations coordinator Hale was the standout individual over the three days to claim the player of the tournament award.

Earlier in the day, the Auckland Vulcans accounted for Wai-Coa-Bay 30-8 in the play-off for fifth and sixth while Canterbury finished third after edging the Mid-Central Vipers 6-4 in the third and fourth play-off.



At Bruce Pulman Park, Papakura



Counties Manukau Stingrays 32 (Krystal Rota 2, Amber Kani, Mele Hufanga, Apii Nicholls, Kararaina Wira-Kohu tries; Apii Nicholls 4 conversions).

Akarana Falcons 4 (Jules Newman try).

Halftime: 10-4 Stingrays.


Third-fourth play-off:

Canterbury 6 (Cassie Siataga try; Cassie Siataga conversion).

Mid-Central Vipers 4 (Sherri Burgess try).


Fifth-sixth play-off:

Auckland Vulcans 30 (Laishon Albert Jones 2, Aleasha Brider, Mele Toki, Tahina Heta, Alix Leaupepe tries; Jhana Magele 3 conversions).

Wai-Coa-Bay 8 (Nina Barton, Daumavia Herewini tries).



NZRL National Women’s Tournament Team











11 Ngatokotoru ARAKUA AKARANA




15 Tanika-Jazz NOBLE AKARANA

16 Geneva Tainui WEBBER COUNTIES




  • Coach of the Tournament – Awarded by Justin Morgan NZRL – Ross Uele
  • Manager of the Tournament – Awarded by (TBC) Nadene Conlon NZRL = Sabrina Manu
  • Referee of the Tournament – Awarded by Luke Watts NZRL – Rochelle Tamarua


  • Trainer of the Tournament – Awarded by Elizabeth Richards = Haze Rewiti
  • NZRL “More Than Just A Game” Team of the Tournament – Awarded by Elizabeth Richards – Mid-Central Vipers
  • Best Back of the Tournament – Awarded by Justin Morgan – Joeannha Purcell
  • Best Forward of the Tournament – Awarded by Justin Morgan – Aiesha Leigh Smalley
  • Player of the Tournament – Awarded by Luisa Avaiki – Georgia Hale

New Zealand Rugby League is proud to announce that Luisa Avaiki, former Kiwi Ferns World Cup-winning Captain, current Kiwi Ferns Assistant Coach, NZ Order of Merit recipient and current Head Coach of the WNRL Warriors team, has been granted a Prime Minister’s Scholarship enabling her to take on the role of Head of Women’s Rugby League.

Avaiki has been involved in rugby league for more than three decades dating back to her Kiwi Ferns debut in 1995. Sporting the Black and White jersey, she’s lifted the Women’s Rugby League World Cup three times (2000, 2003, 2008), two of them as captain. This year, she was made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2019 New Years Honours for her ongoing services to rugby league and the women’s game.

Luisa has held development and welfare roles at both the Melbourne Storm and New Zealand Rugby League, just recently as the Women’s Wellbeing and Development Manager.

Her new role as Head of Women’s Rugby League will see her develop and drive the women’s rugby league strategy throughout New Zealand. Luisa will work closely with NZRL zones and districts, further strengthening the female game at a community level right the way through to the elite pathways, at the same time, still continuing as the Kiwi Ferns Assistant Coach and Warriors NRLW Head Coach.

“I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to contribute further to the women’s game and it highlights NZRL’s dedication to seeing our female game thrive at all levels,” Avaiki said.

“It’s exciting to see the women’s game experience significant growth I’m really looking forward to what we’ll be able to achieve for all girls across the country involved in rugby league.”

CEO of NZRL, Greg Peters, said: “Luisa has already contributed so much to rugby league, she’s an inspiration to many of the women who play our game and she has an undeniable passion for what she does; therefore we couldn’t think of a better person to take on this new role. We’re extremely lucky to have someone of her calibre on board, especially during a time of such important growth.”


The NRL has confirmed the three pools which will make up the inaugural Downer Rugby League World Cup 9s Sydney 2019, to be held at Bankwest Stadium in Parramatta on October 18-19.

NRL CEO Todd Greenberg said today the format of the pools would ensure key rivals face each other in the fast-paced, action-packed short form of Rugby League.

During the official launch of the tournament today in Parramatta, it was revealed that:

  • Group A would include Australia, New Zealand, PNG and USA
  • Group B would include England, France, Lebanon and Wales
  • Group C would include Tonga, Samoa, Fiji and Cook Islands

Mr Greenberg said the two highest-placed teams from Group A would progress to the Semi Finals, alongside the winners of Groups B and C.

The two highest-placed teams from the Women’s pool, which features Australia, New Zealand, England and PNG, will feature in the women’s final.

The Downer Rugby League World Cup 9s Sydney 2019 was formally launched today in Parramatta featuring Damien Cook (Kangaroos), Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (Kiwis), James Segeyaro (PNG), Maika Sivo (Fiji), Michael Jennings (Tonga), Anthony Milford (Samoa), Alex Glenn (Cook Islands), as well as Isabelle Kelly (Jillaroos) and Raecene McGregor (Kiwi Ferns).

Mr Greenberg said the pools were chosen to ensure exciting match-ups between traditional rivals.

He added all teams would play one match on Friday and a minimum of two matches on Saturday.

“The World Cup 9s will feature the most exciting players to watch in the game, representing their nations and their cultures,” Mr Greenberg said.

“It will be a festival of Rugby League and the fast-paced, frenetic nature of Nines will be fantastic to watch.

“This is Rugby League rebooted – a unique and exciting way to showcase our wonderful athletes.”

Mr Greenberg also detailed some of the key rules which will be in place during the Downer Rugby League World Cup 9s:


  • A Bonus Zone, giving teams the chance for a five-point try, will be included
  • A 20-40 rule, in addition to the 40-20
  • A 25-second shot clock on drop-kicked conversions
  • Golden Try in the event of a match drawn after regulation time

NZRL CEO, Greg Peters, said: “It’s an exciting time for our international game, we’re looking forward to watching both our Ferns and Kiwis take the field in what will be an entertaining weekend of fast-paced rugby league action.”

Two-day passes for the Downer Rugby League World Cup 9s will go on sale for the General Public on Wednesday (July 24).

Single-day passes will be available to purchase for the General Public from August 7.

Tickets will be available via nrl.com/tickets.

The 12 teams in the men’s competition and four teams in the women’s tournament will compete across 28 matches and 12 hours of action. Every men’s and women’s match will be broadcast live across the two days of competition.

By Will Evans – Canterbury Rugby League

Cushla Nukunuku has more motivation than most of Canterbury’s rookie representatives ahead of the NZRL National Women’s Tournament.

The Linwood Keas prop/second-rower will make her provincial debut in Auckland next week, which shapes as the highlight of a season she has dedicated to the memory of her mum, Lena Nukunuku, who passed away two years ago this month.

“This is probably going to be my last year playing, but I’m really happy that I’ve finally got to represent Canterbury and play for my mum – I feel like she would be so proud of me,” Nukunuku says.

Nukunuku reveals that she gained her initial first-hand exposure to rugby league thanks to her mum, who played for Woolston Rams.

“When I think about it, I love the smell of deep heat and liniment – it reminds me of going into the changing sheds.

“I played a bit of social league way back when, but there was no competition then in Canterbury. Woolston Rams used to have a past versus present game, so I would play for mum.”

The 32-year-old mother of three has earned a maiden call-up for Canterbury midway through her third season of rugby league and is thriving in the representative environment so far.

“I love it, actually. You get to know the players from the other clubs better,” she explains.

“(Usually) you only get to meet them on the field – and it’s like ‘I’m gonna smash you’. Now it’s like, ‘yeah smash her – but don’t hurt her!’”

“I played rugby (union) for eight years and felt like I wasn’t really learning as much anymore, so three seasons ago I thought I’d give league a go, and I love it.”

If Nukunuku transfers the passion she displays at club level to the rep stage, Canterbury’s rivals are in for a torrid time at the National Women’s Tournament.

She played in Linwood’s 2017 CRL Grand Final loss to Papanui and backed up for last year’s decider, when the Keas turned the tables on the Tigers 36-33 in an epic contest at Rugby League Park.

“Green and black is life to me – Linwood Bulls (rugby union team) and Linwood Keas is just home.

“(Winning the Grand Final) was the best feeling in the world. I can’t even express to the girls that are just new to the Keas this year about how much different it is when you go and play a Grand Final. It’s just amazing.”

Nukunuku has tried to take on more a leadership role in a new-look Keas squad in 2019.

“I feel like the smallest things in someone’s game – like at kick-offs, standing on the right angle so if you do drop the ball it goes backwards – it’s a small thing, but it could be (the difference in) winning a game,” she says.

“We’ve got Saga (Manu) and Lupe (Manu) who play for the Keas and also got selected for Canterbury, and I try to take them under my wing. Lovely, lovely girls and just small things like that, they’re like, ‘oh, that’s awesome’.”

But despite being one of the older members of both the Linwood and Canterbury teams, Nukunuku still finds inspiration from some of her experienced teammates.

She nominated one current clubmate, Kiwi Ferns and Samoa rep Sui Pauaraisa, and one ex-Kea, Cassie Siataga, now with Burnham Chevaliers, as her biggest rugby league inspirations.

“Sui, who doesn’t look up to her? She’s my age and she’s just 110 percent all the time. Even at training. She’s always lifting girls up.

“Not having Sui around because she’s constantly travelling with the Samoa league and rugby teams is a bit of a downer, so I’m looking forward to her coming back (for Canterbury). It’s going to be really good for the team, for morale.

“She’s played for Samoa, played for the Warriors and got called up for the Kiwis last year as well, so it brings a lot of good vibes for our girls.

“I also look up to ‘BC’ (Siataga). I just think she’s an amazing player, she just makes things look so easy. It’s almost like she glides on the field – anything with the ball really, she’s just really talented.

“If you ever need tips, she’s always willing to help out whoever. It doesn’t matter what team you’re on.”

But reuniting with Pauaraisa and Siataga is just one of myriad reasons Nukunuku is buzzing ahead of next week’s competition.

She is set to have her own personal cheer squad on the sidelines at Pulman Park.

“I’m trying to convince my partner to take some time off work for him and the kids to come up, because his family is from Huntly,” Nukunuku says.

“They’re all coming, his friends from there are coming to watch.

“As a mum, it’s sad because we leave on Thursday and I’m going to miss my kids, but then it’s also a bit of holiday. But you’ve got to work really hard as well.

Nukunuku relishes the physical side of rugby league. A winger in the 2017 Grand Final and a centre in last year’s decider, increasing her involvement in the more confrontational aspects of the game was behind her shift to the forwards this season.

But with up to five games to play over three days next weekend for the Canterbury team – who are aiming to build on their impressive third-place finishes in 2017-18 – as well as squaring off against the best players from the North Island for the first time, the National Women’s Tournament looms as a new challenge for Nukunuku.

“I’ve had tournaments for Canterbury Maori for rugby (union), but I haven’t had a full-on tournament like this before,” she enthuses.

“I’m excited to see the other teams and what they bring to the tournament – and also be able to smash people and not get in trouble!

“Even though I’ll be like, ‘oh snap, am I going to be at (the opposition players’) level’, I’m so, so excited. I’m constantly thinking about how I’m going to go into a tackle, or how am I going to chase that person down.

“All in all, I’m trying not to psyche myself out, but I think it’s excitement more than anything.”

The Mike Linton-coached Canterbury team’s NZRL National Women’s Tournament campaign kicks off at Pulman Park in Auckland on Friday, July 26 with an 11am clash against Mid Central Vipers, before facing the might of Akarana Falcons at 3pm.

Rugby League World Cup 2021 (RLWC2021) has today revealed the confirmed nations who will participate in the women’s tournament in 2021.

The announcements were made across the tournament’s official social media channels, we saw each of the eight individual nations revealed with a unique video showcasing what each nation will bring to RLWC2021.

Set to be the most inclusive rugby league event ever, RLWC2021 will see the men’s, women’s and wheelchair tournaments played concurrently for the first time. International nations were asked to submit their expressions of interest earlier this year for RLWC2021 and Rugby League International Federation (RLIF) representatives to review.

The nations confirmed for the women’s tournament are:

  • England (Hosts)
  • Australia (Holders)
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • Cook Islands
  • France
  • New Zealand
  • Papua New Guinea

Each nation was assessed against set criteria that reviewed their current international and domestic infrastructure, their plans for growth and their potential impact on RLWC2021. The draw for the tournament will take place in November 2019.

Speaking about the announcement, Jon Dutton, Chief Executive of the Rugby League World Cup 2021, said: “We’re delighted the three-times world champions, the Kiwi Ferns, will be taking part in the biggest and best Women’s RLWC in 2021. The Kiwi Ferns have fantastic quality in their ranks, and it will be brilliant to see them showcased to the world, here in England.

“I would like to congratulate each nation that has been chosen to take part in the women’s tournament. We had some fantastic submissions and unfortunately, we couldn’t say yes to each nation, however, we’re confident the chosen nations will play their role in delivering the greatest, and most inclusive, Rugby League World Cup of all time. It is especially pleasing to see an inaugural South American nation compete in a Rugby League World Cup”

RLIF Chief Executive Officer Nigel Wood added: “Women’s sport is growing exponentially, and rugby league is no exception. The fact that we were oversubscribed for this competition demonstrates the immense appetite for our sport. We are encouraged that female athletes around the world are participating and rising to the challenge of skill, fitness, strength and mental toughness provided by rugby league.

“I would like to add my congratulations to each nation and wish them all the best in their build-up to what will be a fantastic event in 2021 and to thank all the nations who participated in this process and we hope that they will join in the women’s Emerging Nations World Cup, which will be a part of the Festival of World Cups 2021.

“We have to ensure that there is clear pathway developed quickly to cater for a fuller women’s international programme with events organised locally, regionally and globally, all leading to a full qualification process for the RLWC2025.”

RLWC2021 will begin with the men’s opening fixture featuring England at St James’ Park on Saturday 23rd October 2021. The women’s tournament will begin at Anfield on Saturday 13th November 2021 and the wheelchair tournament will begin on Sunday 14th November 2021 at the Copper Box Arena, with England both featuring in those opening fixtures. The event will finish with a finals weekend (27th-28th November) with the wheelchair tournament concluding at the M&S Bank Arena and men’s and women’s final held as a double-header at Old Trafford.

When did you debut for the Kiwi Ferns?

2008 World Cup

How many tests have you played?

14 I think. 2008 – 2013 I played in two World Cups and all the tests in-between. Then I took a break and have just returned this year.

How does it feel to represent your country?

It’s the highest honour in our sport and the feeling is nothing but pure pride. 

Can you tell us a bit more about your job in youth justice? What does that entail?

My role as a Youth Justice Coordinator is to hold Young People aged 14-17 accountable for their alleged criminal offending.

I convene and facilitate Family Group Conferences that involve the Young Person, Whanau and professionals i.e. Lawyers, Police, Social Workers, Victims, Lay Advocates and Community Organisations etc.

Collectively our main goal is for our young people not to re-offend, we try to do that by building a support system and plan around the young person and their whanau. Having the victim of their crime participate in this restorative justice process is a key component to positive outcomes for all.  

Offences can range from an unlawful getting into a motor vehicle which is a penalty of two years imprisonment right through to aggravated robbery which is 14 years imprisonment. 

How long have you been doing this?

I have worked with young people in different capacities for the past six years but have been in this particular role for one year.

Why did you get into this occupation?

After working in a corporate space for so long, I wanted to utilise the skills I learnt there and invest these skills into young people and their whanau in my community. I grew up in Mangere, so working in South Auckland with our most vulnerable is familiar and my way of giving back to a community I love.

What do you love most about it?

I love seeing young people and their whanau succeed!!

Do find it challenging to balance rugby league and your professional career? If so, why?

Previously I did, I have only returned to league this year after a 6-year break as I wanted to focus on my family and career.

For me, balancing family life and Rugby League is much harder than juggling my professional career. It’s harder because we have a young family and my husband does shift work, so my training schedule one week is early mornings and then the following week it will be nights after the kids have gone to bed, plus all the normal duties in between but I love my life and my family – we know how to make it work for us.

This year, the National Women’s Tournament will take place Friday 26th – Sunday 28th July at Pulman Park, Auckland.

Why do you play league? 

My bread and butter was actually in Rugby Union, and I decided to venture over to Rugby League this year because I wanted to learn a new code, meet new people, test my capabilities both skill and character to truly see whether I had what it took to play professionally.

What got you into the game?

Funnily enough, it was through current Kiwi Fern and Warriors representative Georgia Hale and also former Kiwi Fern Alex Cook that planted the seed so I put my hand up to give league a go. I played Rugby Union both 15s and 17s with Georgia & Alex and over the years they had dropped the idea here and there, now it’s really happening.

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced when it comes to playing league?

There are quite a few challenges that I have to face in Rugby League. In terms of the game itself; when you’ve only ever played one sport it can be extremely difficult changing your mindset to fit the code. Everything I have been taught in Rugby Union has basically gone out the door. For example, Learning new terminology, style of running, running lines, strategy of play and new techniques – especially around tackling & playing the ball.

To illustrate how green I am to league I didn’t know what “markers” were and that you had to roll the ball between your legs with your foot. Having to remind myself to get back 10m on defence and that you don’t form rucks at a breakdown or form mauls whilst only have six tackles is mentally challenging to break those behaviours.

From where I started to now, I am utterly thankful for the support and guidance from Victor Heke, my coach and mentor, and I’m especially grateful to my teammates from Mt Albert Rugby League Club. I have learnt so much and been embraced by them as though I was their family member. This has immensely helped me to become comfortable in the game and showcase what I am capable of.

Because I’ve only been in Rugby League for a few months and have been given the highest accolade to represent the Warriors in NRL and also New Zealand means another big challenge is actually having to learn the game at sprint rather than picking up things over seasons in which generally happens.

What advice would you give to young girls wanting to get into league?

I would encourage them to jump in with both feet, even if you’re scared because I’m an adult and I still get scared of the unknown. The best part about trying something new is that you can say you’ve done it. It’s a really brave thing to put yourself into a new environment with new people and for me, I’ve been blessed with a whole new group of friends that are now family, I’ve learnt new skills and found a true love for Rugby League.

So take a deep breath, be brave and jump in with both feet.

What’s your occupation?

Cultural Strategist in an IT Firm

What does this entail?

My role involves looking at user behaviours within organisations in order to better implement technology. My drive for what I do is about people. In my eyes, the most important thing in this world is people and as the demand for technology continues to increase, I believe we need to keep people at the forefront of our priorities.

Furthermore, I am also designing alongside my Aunt, an App that requires a large portion of time and energy.

How long have you been doing this?

4.5 years at V-dito

What got you into it?

Family. I studied psychology and I ended up falling into the role. I knew nothing about technology but I do understand human behaviour.

What do you love most about it?

There are two things: Firstly, helping my family prosper financially. Secondly, working with people because I genuinely care about putting people first through empathy, authenticity and logic.

By incorporating both of these means, I am theoretically in my dream job.

Do you find balancing your job and rugby league difficult? If so, why?

The challenges I face in regards to my career is that I work 24/7. With my Rugby League timetable and requirements, I can work remotely, but it doesn’t mean work stops. Whether I’m on my cellphone or laptop, I am connected at all times. People don’t necessarily understand why I do what I do, and to me that’s fine. Why I work so hard is because the business I work for is a family business so the biggest motivator for me is my family. We’ve come a less than fortunate place and for me, we aren’t going back. In my eyes, if our business is successful, my entire family prospers.

Nothing means more to me than making my family proud and with me playing and training at the highest level possible in league and working to feed the business; it is a privilege. I continuously pinch myself to see if I’m dreaming.

What’s your professional goal?

My professional goal is to eventually start my own business.

What’s your rugby league goal?

I want to silence the naysayers and prove that through hard work, you can achieve great things. I don’t have the Kalyn Ponga flare or a crazy Benji Marshall whack, but I have an insane work ethic.

I’ve had four ACL reconstructions on my right knee (the last one was 2017) I was told that I would never be able to play a pivoting sport again and at that point, I decided what my body is capable of doing and through that mentality and never give up attitude that has got me onto this platform.

I’m a firm believer that we are the decider of what we can and cannot do. 

This year, the National Women’s Tournament will take place Friday 26th – Sunday 28th July at Pulman Park, Auckland.

Richard Becht & Photosport.nz

The Warriors have pulled off a huge coup by signing New Zealand sporting superstar, Honey Hireme to headline their 22-strong squad for the second WNRL Premiership starting September.

The double rugby league-rugby union international and current Kiwi Ferns captain has been secured after appearing for the St George Illawarra Dragons in the inaugural WNRL last season.

“We’re absolutely thrilled to have Honey in our squad this year,” said Warriors head coach Luisa Avaiki.

“She’s a great athlete and an outstanding performer in all her sports.

“Honey is a fantastic example with the way she goes about her career, still maintaining the highest standards even after all the years she has been competing at the highest level.”

The 38-year-old Putaruru-born Hireme was again in superb form leading the Kiwi Ferns to a 46-8 win over Fetu Samoa at Mount Smart Stadium on June 22. She scored two tries and made 214 metres from 19 runs.

A disability sport adviser in Hamilton, Hireme is the standout signing in the Warriors’ 2019 squad. One of 11 new faces signed, she’s also one of 16 players who were in last month’s Kiwi Ferns and Fetu Samoa Test squads.

Among the other newcomers are former Fiji rugby union sevens stars Roela Radiniyavuni and Timaima Ravisa who clinched contracts after originally being scouted in Fiji. They’ve both being playing in the Auckland club competition this season.

Another new signing is Canterbury’s Charntay Poko, who made her Test debut in the halves against Samoa, while experienced former Kiwi Ferns winger Atawhai Tupaea makes a return to top-level football after giving birth to her second child.

Mosgiel-born Jules Newman, a 30-year-old cultural strategist, has been signed after she switched to rugby league from rugby union only three months ago. She immediately impressed in the code earning selection in the Kiwi Ferns’ 19-strong Test squad to face Samoa.

Apart from Hireme and Newman, other occupations listed by the squad members include mother, police, fitness co-ordinator, teacher aide, youth justice, student liaison officer, student, community co-ordinator, customer support and freight logistics.

Avaiki, who has Kiwi Ferns head coach Justin Morgan as assistant coach this season, said the squad would assemble in early August to train ahead of the WNRL starting on September 13-14.

She said the players’ focus had been on local club football. A big contingent of the signed players will be involved in the Auckland grand final between the Richmond Roses and Papakura Sisters at Mount Smart Stadium No 2 on Sunday (2.30pm kick-off).

Next on the agenda is the New Zealand Rugby League’s national women’s tournament at Bruce Pulman Park in Papakura from July 26-28.



BILLY JEAN ALE (Akarana, Mount Albert Lions)

MADISON BARTLETT (Akarana, Richmond Roses)

GEORGIA HALE (Akarana, Richmond Roses)

HONEY HIREME (Wai-Coa-Bay Stallions, Hamilton City Tigers)

AMBER KANI (Counties Manukau, Manurewa Marlins)

ONJEURLINA LEIATAUA (Counties Manukau, Otahuhu Leopards)

HILDA MARIU (Counties Manukau, Papakura Sisters)

VA’ANESSA MOLIA-FRASER (Akarana, Richmond Roses)

JULES NEWMAN (Akarana, Mount Albert Lions)

APII NICHOLLS (Counties Manukau, Papakura Sisters)

TANIKA-JAZZ NOBLE-BELL (Akarana, Mount Albert)


KANYON PAUL (Wai-Coa-Bay Stallions, Hamilton City Tigers)

CHARNTAY POKO (Akarana, Richmond Roses)


TIMAIMA RAVISA (Richmond Roses)

KRYSTAL ROTA (Counties Manukau, Papakura Sisters)

TASIA SEUMANUFAGAI (Victoria, Combined Affiliated States)

AIESHALEIGH SMALLEY (Counties Manukau, Otahuhu Leopards)

CRYSTAL TAMARUA (Akarana, Richmond Roses)

ATAWHAI TUPAEA (Counties Manukau, Papakura Sisters)

KATHLEEN WHARTON KEREMETE (Counties Manukau, Papakura Sisters)

The annual NZRL National Women’s Tournament sees the best female rugby league talent from across the country come together to represent their zones in Auckland.

This year, the National Women’s Tournament will take place Friday 26th – Sunday 28th July at Pulman Park, Auckland.






RD Date Team 1 VS Team 2 Field Time
1 26 July Counties Manukau Stingrays vs Auckland Vulcans Dev 2 11.00 am
1 26 July Canterbury vs Miid-Central Vipers 3 11.00 am
1 26 July Akarana Falcons vs Wai-Coa-Bay Stallions 1 12.15 pm


RD Date Team 1 VS Team 2 Field Time
2 26 July Mid-Central Vipers vs Counties Manukau Stingrays 1 14.00 pm
2 26 July Wai-Coa-Bay Stallions vs Auckland Vulcans Dev 2 15.00 pm
2 26 July Akarana Falcons vs Canterbury 3 15.00 pm



RD Date Team 1 VS Team 2 Field Time
3 27 July Wai-Coa-Bay Stallions vs Mid-Central Vipers 3 09.30 am
3 27 July Counties Manukau Stingrays vs Akarana Falcons 2 09.30 am
3 27 July Canterbury vs Auckland Vulcans Dev 1 10.30 am


RD Date Team 1 VS Team 2 Field Time
Game 2


27 July 1st Group B vs 2nd Group A 3 13:00 pm
Game 1
27 July 1st Group A vs 2nd Group B 1 13:00 pm



RD Date Team 1 VS Team 2 Field Time
5th/6th Play off 28 July 3rd Group A vs 3rd Group B 3 10.30 am
3rd /4th Play off 28 July Loser Game 1 vs Loser Game 2 2 11.30 am
Grand Final 28 July Winner Game 1 vs Winner Game 2 1 13.05 pm





Kiwi Ferns centre Kiana Takairangi followed in her brother Brad’s footsteps by scoring for New Zealand on debut in the comprehensive 46-8 win over Samoa.

But Kiana went a step further and scored a brace at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday. Coincidently her first Test points were against the same country as older brother, when he scored a try on debut for the Kiwis against Samoa in the 2017 World Cup.

Kiana’s speed and a nifty left-foot step in producing her two four-pointers helped the Ferns jump to 26-0 lead after 29 minutes.

The Samoans were finding it difficult to match the Ferns skills, especially when centre Honey Hireme fends off two players with her right arms on the way to the white line.

The Samoans at least went into half-time with something to show for a hard 40 minutes.

Billy-Jean Ale came off the bench to score in the 38th minute but the road back was still a lengthy one, down 26-4 at the break.

But a good way to start was by being the first to score in the second half, when winger Moana Fineaso-Levi pushed through two defenders to plant the ball in the 47th to make it 26-8.

But the gap quickly widened again as Hireme scored her second (51st), winger Madison Bartlett spun out of a tackle (55th) in the left corner, former NSW Origin utility Nita Maynard (58th) crossed, and suddenly it was 40-8.

Maynard was ineligible for NSW this year due to a rule change on eligibility of Kiwi players playing in the NRLW and Harvey Norman club championships.

Ferns fullback Apii Nicholls scored in the 73rd minute to wrap up the nine tries-to-two victory.

It was Samoa’s first women’s international in eight years – the last was in 2011 against Australia in Apia. They had not played the Ferns since 2008.


Waikato rugby league achieves a special double by providing captains of both the New Zealand Kiwis and the Kiwi Ferns in today’s international double header at Mount Smart Stadium.

Hamilton-born, Ngaruawahia-raised Dallin Watene-Zelezniak’s junior club was College Old Boys in Hamilton.

He captains the Kiwis for the fifth time in today’s Oceania Cup Test against Mate Ma’a Tonga after making his captaincy debut in last October’s clash against Australia at the same ground.

Putaruru-born and raised Honey Hireme brings a Waikato flavour to the Kiwi Ferns’ captaincy today. Hireme, who now lives in Hamilton, played her junior rugby league for the Putaruru Dragons and is playing for the Hamilton City Tigers this year.


Kiwi Ferns team changes

Kiwi Ferns head coach Justin Morgan has shuffled his line-up for today’s international against Fetu Samoa at Mount Smart Stadium (3.10pm kick-off).

Debutante Charntay Poko was named in jersey #18 when the team was officially submitted on Tuesday but following the week’s training sessions, Morgan has brought her in to start in the halves with Raecene McGregor.

That sees Raquel Anderson-Pitman (#6) moved to the interchange while there’s also a change in the starting front row with Amber Paris Hall (#15) swapped in for Aieshaleigh Smalley (#8).

The bench is Anderson-Pitman, Smalley, Nita Maynard and Crystal Tamarua with Amber Kani and Jules Newman the 18th and 19th players.

The New Zealand Kiwis are confirmed to line up 1-17 as named on Tuesday with Zane Tetevano and Kieran Foran in #18 and #19.

While Kani has missed the playing 17 for the Kiwi Ferns, eight of her 2018 Warriors WNRL team-mates are in the side. The Vodafone Warriors also provide three members of the coaching staff in Justin Morgan and Luisa Avaiki plus trainer Mark Harvey. The eight players lining up are Apii Nicholls, Hilda Mariu, Krystal Rota, Annetta Nuuausala, Georgia Hale, Anderson-Pitman, Smalley and Tamarua.

In a reversal of their Kiwi Ferns roles, Avaiki will again coach the Warriors in the WNRL this year while Morgan will be her assistant.

The Vodafone Warriors also provide two of Kiwi head coach Michael Maguire’s assistant coaches in Stacey Jones and Nathan Cayless as well as three players in Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Ken Maumalo and Leeson Ah Mau.


Previous clashes against Tonga

Tonight’s Test will be the sixth between the Kiwis and Mate Ma’a Tonga.

Results since the first in 1995:

1995 | Kiwis 25, Tonga 24 at Wilderspool, Warrington (RLWC)

1999 | Kiwis 74, Tonga 0 at Carlaw Park, Auckland

2008 | Kiwis 56, Tonga 8 at Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland

2009 | Kiwis 40, Tonga 24 at International Stadium, Rotorua

2017 | Kiwis 22, Tonga 28 at Waikato Stadium, Auckland


Sir Peter Leitch Challenge Trophy at stake

The Kiwis v Tonga Test is the first in the new Oceania Cup competition.

The Kiwis will meet the Kangaroos at the end of the season and Tonga will play the Australians as well.

Also at stake tonight is the Sir Peter Leitch Challenge Trophy.

This was first contested as the Peter Leitch QSM Challenge Trophy in 2008 when the Kiwis met Tonga at Mount Smart Stadium.

A new version of the trophy was struck after Sir Peter was knighted. It’s at stake whenever the Kiwis play island nations in non-Rugby League World Cup internationals.


Marshall not most experienced Kiwi

While the 34-year-old Benji Marshall made his Kiwi Test debut as long ago as 2005, he won’t be the New Zealand side’s most experienced international on the field today.

That honour belongs to halves partner Shaun Johnson who is Marshall’s junior by six years.

Johnson (28) will play his 30th Test today while Marshall, off the international scene for seven years, lines up for the 28th time.

In fact, two other Kiwi players have also made more Test appearances than Marshall. Props Jesse Bromwich and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves both take their Test tallies to 29 in this contest.

Richard Becht & Photosport.nz

Kiwi Ferns Head Coach Justin Morgan has named two debutantes for Saturday’s test against Fetu Samoa. Madison Bartlett and Kiana Takairangi will take the field in the Black and White jersey for the first time in the inaugural Oceania Cup clash at Mount Smart Stadium.

Sydney-based Takairangi, who plays for the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks, will join her brother Brad Takairangi as a Kiwi international.

Bartlett, a former New Zealand age-group touch representative and current Richmond Rovers player, will start on the wing with Takairangi joining Kiwi Ferns captain Honey Hireme in the centres.

The much-anticipated match between Samoa and the Ferns will kick off at 3:10pm, this Saturday at Mt Smart Stadium.


Kiwi Ferns: 1 Apii Nicholls, 2 Madison Bartlett, 3 Honey Hireme (c), 4 Kiana Takairangi, 5 Hilda Mariu, 6 Raquel Anderson-Pitman, 7 Raecene Mcgregor, 8 Annetta-Claudia Nuuausala, 9 Krystal Rota, 10 Aeishaleigh Smalley, 11 Kathleen Wharton, 12 Teuila Fotu-Moala, 13, Georgia Hale. Interchange: 14 Nita Maynard, 15 Amber Paris-Hall, 16 Amber Kani, 17 Crystal Tamarua, 18 Charntay Poko, 19 Jules Newman.

Benji Marshall and Shaun Johnson have been listed as the starting halves combination for the New Zealand Kiwis’ Oceania Cup Test against Mate Ma’a Tonga at Mount Smart Stadium in Auckland on Saturday, June 22 (5.40pm kick-off).

Head coach Michael Maguire has named Marshall (34) in the No 7 jersey for his 28th Test, seven years after his last. Johnson is listed in the No 6 jersey for his 30th international.

The Kiwis were required to submit their team tonight despite having just their first field session at Mount Smart Stadium today. Of the starting team used in the 34-0 third Test win over England in Leeds last November, four players are missing.

Captain Dallin Watene-Zelezniak has been named on the wing replacing Jamayne Isaako with Roger Tuivasa-Sheck at fullback in his first Test since the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.

Marshall replaces the unavailable Kodi Nikorima while debutant Briton Nikora and Kenny Bromwich – on the interchange in Leeds – come into the starting back row to replace the injured Kevin Proctor and Adam Blair.

The extended bench comprises Jahrome Hughes, Leeson Ah Mau, Nelson Asofa-Solomona, James Fisher-Harris, Zane Tetevano and Kieran Foran.

Kiwi Ferns coach Justin Morgan has also named a strong and clinical team to take on Fetu Samoa on Saturday (3.10pm). It features debutantes Madison Bartlett and Kiana Takairangi.

The Kiwi Ferns also trained at Mount Smart Stadium today.


5.40pm, Saturday, June 22, 2019
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
Referee: Ben Cummins (Australia)


(Vodafone Warriors)
(Vodafone Warriors)
(Wests Tigers)
(Sydney Roosters)
(Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs)
(Cronulla Sutherland Sharks)
(Wests Tigers)
(Melbourne Storm)
(Melbourne Storm)
(Sydney Roosters)
(Melbourne Storm)
(Cronulla Sutherland Sharks)
(Sydney Roosters)
(Melbourne Storm)
(Vodafone Warriors)
(Melbourne Storm)
(Penrith Panthers)
(Sydney Roosters)
(Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs)


For full player profiles please click here – https://bit.ly/2KYd6wS


Player Club Kiwi No Tests for NZ
LEESON AH MAU Vodafone Warriors 812 5
NELSON ASOFA-SOLOMONA Melbourne Storm 804 5
JESSE BROMWICH Melbourne Storm 775 28
KENNEATH BROMWICH Melbourne Storm 796 7
JAMES FISHER-HARRIS Penrith Panthers 801 5
KIERAN FORAN Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs 757 21
JAHROME HUGHES Melbourne Storm
SHAUN JOHNSON Cronulla Sutherland Sharks 774 29
ISAAC LIU Sydney Roosters 805 7
JOSEPH MANU Sydney Roosters 815 4
BENJI MARSHALL Wests Tigers 717 27
ESAN MARSTERS Wests Tigers 809 5
KEN MAUMALO Vodafone Warriors 810 5
BRITON NIKORA Cronulla Sutherland Sharks
BRANDON SMITH Melbourne Storm 816 4
ZANE TETEVANO Sydney Roosters
ROGER TUIVASA-SHECK Vodafone Warriors 779 16
JARED WAEREA-HARGREAVES Sydney Roosters 755 28
DALLIN WATENE-ZELEZNIAK Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs 794 11



3.10pm, Saturday, June 22, 2019
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
Referee: Paki Parkinson (New Zealand)





Photo – photosport

SKY Sport and New Zealand Rugby League have today announced a new partnership for 2019 that is set to further enhance the game of rugby league in New Zealand.


This partnership is in addition to the long-standing broadcast agreement that has showcased rugby league in New Zealand and abroad for many years.


The SKY Sport logo will be proudly displayed on the jerseys of the Kiwis, Kiwi Ferns and Junior Kiwis, as well as on the Kiwi Ferns’ shorts ahead of the Oceania Cup that kicks off this Saturday with the Kiwi Ferns taking on Fetu Samoa, followed by the much-anticipated rematch between Mate Ma‘a Tonga and the Kiwis.


NZRL CEO, Greg Peters, says this partnership with SKY Sport couldn’t have come at a better time.

“Like other codes, we are experiencing an explosion in the women’s game, and this high-profile partnership will shine a brighter spotlight on this.


“Their support will enable our Kiwi Ferns and Junior Kiwis to take the field in more fixtures this year than would have otherwise been possible. Our Kiwi Ferns will play in the upcoming inaugural World Nines in Sydney and take the field again against the Jillaroos at the doubleheader in Wollongong on October 25th. Our Junior Kiwis are also set to take on their Australian counterparts towards the back end of the year as well.


“We are very grateful to have SKY Sport on board to enable further momentum for these teams. We’re excited about what we can achieve this year as a result, as well as going forward, as we work towards a long-term partnership. Thank you SKY Sport for your ongoing and invaluable support.” Greg concludes.


SKY Director of Sport, Tex Teixeira says: “SKY Sport has been a long term supporter of rugby league in New Zealand and we’re thrilled to be able to help increase the number of Kiwi Ferns and Junior Kiwis matches being played in 2019, to have SKY Sport on the jerseys is a proud moment for us.”


Kiwi Ferns head coach Justin Morgan has tonight named his 19-strong squad ahead of their clash against Fetu Samoa to launch the inaugural Oceania Cup at Mount Smart Stadium on June 22.

The all-Pacific doubleheader will see the Kiwi Ferns take on Fetu Samoa for the first time in 11 years ahead of the much-anticipated rematch between the New Zealand Kiwis and Mate Ma‘a Tonga.

The Kiwi Ferns will be captained by 2018 Kiwi Ferns Player of the Year and veteran centre Honey Hireme, who first wore the black and white jersey 17 years ago.

She’s joined by a number of stand-out players from last year’s blockbuster Trans-Tasman Triple Header including 2017 Kiwi Ferns Player of the Year and star fullback Apii Nicholls, centre Amber Kani and front rowers Annetta Nuuausala and Aeishaleigh Smalley – all with the Warriors – plus St George Illawarra halfback Raecene McGregor, Sydney Roosters hooker Nita Maynard, Brisbane Broncos second rower Teuila Fotu-Moala and Warriors playmakers Georgia Hale and Raquel Anderson-Pitman.

Four Kiwi Ferns debutantes have been named including Jules Newman (Mt Albert), Madison Bartlett and Charntay Poko (Richmond Rovers) and Sydney based Kiana Takairangi.

“We’re really lucky to have that mix of leadership and young talent in the team,” said Morgan.

“The girls are eager to take the field again in the black and white and a lot of them are following on from last year’s triple header Test, which is a strength for us.

“The narrow loss to the Aussies still hurts and we know Samoa will come out firing, but we’ve got some great leaders who will bring that invaluable experience, coupled with exciting new debutantes, so we’ll be bringing our best game.

“We’re really looking forward to getting into camp and focusing all our efforts on the Test.”

Tickets are still available for the Oceania Cup doubleheader here.

Gates at Mount Smart Stadium will open at 2.00pm on June 22 with the Kiwi Ferns v Fetu Samoa match kicking off at 3.10pm and the New Zealand Kiwis and Mate Ma‘a Tonga match kicking off at 5.40pm.





















Photo – Photosport

The Kiwi Ferns will play the Fetu Samoa women’s team as part of a blockbuster All-Pacific double header on June 22 at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland.


The women’s match will enhance what will be an electric occasion as the New Zealand Kiwis take on Mate Ma‘a Tonga in the second match of the double-header – the highly-anticipated opening match of the Oceania Cup.


The women’s match will be the first time the two Pacific rivals have clashed in 11 years, with the Kiwi Ferns winning the last match between the two nations at the 2008 Women’s Rugby League World Cup in Brisbane.


New Zealand Rugby League Chief Executive Officer Greg Peters was thrilled to announce the match.


“The Kiwi Ferns versus Fetu Samoa match is going to enhance what is going to be a momentous occasion for Rugby League in New Zealand and the wider Pacific.”


“We’re really thrilled that players from both teams will have the opportunity to play in front of their friends, families and supporters.”


“The women’s game is a real priority and it’s key we give the Kiwi Ferns the opportunity to play in Aotearoa and inspire young girls across New Zealand who dream of pulling on the black and white jersey.”


Rugby League Samoa President Tagaloa Faafouina Su’a said he was delighted that Fetu Samoa would get to face top class opposition in the Kiwi Ferns.


“It’s great to have Fetu Samoa back playing 13-a-side Test Rugby League on what will be a really special occasion for our team.”


“Developing Fetu Samoa is a real focus for us, so to have our women playing on such a big stage is a real boost for the women’s game.”

Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development, Head of Major Events Stuart Turner says the announcement of Fetu Samoa as opponents for the Kiwi Ferns clash is the perfect complement to a blockbuster year of league events taking place in Auckland.


“We are excited to be in a position to host such an exciting array of teams, and provide a great platform to highlight women’s sports particularly while the secretariat for the International Working Group on Women and Sport is based here in Auckland,” he says.


“This historic double header will attract a strong crowd of supporters from throughout the country and the Pacific in one of our traditionally quieter months.”


Tickets go on sale for the double-header at Mt Smart Stadium on April 11. Fans can join the waitlist for early access to tickets at GBOceaniaTour.com.


The Kiwis-Mate Ma‘a Tonga clash is the first time the two teams will meet since Tonga shocked the Kiwis in Hamilton during the Rugby League World Cup.


Gates at Mt Smart Stadium will open at 4pm on June 22 with the Kiwi Ferns-Fetu Samoa match kicking off at 5pm.


The Oceania Cup opener between the New Zealand Kiwis and Mate Ma‘a Tonga will kick off at 7.30pm.

Auckland, New Zealand, March 18, 2018 – Vastly-experienced Justin Morgan has today been confirmed as Kiwi Ferns head coach through to the 2021 Women’s Rugby League World Cup.

The 43-year-old former Parramatta, Canberra and Warriors forward takes on the role after assisting the Kiwi Ferns with their preparation for last year’s one-off Test against the Australian Jillaroos.

His appointment comes at a time when the Kiwi Ferns have been confirmed to line up in end-of-season Tests against the Pacific Islands and the Jillaroos.

“Justin is the ideal coach to lead us forward and develop not only our female players but the coaching and support staff that will be involved in the Kiwi Ferns” said New Zealand Rugby League GM high performance Motu Tony.

“His vast experience as both a coach and player at professional and international level will bring valuable high-performance knowledge which will benefit the Kiwi Ferns and our women’s game in general.

“I look forward to working with Justin to prepare the Kiwi Ferns for the RLWC in 2021, grow the women’s game in New Zealand and prepare the next generation of players and staff capable of representing the Kiwi Ferns in the years to come.”

Tony said the Kiwi Ferns and women’s rugby league are a major priority for the NZRL.

“The 2021 World Cup is an opportunity to add to our three World Cup wins (2000, 2005 and 2008) and regain our status as the best international women’s team in the world,” he said.

After his playing days were ended prematurely, Morgan began a long coaching career which included seven seasons with Hull Kingston Rovers from 2005-2011. He has also been an assistant coach with Canberra, Melbourne and the Warriors as well as the New Zealand Kiwis.



New Zealand is set to get a massive injection of international rugby league matches in 2019, with the Great Britain Rugby League Lions tour of New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, and the inaugural Oceania Cup getting the green light.


The first match of the Oceania Cup has the New Zealand Kiwis going head-to-head with Mate Ma’a Tonga at Mt Smart in the re-match that everyone has been waiting for. The Kiwi Ferns will also take on a Pacific Island team on the same night. This mid-season clash is one of three Tests the Kiwis will play in New Zealand, with the end-of-season Test against the Kangaroos being played in Wollongong.


The inaugural Oceania Cup will be made up of Pool A – comprising New Zealand, Australia, and Tonga  – and Pool B – made up of Samoa, Fiji and Papua New Guinea.


Organisers also announced that the Great Britain Rugby League Lions will be in action in the southern hemisphere for the first time in 13 years, playing two Test matches against New Zealand (2 November at Eden Park and 9 November at Christchurch Stadium) and Tests against Tonga and Papua New Guinea.


New Zealand Rugby League CEO Greg Peters said he was “excited to see all the hard work behind the scenes come into fruition with more international rugby league content locked in for our country and our fans.”


“We could not be doing this without the support of New Zealand Government, the host cities and NZRL’s commercial partners so I’m incredibly grateful to all of them for making this possible.”


“Our rugby league community in New Zealand has been hoping for more international and Kiwis fixtures in our back yard for a while now so I’m pleased we’re able to deliver on this for them,”


“New Zealand Rugby League is also delighted to be bringing such an event to New Zealand that will also benefit the teams throughout the Pacific.”


RLIF Southern Hemisphere General Manager Jeremy Edwards was delighted to announce such a packed schedule.


“This international program is both exciting and ground-breaking and it is great to see the Great Britain Rugby League Lions following in the historic footprints of previous tours.”

“The Oceania Cup is an important step in creating a full international calendar that fans, players and commercial partners can enjoy.”


“It has taken a huge amount of work to deliver this and I commend the efforts of all those who have brought us to this point. It is a great platform for the international game in the Asia Pacific Region.”

Rugby League Players’ Association (RLPA) Chief Executive Officer Ian Prendergast says the Oceania Cup and Great Britain Rugby League Lions are fantastic additions to the International Rugby League calendar.


“It is fantastic that there will be significant international content in 2019, including new properties in the Nines and the Oceania Cup, as well as the Great Britain Rugby League Lions touring down under.”


“It reflects the enhanced profile, interest and competitiveness of International Rugby League. In particular, the Oceania Cup provides a tremendous new platform for the Pacific nations to compete on the world stage.”


“We have enjoyed working through the process with the RLIF and the nations to establish the schedule for 2019 and look forward to continuing these discussions when planning for future matches takes place.”


“The international game presents exciting opportunities for our members and through continued collaboration we look forward to further showcasing the wonderful rugby league talent we have in the game.”


Rugby Football League chief executive Ralph Rimmer said the return of the Great Britain Rugby League Lions was highly-anticipated.


“The return of the famous Great Britain jersey is something people have been talking about for a long time so this is an exciting announcement for us.”


“It’s 12 years since Great Britain last played a Test, and 13 since they last travelled to the southern hemisphere, for the Tri-Nations series of 2006.”


“There is such history and tradition around that Great Britain shirt, it’s great for the game to have it back and we’ll be committed to respecting and honouring that tradition.”


Note: Event organisers are grateful for the support for New Zealand government through the Major Events Development Fund, ATEED, H3 and ChristchurchNZ.


2019 Kiwis fixtures:


Saturday, 22 June – Kiwis v Mate Ma’a Tonga – Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland, New Zealand

Friday, 25 October – Kiwis v Kangaroos – WIN Stadium, Wollongong, Australia

Saturday, 2 November – Kiwis v Great Britain Rugby League Lions – Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand

Saturday, 9 November – Kiwis  v Great Britain Rugby League Lions – Christchurch Stadium, Christchurch, New Zealand




NZRL are now open to receiving applications of interest for the roles of Head Coach, Assistant Coach and Head Trainer for the Kiwi Ferns and the Junior Kiwis.

Applications close at 5pm on Monday 25 February 2019.

Kiwi Ferns Head Coach Job Description, click here.

Kiwi Ferns Assistant Coach Job Description, click here. 

Kiwi Ferns Head Trainer Job Description, click here. 

Junior Kiwis Head Coach Job Description, click here.

Junior Kiwis Assistant Coach Job Description, click here. 

Junior Kiwis Head Trainer Job Description, click here. 

For any enquiries about the roles or if you are interested in applying, please send your covering letter and coaching CV to: motu.tony@nzrl.co.nz before the allocated time and date.

Amongst those sports stars recognised in the New Year’s honours list was women’s rugby league legend Luisa Avaiki.

Avaiki has been involved in rugby league for more than three decades, dating back to when she first played for the Kiwi Ferns in 1995. She’s lifted the Women’s Rugby League World Cup three times (2000, 2003, 2008), two of them as captain and she continues to inspire the next generation of wahine toa to reach such heights as she did.

She went on to hold development and welfare roles at the Melbourne Storm and is currently the Women’s Wellbeing and Development Manager at New Zealand Rugby League, also coaching the women’s Warriors team in the WNRL.

“I was shocked but grateful,” Avaiki said. “I felt honoured because I have been in the game for a long time, and you go about doing your work because you’re passionate about it.

“I’m grateful I can still be a part of this game and help give back and contribute.”

Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Honey Hireme reign supreme at the 2018 New Zealand Rugby League Annual Awards announced on Sky Sport’s Kiwi League Show tonight.

Waerea-Hargreaves (Kiwi #755) had one of his best seasons in the black and white jersey, accumulating over 130 run metres for all four end-of-season Test matches in England, and proved crucial in the Kiwis historic 26-24 win over Australia.

Michael Maguire says: “As a senior player within the Kiwis camp, Jared put a lot of time into discussing the growth of the Kiwi team. He has immense passion towards where he wants to see the black and white jersey and this is a real quality of his,”

“Off the back of his brilliant season in club land, he was in a good position to play his best footy for the Kiwis and that’s exactly what he did. His experience has been invaluable in mentoring younger players to step up into international rugby league,” Maguire says.

The powerhouse prop capped off his 2018 NRL season with his second NRL premiership win, a title he was able to share with Kiwis teammate Joseph Manu (finalist for Kiwis Rookie of the Year).

In one of the biggest years to date for women’s rugby league, Honey Hireme was hard to go past when it came to crowning the Kiwi Ferns Player of the Year, an award she won back in 2012. As co-captain of the Kiwi Ferns alongside veteran teammate Laura Mariu, she crossed the ditch to play for the St George Illawarra Dragons in the inaugural NRL Women’s Premiership, an experience she says has benefitted her game.

“The addition of this year’s NRL competition was great for the women’s game. The fact that we could all come together in Kiwi Ferns camp following four weeks of competing in the elite space, was hugely beneficial when it came to pulling on the black and white jersey against the Jillaroos,”

“The more we can play at the top level, the better our game gets. I’m grateful for receiving this award but would also like to recognise the efforts of the other finalists (Kimiora Nati and Aieshaleigh Smalley) and our Kiwi Ferns teammates, my family for their undying support, management and coaching staff,” she says.

The Kiwis Rookie of the Year award was picked up by Kiwi #810 Ken Maumalo, a player who earnt his Kiwis call-up in June at Mile High Stadium before going on to play in all five 2018 Kiwis Test matches, scoring four tries. His impressive season with the Warriors and Kiwis attracted high praises from coach Michael Maguire and rightfully so, given he amassed 15 tackle breaks and 801 run metres over the three Tests he played against England.

“Both Ken and Jared are two players that are hungry for the Kiwis jersey to reach new heights and that’s pleasing,”

“It has been really enjoyable coaching Ken, the more he plays, the more he grows so I look forward to seeing what he does next year,” Maguire says.

Joining Maumalo in playing her first Test at international level, Onjeurlina Leiataua has been rewarded for her break out season with the Warriors women’s team, and the stellar part she played in the Kiwi Ferns narrow loss against the Jillaroos at Mt Smart Stadium this year. These achievements saw her pick up Kiwi Ferns Rookie of the Year.

Promising youngster, Isaiah Papali’i wins Junior Player of the Year for the second consecutive year, having been awarded Warriors Rookie of the Year and receiving his Kiwis debut in England after leading the Junior Kiwis in their match-up against the Junior Kangaroos in October.

This year’s award winners showcase players and match officials performing at the pinnacle of rugby league, as well as community representatives and volunteers who prove to be the backbone of grassroots rugby league in New Zealand.

New Zealand Rugby League wishes to congratulate the award winners from all 13 categories below:

Pirtek Female Volunteer – Karen Gibbons Karen Gibbons (Akarana, Auckland)

Pirtek Male Volunteer – Lawrence Erihe (Mid Central, Manawatu)

Grassroots Club of the Year – South Pacific Raiders (Southern, Otago)

Domestic Coach of the Year – Keith Hanley (Akarana, Auckland)

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

NZ 16s Player of the Year – Sione Moala (Counties Manukau, Auckland)

NZ 18s Player of the Year – Tyler Slade (NZ Warriors)

Domestic Premier Player of the Year – Francis Leger (Akarana, Auckland)

Kiwi Fern Rookie of the Year – Onjeurlina Leiataua (NZ Warriors)

Kiwis Rookie of the Year – Ken Maumalo (NZ Warriors)

Kiwis Fern Player of the Year – Honey Hireme (St George Illawarra Dragons)

Kiwis Player of the Year – Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (Sydney Roosters)

NZ Kiwis skipper Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (Kiwi #794) is up against NRL Premiership winning forward, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (Kiwi #755) and Kiwi #771 Kevin Proctor for the 2018 Kiwis Player of the Year Award.

Finalists have been selected in all 13 NZRL Awards categories, including Kiwi Ferns Player of the Year which will be hotly contested by Kiwi Ferns co-captain Honey Hireme, NRL Grand-Final Player of the Match Kimiora Nati and powerhouse prop Aieshaleigh Smalley.

Kiwis debutants Joseph Manu, Ken Maumalo and Dally M Rookie of the Year, Jamayne Isaako will face-off for the Kiwis Rookie of the Year award – all three having had outstanding seasons with their respective clubs and thriving in their Kiwis career debut seasons.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck took home the top Kiwis award last year but the 2018 Dally M Award winner was out of contention for this year’s Kiwis end of season campaign in New Zealand and England due to injury.

Last year’s Junior Player of the Year, Isaiah Papali’i won the award as a 19-year-old and is still eligible this year following a stellar season with the Warriors and as captain of the Junior Kiwis. He faces challenges from the South Sydney Rabbitohs and Taranaki-born Mawene Hiroti, as well as Warriors youngster Joseph Vuna.

The Pirtek Volunteer of the Year awards also shine light on the incredible efforts of grassroots volunteers from around the country. These finalists have contributed to their clubs and communities in ways that are invaluable to the game of rugby league in New Zealand.

Award winners will be announced on 12 December on a special edition of Sky Sport’s Kiwi League Show at 7.30pm and NZRL’s website & social media channels.

Below is the full list of NZRL Awards finalists:

Kiwis Player of the Year 2018



Kiwi Ferns Player of the Year 2018


Kiwis Rookie of the Year 2018


Kiwi Ferns Rookie of the Year 2018


Junior Player of the Year 2018


Pirtek Female Volunteer of the Year 2018


Debbie Neylon-Kennedy (Southern, Canterbury)

Michelle Harding (Southern, Canterbury)

Hana Kakoi (Southern, Canterbury)

Denise Proctor (Northland, Nga Tama Toa)

Junie Shelford (Northland, Takahiwai)

Sariah Matautia (Counties Manukau, Auckland)

Agnes Koti (Counties Manukau, Auckland)

Karen Gibbons (Akarana, Auckland)

Rose Nahu (Upper Central, Bay of Plenty)

Ally Tamihere (Mid Central, Gisborne Tairawhiti)



Pirtek Male Volunteer of the Year 2018


David Field (Southern, Canterbury)

Tony Grenfell (Southern, Canterbury)

Chris Perriam (Southern, Southland)

Peter Kerridge (Southern, West Coast)

Josh Cleaver (Mid Central, Taranaki)

Lawrence Erihe (Mid Central, Manawatu)

Frank Proctor (Northland, Nga Tama Toa)

Nick Waihi (Northland, Marist Brothers)

Tim Tapaki (Counties Manukau, Auckland)

Stephen Purcell (Counties Manukau, Auckland)

Carl Gribble (Akarana, Auckland)


Grassroots Club of the Year 2018


Wairau Taniwha (Southern, Tasman)

Lonestar Cowboys (Southern, Southland)

South Pacific Raiders (Southern, Otago)

Rolleston Warriors (Southern, Canterbury)

Takahiwai Warriors (Northland)

Otahuhu Rugby League Club (Counties Manukau, Auckland)

Manurewa Rugby League Football & Sports Club Inc (Counties Manukau, Auckland)


Domestic Coach of the Year 2018


Rusty Matua (Counties Manukau, Auckland)

Tusa Lafaele (Counties Manukau, Auckland)

Keith Hanley (Akarana, Auckland)


Match Official of the Year 2018


Gary Smallridge (Southern, Canterbury)

Owen Harvey (Southern, Canterbury)

Chris McMillan (Counties Manukau, Auckland)

Paki Parkinson (Upper Central, Bay of Plenty)


NZ 16s Player of the Year 2018


Sione Moala (Counties Manukau, Auckland)

Quinnlan Tupou (Counties Manukau, Auckland)

Lani Graham-Taufa (Akarana, Auckland)


NZ 18s Player of the Year 2018


Kayal Iro (NZ Warriors)

Tyler Slade (NZ Warriors)

Mahuta Ngataki-Matthews (Upper Central, Waikato)


NZRL Premier Player of the Year 2018


Drew Radich (Counties Manukau, Auckland)

James Baxendale (Southern, Canterbury)

Francis Leger (Akarana, Auckland)




















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Every year NZRL recognises those who have gone above and beyond with awards for Volunteer of the Year and Grassroots Club plus awards for players, referees and coaches.

Complete your nomination form online to acknowledge someone you think has done an outstanding job for rugby league this year.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Apii Nicholls picked up the top two Kiwis and Kiwi Ferns awards last year, while 76-year-old Hornby Panthers legend, Jack Newson and Northland’s Chantez Connor were recognised for their stand-out voluntary contributions to rugby league. Who will be this year’s award winners?

Want to add your two cents? Submit your nominations by clicking here.

For all other information including awards criteria click here.

Nominations close 5pm Wednesday, 21 November, 2018.

The long-list for the Rugby League International Federation Golden Boot awarded to the players who have produced the most outstanding performances in international games throughout the year has been extended after the weekend’s games.

Five players have been added to the men’s list and one player to the women’s list.

England has supplied John Bateman, Tommy Makinson and Elliott Whitehead all of whom had stand-out games in the first test match against New Zealand.

In turn the panel has added Kiwi players, Shaun Johnson and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak to the list which already includes Tonga’s Jason Taumololo and Sio Siua Taukeiaho and from Australia, Valentine Holmes, James Tedesco and Boyd Cordner.

Georgia Roche can celebrate her England debut plus a nomination for the prestigious BBC young sports personality of the year by adding a nomination to be the inaugural Women’s Golden Boot winner. She joins New Zealand star, Honey Hireme and Australians Isabelle Kelly, Ali Brigginshaw and Brittany Breayley.

The panel, drawn from the rugby league media in both hemispheres will meet again on Sunday November 4th to select the final short-lists

The RLIF Golden Boot 2018 will be awarded to the winners at a special dinner at Elland Road, Leeds on November 7th.

RLIF Men’s Golden Boot 2018                                RLIF Women’s Golden Boot 2018


James Tedesco (Australia)                                                Honey Hireme (New Zealand)

Boyd Cordner (Australia)                                                   Ali Brigginshaw (Australia)

Jason Taumalolo (Tonga)                                                  Brittany Breayley (Australia)

Valentine Holmes (Australia)                                             Isabelle Kelly (Australia)

Sio Siua Taukeiaho (Tonga)                                                 Georgia Roche (England)

Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (NZ)

Shaun Johnson (NZ)

John Bateman (England)

Tommy Makinson (England)

Elliott Whitehead (England)

The Jillaroos take home their first win in New Zealand for 19 years with a 26-24 defeat of the Kiwi Ferns in another epic clash between the two nations at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday.

Ballinger, who was a member of the Brisbane team which won the inaugural Holden NRL Women’s Premiership, was named player of the match in her farewell Test for Australia as the Jillaroos overcome the loss of star St George Illawarra forward Kezie Apps.

With the teams scoring five tries apiece, the goal kicking of fullback Chelsea Baker proved the difference but she missed her last two attempts and appeared to be affected by a groin injury.

The Kiwi Ferns were also hit hard by injuries and lost halfback Kimiora Nati with a knee injury in the first half and co-captain Laura Mariu to a shoulder problem after the interval.

They also had to overcome a controversial refereeing decision but managed to fight back from a poor start to lead until five minutes from fulltime when Sydney Roosters centre Isabelle Kelly scored her second try to snatch victory.

Brigginshaw then scored herself eight minutes later after stepping her way over the try line to put the Jillaroos ahead 12-0.

The first sign of the fightback from the Kiwi Ferns came in the 22nd minute when veteran Honey Hireme raced down the sideline and hurled a pass inside but the touch judge ruled she had put a foot into touch.

With Hireme having raised the crowd to their feet with her run, there were howls of protest when the incident was replayed on the big screen but the decision could not be overturned and a chance went begging for the Kiwi Ferns.

However, the home team got on the scoreboard soon after when Dragons playmaker Raecene McGregor put winger Langi Veainu over for the first of her two tries with a cut-out pass in the 30th minute.

The celebrations for Kiwi Ferns were short lived when halfback Kimiora Nati suffered a knee injury in the following set of six and while she bravely tried to play on the player of the NRLW grand final had to leave the field in the 33rd minute.

Despite the loss of Nati, the Kiwi Ferns continued to build momentum after halftime and they scored their second try in the 44th minute when Annetta Nuuausala crashed over.

Fullback Apii Nicholls again missed the shot at goal but put her side ahead for the first time in the match when she regathered a kick from McGregor to put Veanu over for her second try and converted in the 47th minute.

The Jillaroos hit back almost immediately when Sydney Roosters second-rower Tazmin Gray, the sister of Kiwis and Canberra winger Jordan Rapana, managed to force the ball over the try line in the 51st minute.

The Kiwi Ferns lost Mariu in the 55th minute but managed to level the scores in the following set of tackles when Brisbane forward Teuila Fotu-Moala sent centre Maitua Feterika racing for the tryline.

The teams continued to trade tries, with Kelly running 70 metres to score for the Jillaroos in the 56th minute after skipping out of dummy half and fending off an attempted tackle by Nita Maynard.

With Baker missing the conversion, Warriors prop Amber Kani appeared to have snatched victory when she used late footwork near the tryline to score in the 70th minuite but Kelly ensured the Jillaroos maintained their recent domination over the Kiwi Ferns when she finished off a backline movement five minutes before full-time.

New Zealand Kiwi Ferns 24 (Langi Veainu 2, Annetta-Claudia Nuuausala, Maitua Feterika, Amber Kani tries; Apii Nicholls 2 goals) Australia Jillaroos 26 (Julia Robinson, Ali Brigginshaw, Tazmin Gray, Isabelle Kelly 2 tries; Chelsea Baker 3 goals)

It’s time for the Trans-Tasman showdown you’ve been waiting for.

At Mt Smart Stadium this weekend (Saturday 13 October), you can be part of history as the Kiwis, Kiwi Ferns and Junior Kiwis take on their Aussie rivals at one blockbuster event.

It’s been four years since the Kiwis took on the Kangaroos and eight years since the Kiwi Ferns took on the Jillaroos on home turf , so don’t miss the chance to be there.

Tickets start from $35 for adults and $15 for kids – this is one you simply can’t miss.

3 Tests. 1 Day. It’s Time.

To buy tickets, click the Ticketek link here.
Saturday, 13 October 
Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland 
Junior Kiwis v Junior Kangaroos 3.05pm
Kiwi Ferns v Jillaroos 5.15pm
Kiwis v Kangaroos 7.45pm

Kiwi Ferns co-captains Laura Mariu and Honey Hireme will pull on the 36 years of international rugby league experience between them to lead the Kiwi Ferns in their match-up against the Jillaroos on Saturday.

Coach Kelvin Wright has named his side for the Trans-Tasman Triple-Header which boasts some of the top talent in the recent inaugural NRL Women’s grand final. Powerhouse prop Ngatokotoru Arakua, who is one of four NRLW Premiership winning players in the starting line-up, will pair with Warriors prop Aieshaleigh Smalley up front, while Maitua Feterika and co-captain Honey Hireme will run out in the centres.

NRLW grand final Player of the Match Kimiora Nati will steer the team in the halves alongside Raecene McGregor, a combination that proved lethal in the Kiwi Ferns 2017 Rugby League World Cup campaign.

Consistent and dangerous with ball in hand, Warriors fullback Apii Nicholls will play at the back in the number one jersey with Langi Veainu and Karley Te Kawa on the wings. Te Kawa makes her deserved return to the Kiwi Ferns squad eight years on from her Kiwi Ferns debut at the 2010 match against Great Britain at Trust Arena, and five years on from her last stint with the New Zealand side at the 2013 Rugby League World Cup in England.

Gisborne born Nita Maynard will get the start as hooker with Fotu-Moala in the second row and co-captain Laura Mariu drawing on her five World Cups of experience as loose forward.

The interchange will provide impact through Georgia Hale, Annetta-Claudia Nuuausala, Amber Kani and South Islander Sui Pauaraisa, who is one of two players, Onjeurlina Leiataua being the second, set to make their debut for the national women’s side.

In high spirits about the Kiwi Ferns camp so far, Kelvin Wright is confident his team will be putting their best foot forward against the current World Champions.

“I’m really happy with how training has been going this week. We have some extremely valuable coaching staff in amongst the team (referring to Assistant Coaches Justin Morgan, Tim McIntyre and Trainer Simon Mannering) who are providing critical feedback for the players,”

“The players are in great form after the recent NRL competition and they are so eager to get into the black and white jersey to represent their country with pride,” he said.

1            APII NICHOLLS

2            KARLEY TE KAWA

3            HONEY HIREME

4            MAITUA FETERIKA

5            LANGI VEAINU

6            RAECENE McGREGOR

7            KIMIORA NATI


9            NITA MAYNARD




13          LAURA MARIU

14          GEORGIA HALE


16          SUI PAUARAISA*

17          AMBER KANI


19          LILIETA MAUMAU



Kiwi Ferns Head Coach, Kelvin Wright has named his 19-women squad ahead of the highly anticipated Trans-Tasman Triple-Header on 13 October.


Amongst the 19 is halfback Kimiora Nati who will be riding the high after picking up a hat-trick at last night’s inaugural NRL Women’s Premiership grand-final, driving the Brisbane Broncos to their Premiership title. She also received recognition for her outstanding grand-final display taking home the Player of the Grand-Final award. Nati is joined by several of her teammates who were stand-outs during the 2017 Women’s Rugby League World Cup including 2017 NZRL Women’s Player of the Year, fullback Apii Nicholls.


At a press conference today, Nicholls wore the new Kiwi Ferns playing jersey to mark the New Zealand Rugby League’s (NZRL) new partnership with apparel provider, ISC. NZRL CEO Greg Peters announced he was “really excited to have such a reputable and high-quality apparel company such as ISC on board,”


“It’s important that our Kiwi Ferns are outfitted in a brand that is renowned for producing quality rugby league gear – that’s ISC,” he said.


Brett Corrick from ISC reciprocated the excitement saying, “it is a great honour and privilege to be the official apparel partner of the New Zealand Rugby League, a brand that lives by the values of integrity, respect, leadership, courage, passion,”

“We look forward to seeing both the players and their passionate fans wearing the ISC gear with pride and going on their sporting journey together,” Corrick said.

In addition to Nicholls and Nati, seven other players were in the Counties Manukau Stingrays who took out their ninth successive National Women’s Tournament title this year. One of those players being Kiwi Ferns veteran, Laura Mariu who is no stranger to the Trans-Tasman rivalry having played in all five Women’s World Cups to date. Her stellar National Women’s Tournament earlier in the year saw her then progress into the Women’s Warriors squad which she captained in the four-week competition.


Another veteran to sport the black and white again is Honey Hireme. She first played for the Kiwi Ferns 16 years ago in 2002, and after a brilliant stint with the St George Illawarra Dragons, she will look to back-up her fine form in the World Cup where she was top try-scorer.


Kelvin Wright said his team is filled with “some great leadership and experience mixed with some exciting youth whose form has been too hard to ignore.”


“It’s always extra special when you can hand players their debut,” he added. One of those Kiwi Ferns debutants is Counties Manukau Stingrays centre Onjeurlina Leiataua, a proven powerhouse in her breakout season with the Warriors. She is joined by Broncos utility Lavinia Gould and Cantabrian Masuisuimatamaalii Tauasa-Pauaraisa who make up the three debutants in the squad.


As expected, the selection process was difficult as Wright admits, “there’s been a lot of Kiwi talent on show and excitement is certainly brewing amongst the women as the 13 October Trans-Tasman Triple-Header nears.”


Last year marked the first time Australian based Kiwis were eligible to play in the Kiwi Ferns jumper, an opportunity halfback Raecene McGregor and Gisborne born Nita Maynard relished with both hands. The two of them have again earnt a spot in the Kiwi Ferns after fantastic performances for the St George Illawarra Dragons and Sydney Roosters respectively, Maynard playing hooker for the Roosters who finished runners-up in the grand-final.


“For all involved now we are looking forward to getting into camp and putting our full efforts into preparing for our clash against the Jillaroos,” Wright said.


The Kiwi Ferns go into camp on 7 October in preparation for the Trans-Tasman Triple-Header at Mt Smart on 13 October.


To buy tickets, click the Ticketek link here. Adult ticket prices start from $35.

Saturday, 13 October

Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland

Junior Kiwis v Junior Kangaroos 3.05pm

Kiwi Ferns v Jillaroos 5.15pm

Kiwis v Kangaroos 7.45pm


Kiwi Ferns listed by NRLW team:


New Zealand Warriors: Raquel Anderson-Pitman, Apii Nicholls, Langi Veainu, Amber Kani, Annetta-Claudia Nuuausala, Aieshaleigh Smalley, Laura Mariu, *Onjeurlina Leiataua, *Masuisuimatamaalii Tauasa-Pauaraisa; Brisbane Broncos: Ngatokotoru Arakua, Karley Te Kawa, Kimiora Nati, Teuila Fotu-Moala, Maitua Feterika, *Lavinia Gould, Lilieta Maumau; St George Illawarra Dragons: Honey Hireme, Raecene McGregor; Sydney Roosters: Nita Maynard

Kiwi Ferns star Teuila Fotu-Moala has helped Brisbane all but cemented their spot in the NRLW final after overcoming some early nerves to convincingly beat the Sydney Roosters 14-4.

Fotu-Moala scored a try in the win and ran for 22m as well as making two linebreaks and four tackle busts in the win.

It was the Broncos’ second win from as many matches and cemented their status as the team to beat in the inaugural women’s competition at Allianz Stadium on Friday.

Not even the return of Jillaroos prop Ruan Sims could inspire the Roosters, who are winless after two games and out of the running to advance.

To make matters worse, they could be without star centre Isabelle Kelly next week after a crusher tackle on Meg Ward midway through the second half.

The Broncos led 10-0 at halftime but the scoreline could have easily been reversed after the Roosters bombed two tries in the opening 13 minutes.

Back-rower Vanessa Foliaki looked certain to score before being held up by a desperate Chelsea Baker.

Roosters fullback Karina Brown also let a try go begging when she failed to ground a loose grubber, and from there the Broncos took control.

Ali Brigginshaw dummied her way through the line before Fotu-Moala crashed over five minutes later to give the Broncos a healthy lead at the break.

Broncos centre Ward delivered the coup de grace seven minutes after halftime.

Kelly got the Roosters’ only points when she crossed on the back of a weight of possession with two minutes remaining.

After their 30-4 romp over the Dragons last week, the Broncos are the only unbeaten side in the competition.

They would have to lose to the Warriors next week and have several results run against them to miss the final.

By Newshub

Switching from fullback to the forwards is a rarity in league, but it’s a feat that Warriors Women’s lock Louisa Gago has managed.

In the 1980’s versatile players such as Ellery Hanley and Gary Prohm had the ability to move from the backline to the pack, while Lance Hohaia was one of the foremost examples in the modern era, but it’s become unusual.

Gago, who wore the No.13 jersey for the Warriors against the Dragons in the second round of the NRLW on Saturday, was a fullback as she came up through the grades.

But fate – and a series of injuries – led to her swapping the glamour for the grit.

“I was really fast back in high school and I was a fullback,” Gago told the Herald. “And then over the years I had a few injuries, so it was hard for me to go back to being a fullback or a centre. When I came back I gained a bit of weight so the coach thought I would be okay if I went back to the forwards.”

There was a prolonged period of adjustment, especially as Gago, at 1.59m and 69 kilos, isn’t particularly big for a forward.

“It took me a while to learn the role, especially because I am the smallest in the team,” said Gago. “It was a bit hard for me, with all the contact and the big forwards all around me.”

But the 23-year-old has thrived in the position, representing the Kiwi Ferns in the 2017 Auckland Nines tournament before being selected for last year’s League World Cup, where the Ferns progressed to the final.

“To be honest now I thank my coach all the time, for making the call to move [me] to the forwards, ” said Gago. “I would never return to the backs again. I love the work rate that we have in the middle, and always knowing that we are going to play a big role in the game.”

Gago impressed in the Warriors 10-4 win over the Roosters last Saturday. She had a high defensive work rate, and ran a great line off a Laura Mariu pass for the team’s second try.

Gago, who describes herself as a lifelong ‘leaguie’, is still overwhelmed to be part of the first Warriors squad in the NRLW.

“I’ve been a massive supporter of the Warriors since I was a kid,” said Gago.

“I remember watching the first grand final [in 2002], when I was young. I can’t believe I am part of the club, and am so honoured about how the women’s game has grown over the past 10 years.”

On Saturday Gago faced a familiar foe, with long time Kiwi Fern Honey Hireme at centre for the Dragons.

Hireme has been a legend of the sport, and crossed for 13 tries in four matches at the 2017 World Cup, but has opted for the opportunity across the Tasman.

The 37-year-old is one of five New Zealand-born players turning out for the Sydney club.

“She was my roomie at World Cup so it was good to see her again,” said Gago. “But this time it was against each other, which was a bit different. But it’s a good opportunity for her over there.”

By NZ Herald – Michael Burgess

Luisa Avaiki has been named a finalist for the 2018 NEXT Magazine Woman of the Year awards.

In rugby league circles, Luisa is a legend who is known for her dedication, integrity, vision and humility.

From 1995-2009, she was a member of the Kiwi Ferns and was a part of all World Cup-winning teams (2000, 2003, 2008, being captain for two of them (2003 & 2008).

The former player and trail-blazer has been a driving force of the sport for the past two decades. Not only is she the NZRL Wellbeing & Women’s Development Manager, she has been instrumental in getting more women playing the game.

In March this year, a long-held dream of Luisa’s was realised when she became the first woman to be appointed head coach with an NRL club.

Other finalists for the 2018 NEXT Magazine Woman of the Year awards:

Sophie Devine: White Ferns Player

Natalie Taylor: Tall Ferns Co-Captain

Professor Sarah Leberman: Sports Researcher

Sarah Goss: Black Ferns Sevens Captain

Dr Malvindar Singh-Bains: Research Fellow

Dr Philippa Howden-Chapman: Professor Of Public Health

Dr Nicola Gaston: MacDiarmid Institute Co-Director

Dr Julia Rucklidge: Professor Of Clinical Psychology

Dr Jane Harding: Professor Of Neonatology

With their first game of the NRL Women’s Premiership against the Roosters done and dusted, winger Langi Veainu has been able to tap into some valuable advice.

She is the sister of rugby player, Telusa Veainu, who played for the Highlanders, Crusaders and Rebels before heading to Leicester in the English Premiership.

Telusa is three years older than Langi and although he lives on the other side of the world, she says they stay in regular contact, particularly before each big game Langi plays.

“We always chat,” Langi said.

“Before I go out onto the field he calls me or sends a message and gives me tips like stay calm and focus on my role, for me to do my job out there and then everything else will come naturally.”

Telusa is best remembered in New Zealand for a stunning 95m try he scored for the Crusaders against the Highlanders in 2013, showing an incredible sidestep and turn of pace, that’s clearly a family trait.

“It gave me motivation to compete,” Langi said of how Telusa inspired her.

“There was the feeling that I want to be just like my brother and be on the world stage, showcasing my talent.

“I’d watch him train and play and that motivated me to want to be like him. He was definitely a big help.”

Sport has always been a big thing in the Veainu family. Langi has six brothers and four sisters and she describes her parents as ‘amazing.’

Naturally in such a big family, there was a fair amount of competition among the siblings.

“We were always having cricket games and playing different kinds of sports out on the front lawn, competing with each other,” Langi said.

“It was always fun to come together and compete with each other in sports, while we did have a few scraps here and there!”

Langi and Telusa aren’t the only ones keen on a sporting career, their sister, Katofoekina is in the Counties Manukau rugby team and her younger brothers have been making strides in rugby and league.

Her career has advanced further in league, having already played for the Kiwi Ferns and she’s still unsure what she’d do if both national teams wanted her.

However, the 24-year-old is reaching her peak at a crucial time in both codes for women as players are now getting paid and it’s becoming that can be considered a serious career move.

“It’s definitely a huge opportunity to play and get paid for it,” she said.

“I’m grateful anyway for being able to play the sport I love, but having that pay on top is like a bonus.”

By Stuff.co.nz

Rugby league superstars from New Zealand and Australia will face-off in a classic Trans-Tasman showdown of three back-to-back Test matches at Mt Smart stadium.

On Saturday 13 October, the Junior Kiwis will take on the Junior Kangaroos followed by the mighty Kiwi Ferns up against World Cup champions, the Jillaroos. The final clash of the night sees the Kiwis battle the Kangaroos for the first time on New Zealand soil since 2014.

This will be the first time new Kiwis Coach Michael Maguire will be at the helm in front of a home crowd and says it’s sure to be an unforgettable night.

“This is the start of a new journey with the Kiwi Rugby League team and we are looking forward to showing our families, the fans and our teammates what it means to represent the Kiwi jersey.  Plus the fans have been waiting a long time to see this match-up on their home soil.”

For the Kiwi Ferns, the prospect of some fresh faces to compliment the several seasoned veterans is giving Head Coach Kelvin Wright plenty to ponder ahead of the final team selection.

“It’s a new beginning for the Kiwi Ferns and Women’s Rugby League, and what better way to start than at home in front of family, friends and future Ferns.

“It’s a great opportunity to bring our elite women players together after experiencing their first taste of the WNRL, where we will have some tremendous talent competing to wear the black jersey,” says Kiwi Ferns Head Coach Kelvin Wright.

“Sporting supremacy between neighbours is something both New Zealand and Australian sports fans thrive on. In one night at Mt Smart, the very best of men’s and women’s international rugby league is on offer between two great league nations for the first time in a long time,” says NZRL CEO, Greg Peters.

Six teams, three Test matches, one place – Mt Smart, the home of rugby league.

All three matches will be on Sky Sport: Junior Kiwis v Junior Kangaroos 3pm, Kiwi Ferns v Jillaroos 5pm and Kiwis v Kangaroos 7.45pm.

Tickets are on sale now from Ticketek – Adult ticket prices from $35 and children from $15. Special family and multi-ticket deals are available. Click here to view ticket deals. 


By NZ Warriors – Richard Becht

Head coach Luisa Avaiki has today announced Kiwi Ferns captain Laura Mariu will lead the Vodafone Warriors in the new NRL women’s premiership next month.

The legendary Mariu began her international career in 2000 and captained the Kiwi Ferns in last year’s women’s Rugby League World Cup final against the Jillaroos.

The 37-year-old Mariu has again underlined her leadership abilities this year by guiding the Counties Manukau Stingrays to success in the women’s national tournament and also savouring victory with the Manurewa Wahine in the Auckland women’s premiership.

“It wasn’t a difficult choice given Laura’s experience and all her achievements in rugby league,” said Avaiki.

“It was a pleasure asking her to take the role with the first Vodafone Warriors team in this inaugural NRL women’s premiership.

“Laura’s our most-decorated women’s player who has consistently achieved the highest honours in the game.

“She’s very capable, has served rugby league in this country with distinction and was always going to be the best choice for our team.

“She’s a dedicated, loyal and genuine team-mate who is well respected by her peers. She leads by example and demonstrates sound leadership in her playing ability, too.”

Previously with the Papakura Sisters, Mariu has played in each of the five women’s World Cup tournaments played so far – the first three all won by the Kiwi Ferns – and also represented the Kiwi Ferns in each of their three appearances at the NRL Nines at Eden Park in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

Mariu’s contribution to rugby league was recognised in this year’s Queen’s Birthday honours when she was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM).

Along with Vodafone Warriors team-mate Apii Nicholls, Mariu is now a constable with the New Zealand Police in the Counties Manukau district.


Born: December 2, 1980
Birthplace: Auckland, NZ
Club: Manurewa Marlins
Position: Loose forward/halfback
Rep Honours: Kiwi Ferns (2000-2018), World Cup (2000, 2005, 2008, 2013, 2017), NRL Nines (2015, 2016, 2017), Counties Manukau Stingrays
Occupation: Constable, New Zealand Police

Luisa Avaiki believes the inaugural NRL women’s premiership is a big “opportunity” for women playing in NZ.

All Lorina Papali’i wanted to do was be a trainer for the inaugural Warriors women’s team, but it was confirmed on Wednesday she’d cracked the squad.

The 41-year old-mother of Warriors’ second rower, Isaiah Papali’i is one of the 22 named Warriors squad for the short women’s NRL season, which will take place during the playoff rounds of the men’s NRL competition.

Papali’i had a glittering rugby league career, playing for the Kiwi Ferns from 2001 to 2010, playing in two World Cups, and also represented Samoa in two rugby union World Cups.

But she spent eight years out of the game, to be involved in cross fit and only put the boots on again when a women’s NRL competition came on the radar.

Initially, she was interested in being the trainer for the team, but was encouraged to give it a go to make the squad.

Lorina Papali'i, third from left, and some of her Warriors' team-mates at the squad announcement at Mt Smart.

“I have one life, one opportunity and feel it’s now or never,” she said.

“I was missing in action for eight years and did cross fit.

“But my goal has been hard work this year. I felt like I was hit by a bus.

“I’ve had a lot of treatment, physio, chiro, I’ve hit the pools, I’ve done hot and colds after the game and during the week.

“So there’s been a lot of rehab for me and my recovery is not as fast as the younger ones.”

She said she has been inspired to have another crack at rugby league by her son, who is this week in the Gold Coast, with the rest of the men’s team, preparing for Saturday’s game against the Dragons in Wollongong.

Lorina Papali'i in action for the Kiwi Ferns, whom she represented from 1994 to 2005.

Lorina Papali’i in action for the Kiwi Ferns, whom she represented from 1994 to 2005.

“He’s very supportive,” Lorina said.

“He’s proud and that’s what gives me the energy to get up each day, to make him proud.”

But likewise, Isaiah is just as impressed with his mother, who has been a big influence on his career.

“She’s always at my games giving me feedback. She’s still the master and I’m still trying to learn from her,” Isaiah said.

“I grew up watching her play footy. She was a really good player so watching her and my dad, I was inspired to go on this pathway after being being around the environment.”

If there’s any disappointment from Lorina about making this Warriors squad, it’s that there wasn’t this opportunity for her 20 years ago.

Lorina Papali'i's 19-year-old son Isaiah is enjoying a breakout season with the Warriors this year.

Lorina Papali’i’s 19-year-old son Isaiah is enjoying a breakout season with the Warriors this year.

“For the girls I played with in the past, it would have been amazing to have had this kind of pathway,” she said.

“I feel like I’m representing the past, the present and this team is paving the way for the future.”

The Warriors squad also includes Kiwi Ferns captain Laura Mariu and the experienced international Sarina Clark, who missed last year’s World Cup due to the birth of her third child.

Warriors coach Luisa Avaiki is delighted with the squad she has at her disposal for the inaugural competition.

“New Zealand Rugby League put out some information to the girls about making sure they’d feel good about their decisions if they’re approached.

“But to be honest, I didn’t know how hard other clubs were going until I heard they were engaging with certain players and then some of our players were going over.

“I know some of those girls well and it was never about holding onto them and saying they have to play for me, it was about what was best for them and their families.”

Warriors women’s player Krystal Rota credits family for their help with her sick daughter Nikayla.

The Warriors will warm up for the competition with a match against Auckland in a double header with the men’s team at Mt Smart Stadium on August 10.


Warriors women’s NRL squad: Raquel Anderson-Pitman, Sarina Clark, Lisa Edwards, Luisa Gago, Georgia Hale, Amber Kani, Onjeurlina Leiataua, Hilda Mariu, Laura Mariu, Va’anessa Molia-Fraser, Apii Nicholls, Tanika-Jazz Noble-Bell, Annetta-Claudia Nuuausala, Lorina Papali’i, Kahurangi Peters, Krystal Rota, Aieshaleigh Smalley, Masuisuimatamaalii (Sui) Tauasa-Pauaraisa, Crystal Tamarua, Alice Vailea, Langi Veainu, Shontelle Woodman

Auckland, New Zealand, August 01, 2018 – A 22-strong squad laden with current and former Kiwi Ferns has been unveiled today to represent the Vodafone Warriors in the inaugural NRL women’s premiership next month.

With former Kiwi Fern Lorina Papali’i (41) signed, the Vodafone Warriors create rugby league history with a mother and son representing one club at the same time.

Lorina’s son Isaiah (19) has this year established himself as a first-choice second rower in his second season in the NRL.

Among the others confirmed at the club’s headquarters are Kiwi Ferns captain Laura Mariu and another legendary international Sarina Clark (nee Fiso).

Mariu, who was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen’s Birthday awards, had contemplated retirement after the 2017 World Cup but returned this season to help the Counties Manukau Stingrays to win the national final. She was also a key figure as the Manurewa Marlins beat the Richmond Roses in the Auckland women’s grand final last Sunday.

Clark missed the World Cup last year to have her third child. She returned to the field recently and signed with the Vodafone Warriors just this week.

“This is such an exciting day for our club and for rugby league in this country,” said Vodafone Warriors general manager football Brian Smith.

“We were thrilled to bring Luisa (Avaiki) on board as the first women’s coach in the NRL and today we take another step forward with the announcement of our squad comprising solely New Zealand players.

“We have a group of talented players who are just so excited about being involved in this shot at history.”

Avaiki is delighted with the 22 players the club has been able to sign.

“We have some legends of our game in the likes of Laura and Sarina who are backed up by some fantastic players,” she said.

“This is a dream for all of us to be involved in the NRL women’s premiership and we’re all working hard to make the most of what is an amazing opportunity for rugby league.”

Avaiki, appointed in last March, had an illustrious international playing career from 1995-2009. She captained the Kiwi Ferns to victory in two women’s World Cup tournaments in 2003 and 2008 and was also in the winning side in the first World Cup in 2000.

Features of the squad named:

The Vodafone Warriors will play NRL women’s premiership matches against Brisbane, St George Illawarra and the Sydney Roosters during the NRL finals in September.

They’ll warm up for the competition with a match against Auckland when the Vodafone Warriors stage a double header in their Women in League game day at Mount Smart Stadium on Friday, August 10.

The women’s game is scheduled to kick off at 6.05pm followed by the 22nd-round NRL clash between the Vodafone Warriors and the Newcastle Knights (8.00pm).






Born: November 2, 1991

Birthplace: Tokoroa, NZ

Club: Manurewa Marlins

Position: Halfback/hooker

Rep Honours: Kiwi Ferns (2017-2018), World Cup (2017), Counties Manukau Stingrays

Occupation: Boiler operator, Oji Fibre Solutions

Personal Note:





Born: November 11, 1981

Birthplace: Auckland, NZ

Club: Manurewa Marlins

Position: Fullback

Rep Honours: Kiwi Ferns (2006-2016), World Cup (2008, 2013), NRL Nines (2015, 2016, 2017), New Zealand Maori (2015), New Zealand kabaddi (2013-2015), New Zealand touch (2009), Counties Manukau Stingrays

Occupation: Case manager, WINZ





Born: October 19, 1992

Birthplace: Auckland, NZ

Club: Mount Albert

Position: Wing

Rep Honours: Akarana Falcons

Occupation: Receptionist, Crittal Armold





Pronunciation: Loo-ee-sah Nung-or (Nung as in rung)

Born: November 8, 1993

Birthplace: Auckland, NZ

Club: Manurewa Marlins

Position: Second row/loose forward

Rep Honours: Kiwi Ferns (2017-2018), NRL Nines (2017), Counties Manukau Stingrays

Occupation: Customer service, Smith & Smith





Born: August 9, 1995

Birthplace: Auckland, NZ

Club: Richmond Roses

Position: Halfback/standoff/hooker

Rep Honours: Kiwi Ferns (2015-2018), World Cup (2017), NRL Nines (2015-2017), New Zealand touch, New Zealand tag, Akarana Falcons

Occupation: Community coordinator, Vodafone Warriors






Pronunciation: Car-nee

Born: January 17, 1991

Birthplace: Auckland, NZ

Club: Manurewa Marlins

Position: Centre

Rep Honours: Kiwi Ferns (2015-2018), World Cup (2017), NRL Nines (2016-2017), New Zealand Maori (2014-2016), Tag World Cup, New Zealand Maori (2012), Counties Manukau Stingrays

Occupation: Ambassador, Manurewa Business Association





Pronunciation: On-jar-lee-nah Lay-a-toe-ah

Born: December 1, 1995

Birthplace: Auckland, NZ

Club: Otahuhu Leopards

Position: Centre/second row

Rep Honours: Counties Manukau Stingrays

Occupation: Warehouse assistant, Tupperware





Pronunciation: Mar-ree-oo

Born: August 9, 1983

Birthplace: Auckland, NZ

Club: Manurewa Marlins

Position: Second row/centre

Rep Honours: Kiwi Ferns (2014-2018), World Cup (2017), NRL Nines (2015), Counties Manukau Stingrays

Occupation: Health promoter, Te Kaha o Te Rangatahi Trust





Pronunciation: Mar-ree-oo

Born: December 2, 1980

Birthplace: Auckland, NZ

Club: Manurewa Marlins

Position: Loose forward/halfback

Rep Honours: Kiwi Ferns (2000-2018), World Cup (2000, 2005, 2008, 2013, 2017), NRL Nines (2015, 2016, 2017), Counties Manukau Stingrays

Occupation: Constable, New Zealand Police





Pronunciation: Var-ah-nessa Morleeah

Born: January 18, 1996

Birthplace: Auckland, NZ

Club: Richmond Roses

Position: Fullback

Rep Honours: Kiwi Ferns (2016, 2017), NRL Nines (2017), Akarana Falcons

Occupation: Student, AUT





Pronunciation: Ah-pee

Born: February 26, 1993

Birthplace: Rarotonga, Cook Islands

Club: Otahuhu Leopards

Position: Fullback

Rep Honours: Kiwi Ferns (2017-2018), World Cup (2017), Cook Islands sevens (rugby union), Cook Islands tag, Counties Manukau Stingrays

Occupation: Constable, New Zealand Police





Born: February 20, 1996

Birthplace: Auckland, NZ

Club: Manurewa Marlins

Position: Second row/prop

Rep Honours: Kiwi Ferns wider squad (2018), Kiwi Ferns (2017), NRL Nines (2017), Counties Manukau Stingrays, Auckland Vulcans

Occupation: Student, University of Auckland





Pronunciation: Noo-ow-sar-lah

Born: January 22, 1995

Birthplace: Auckland, NZ

Club: Richmond Roses

Position: Prop

Rep Honours: Kiwi Ferns (2016-2018), World Cup (2017), Akarana Falcons

Occupation: Customer/after sales support, Husqvarna NZ





Pronunciation: Law-ree-nah Par-par-lee-ee

Born: January 16, 1977

Birthplace: Hamilton, NZ

Club: Richmond Roses

Position: Second row/prop

Rep Honours: Kiwi Ferns (1994-2005), World Cup (2000, 2005), New Zealand tag (2007, 2010, 2011), Samoa Mausina rugby union (2002 World Cup, 2006 World Cup), Akarana Falcons

Occupation: Office supervisor, Worth & Douglas





Pronunciation: Car-who-rung-ee

Born: February 23, 1994

Birthplace: Auckland, NZ

Club: Manurewa Marlins

Position: Prop

Rep Honours: Kiwi Ferns (2013-2018), World Cup (2013, 2017), NRL Nines (2015, 2016, 2017), Counties Manukau Stingrays

Occupation: Mother





Pronunciation: Roar-tah

Born: October 3, 1985

Birthplace: Auckland, NZ

Club: Manurewa Marlins

Position: Hooker

Rep Honours: Kiwi Ferns (2008-2018), World Cup (2008, 2017), NRL Nines (2015, 2017), New Zealand Maori, New Zealand touch, New Zealand tag, Counties Manukau Stingrays

Occupation: Mother





Pronunciation: Ah-eee-shar-lee

Born: September 23, 1991

Birthplace: Auckland, NZ

Club: Otahuhu Leopards

Position: Prop

Rep Honours: Kiwi Ferns (2017-2018), World Cup (2017), NRL Nines (2017), Counties Manukau Stingrays

Occupation: Mother





Pronunciation: Sue-ee Toe-ar-sah Par-wah-rye-sah

Born: October 30, 1987

Birthplace: Motootua, Samoa

Club: Linwood Keas (Christchurch)

Position: Second row/loose forward

Rep Honours: Kiwi Ferns wider squad (2018),

Occupation: Clinical administrator, Christchurch District Health Board





Pronunciation: Tar-ma-roo-ah

Born: July 30, 1995

Birthplace: Auckland

Club: Richmond Roses

Position: Second row/loose forward

Rep Honours: Kiwi Ferns (2017), Cook Islands (2017), World Cup – Cook Islands (2017), Akarana Falcons

Occupation: Postie, NZ Post





Pronunciation: Vie-lee-ah

Born: January 30, 1996

Birthplace: Auckland, NZ

Club: Richmond Roses

Position: Second row

Rep Honours: Akarana Falcons

Occupation: Teacher aide, Waikowhai Intermediate School (Auckland)

Personal Note:





Pronunciation: Lung-ee Vee-eye-nu

Born: November 3, 1993

Birthplace: Auckland

Club: Otahuhu Leopards

Position: Wing

Rep Honours: Kiwi Ferns (2016-2018), NRL Nines (2016, 2017), Counties Manukau Stingrays

Occupation: Mother





Born: September 2, 1986

Birthplace: New Plymouth, NZ

Club: Richmond Roses

Position: Centre/wing

Rep Honours: Kiwi Ferns (2014-2018), World Cup (2017), Akarana Falcons

Occupation: Teacher, Melville High School (Hamilton)

The Manurewa Marlins made it back-to-back Farrelly Photos Women’s Premiership titles, after coming out on top in a thrilling Grand Final on Sunday at Mount Smart Stadium #2.

Up 20-14 with three minutes to go, Manurewa then leaked a try under the sticks and the game looked destined for extra time, only for the conversion in front to ping off the crossbar.

With first-choice kicker Alice Vailea nursing a leg injury picked up late in the game, Richmond fullback Shannon Muru was called up to attempt the kick, with the effort not having the required power, effectively handing Manurewa another title.

The win was a deserving reward for Manurewa at the end of a brilliant 2018 season, which saw them go undefeated.The Rusty Matua-coached Marlins had raced out to a 10-0 lead early against Richmond, thanks to four-pointers from Krystal Rota and Kararaina Wira-Kohu.

A quick play-the-ball from TJ Noble-Bell laid the platform for Rota’s effort, before Wira-Kohu rushed from five metres out to find a hole and crash over.

Richmond hit back on the half hour through Vailea, but when Louisa Gago wrapped around for a try in the middle of the park, which Kere Matua converted, Manurewa had a 16-4 to take to the break.

In the second half, tries to Lorina Papali’i and Johreena Sekene, one of which was converted by Vailea, cut the gap to 16-14, with both tries coming off kicks, the first from Shontelle Woodman and the second a pinpoint grubber from Vailea.

But when Manurewa’s Christyl Stowers executed a left-side shift to score with 12 minutes left, Richmond’s dream of a comeback appeared over.

Following long stoppages in play for a couple of injuries, Annetta Nuuausala powered over from close range to score a try which should have forced extra time, with a couple of centimetres on the ensuing conversion denying the central Aucklanders a shot at a memorable victory.

Earlier in the day the Ponsonby Ponies ran out convincing 54-18 winners over Mt Wellington in the second-tier Grand Final, with backrower Mele Toki starring with three tries.

Manurewa 20 (Krystal Rota, Kararaina Wira-Kohu, Louisa Gago, Christyl Stowers tries; Kere Matua 2 goals) Richmond 18 (Alice Vailea, Lorina Papali’i, Johreena Sekene, Annetta Nuuausala tries; Alice Vailea goal). At Mt Smart Stadium #2.

The Auckland Women’s representative team will face the New Zealand Warriors Women in a pair of warm-up matches ahead of the NRL Women’s Premiership kicking off in September.

On Friday, August 10, the two sides will play as the curtain-raiser to the men’s NRL clash at Mount Smart Stadium, before they meet again two weeks later on August 25, at a venue which will be announced at a later date.

Auckland Rugby League General Manager Greg Whaiapu said the games will showcase the depth of quality currently playing in Auckland’s Farrelly Photos women’s competitions.

“The majority of the Warriors’ squad for the NRL competition will be made up of players from our competitions, and it’s going to be exciting to see so many of our women take the field together when they play against Auckland,” Whaiapu said.

“Earning an Auckland jersey is always an honour, and for the ladies selected it will serve as a reward for their efforts this season.

“It’s also another chance for them to show their talents and push their claims for higher honours next year.”

The matches are the latest addition to the Auckland Rugby League’s female programme, which this year has included opening up the renowned JETS Development Camp to girls, the introduction of a new U13 girls’ grade at club level and the Auckland Vulcans contesting the National Women’s Tournament.Later this season the ARL will also co-host an end-of-season women’s nine-aside tournament for clubs and tertiary institutions, and send Auckland Vulcans Development age-grade girls sides down to the Waikato for representative matches.

The New Zealand Rugby League  was proud to see Kiwi Ferns captain Laura Mariu named among the Queen’s Birthday Honours recipients on Monday 4 June. Laura was awarded an MNZM (Member of the New
Zealand Order of Merit) for her service to rugby league.

Following a weekend of triple celebrations that saw Mariu captain the Counties Manukau Stingrays to their ninth successive national title, and earning herself a spot on the Kiwi Ferns wider squad for October’s triple-header in Auckland, being awarded an MNZM was the icing on top.

Laura Mariu has played in all five Women’s Rugby League World Cups (2000, 2003, 2008, 2013, 2017) and subsequently boasts three time world champion status. As the captain of the Kiwi Ferns, Laura has dedicated, 17 years of her life to the game of rugby league and is role model to all young women aspiring to reach the pinnacle of our game.

Despite announcing her retirement from World Cup rugby league, Laura couldn’t pass up the opportunity to play in October’s triple-header.

“After the World Cup I thought I’d hang up the boots on my Kiwi Ferns career but I just can’t stay away.

“While my body still allows me I’m keen to play in that Kiwi Ferns jersey if they’ll have me,” she said.

For most of her working life Laura found employment which suited her rugby league career. But after the 2017 World Cup she began training at the police academy. Laura graduated in early May and is now serving
in the Counties-Manukau district.

Following a blockbuster final at NZRL’s National Women’s Tournament, the Kiwi Ferns wider squad has been named ahead of preparations for the Kiwi Ferns, Kiwis and Junior Kiwis triple-header to be held in Auckland on 13 October.

The squad of 33 includes some fresh development prospects, products of the ever-growing women’s game, as well as many seasoned veterans carrying years of international experience.

Despite closing the curtain on World Cup rugby league, Laura Mariu has proven she’s still performing at the top level admitting the appeal of playing in October’s triple-header was too strong.

“After the World Cup I thought I’d hang up the boots on my Kiwi Ferns career but I just can’t stay away. While my body still allows me I’m keen to play in that Kiwi Ferns jersey if they’ll have me,” she said.

She also celebrates her naming on the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen’s Birthday Honours announced today for her outstanding service to rugby league.

While there will be some additions to the squad as dispensations, injuries and overseas players in contention are considered, Kiwi Ferns Coach Kelvin Wright is excited to begin his journey with the squad that promises some “real raw talent”.

“The squad I’ll be working with in the lead-up to October’s triple-header is exactly what any coach can hope for, full of talent and rugby league smarts.

“With the right support I believe we can create something pretty special as a team,” he said.

“It’s great to see women from the regions putting their hand up and excited to work alongside the women to ensure we have the best team on the field in October,” he said.

Preparations for the Test against the Jillaroos in October will be further enhanced by the opportunity for players to compete in the new NRL Women’s Competition.

New Zealand Rugby League Talent Manager David McMeeken was singing his praises for the level of play demonstrated over the three day tournament.

“In wet, muddy conditions over two of the three days of play there was some exceptional football on display. The players and staff were a credit to all the regions represented and there was a great environment created around the venue from them all, despite the conditions.

“This squad provides Kelvin with plenty of experience and also some youth players who have showcased some unique ability throughout the tournament, who if exposed to a higher level of coaching and surrounded with the experience within the squad, we could potentially see some of those players at the next World Cup,” McMeeken said.

Kiwi Ferns wider squad:

AKARANA: Alice Vailea, Crystal Tamaru, Georgia Hale, Karley Te Kawa, Lara Diamond-Brahne, Ngatokotoru Arakua, Shontelle Woodman, Annetta-Claudia Nuuausala, Lisa Edwards; CANTERBURY: Masuisuimatamaalii Tauasa Pauaraisa; COUNTIES: AieshaLeigh Smalley, Amber Kani, Apii Nicholls-Pualau, Hilda Peters, Kaylen Ikitule, Kerehitina Matua, Kimiora Nati, Krystal Rota, Langi Veainu, Laura Mariu, Lavinia Tauhalaiku, Louisa Gago, Onjeurlina Leiataua, Raquel Anderson-Pitman, Teuila Fotu-Moala, Sarah Filimoeatu; AUCKLAND VULCANS: Ma’atuleio Fotu-Moala, Tanika Jazz Noble-Bell; WAI-COA-BAY: Honey Hireme, Kanyon Paul, Lakiila Gudgeon, Te Whetumarama Nuku; WELLINGTON: Acacia Te Iwimate.

Plagued by torrential rain and gail force winds, day two of the National Women’s Tournament at Cornwall Park brought plenty of spills, thrills and moments of brilliance.

In what will be a repeat of last year’s final, the Counties Manukau Stingrays will come up against the Akarana Falcons in hopes of securing their ninth successive national title.


This morning’s first game saw Akarana take on Wellington in a game many wouldn’t have predicted to have been so close. Akarana’s strong defence held Wellington down in their own half for the majority of the first half. Those efforts resulting in the first four points on the board through Akarana’s stand-off, Alice Vailea who scored by the post.

Akarana’s sheer ability to force errors at crucial times put the pressure on Wellington to get the basics right – and that they did. Wellington shifted into second gear meeting their opposition’s defensive line at speed, forcing errors from the Akarana camp only metres out from their try-line.

A risky offload by Wellington in their own half saw Akarana score after a solid carry by Billy-Jean Ale carrying two with her all the way to the try-line – score 8-0.

It wasn’t till later in the first half when Wellington decided to surge. By completing their sets and applying pressure to Akarana’s defence, Wellington’s Jayme Nuku managed to get their first points on the board converting her own try to make it 8-6 right before half time.

The second half saw Wellington give away several penalties and of course Akarana capitalised with Laishon Jones putting her hand up for a four-pointer.

Despite Wellington’s Mahalia Polson running in their second converted try of the game, Akarana held on by the skin of their teeth securing a close 14-12 victory.

Another close encounter was the Canterbury v Wai-Coa-Bay decider which would see the winner take on Counties in a semi-final, a crucial game for both teams who were desperate for a win.


It was Wai-Coa-Bay who began their tirade first with a strong set forcing a line drop-out however, a series of turnovers saw no significant field position for any team in the first half with a nil all scoreline heading into the break.

Back-to-back repeat sets for Canterbury in Wai-Coa-Bay’s half saw Cassie Siataga score a fabulous try running through a hole from a short ball. With eight minutes to go, Canterbury were up 4-0.

A beautiful set move from the scrum saw Canterbury strike again minutes later – 8-0. Wai-Coa-Bay were determined to have the last laugh although their final attempts weren’t enough to beat the Cantabrians, with Honey Hireme doing what she does best, running in a try on the final hooter – Final score 8-4.

With both Akarana and Counties winning their semi-finals convincingly, 22-0 and 50-0 respectively, many will watch on to see if Akarana will finally overcome the wrath of Counties to be crowned the 2018 National Women’s Tournament champions.


Counties v Canterbury livestream below:


Click here for photo album of day two

National Women’s Tournament – Day two 

Cornwall Park 

Sunday, 3 June 

Round three:

Akarana 14 – Wellington 12
Counties 12 – Auckland Vulcans 2
Canterbury 8 – Wai-Coa 4


Akarana 22 – Auckland 0

Counties 50 – Canterbury 0

Next games: Monday, 4 June 

Cornwall Park, Auckland 

5th & 6th playoff: Wellington v Wai-Coa-Bay – 10.30am

3rd & 4th playoff: Canterbury v Auckland – 11.30am

Final: Akarana v Counties – 1pm (livestreamed on NZRL Facebook page)


Defending champions, Counties Manukau Stingrays and the Akarana Falcons have once again marked their territory at day one of the National Women’s Tournament at Cornwall Park.

Standings after day one below:


Saturday’s action sees Counties at the top of Pool A on four points after two big wins against the Wellington Orcas (28-0) and Wai-Coa-Bay (40-0) keeping both of their oppositions scoreless in round one.

In the first game of the day, Counties served Wellington a 28-0 beating drawing inspiration from a structurally sound attacking line that scored off their first set through their fullback, Apii Nicholls-Pualau. Their forwards managed to lay a great platform for the outside backs to convert chances into points. Two more first half tries gave the defending champions a 16-0 lead at the break.

Immediately after the break Counties were able to pile on the points with two tries off their first two sets, jumping out to a 28-0 lead.

Counties’ tight defense allowed Wellington only a handful of opportunities, but mistakes cost them on almost every occasion.

However, after getting their first game jitters out of the way, Auckland’s cold winter breeze made the Wellington Orcas feel right at home in what turned out to be the closest match of the day – Wellington Orcas v Auckland Vulcans.

To view the livestream, click here. 

After an even opening period of the game, Wellington took advantage of their solid field position with a try to second-rower, Rikki Rawleigh. The Orcas left centre then took advantage of another scoring opportunity to extend their lead to 10-0.

Unfortunately for Auckland what seemed to be their best scoring chance quickly ended with what appeared to be a knee injury for their right centre, who had to be helped off the field.

After the break, a mistake from the Vulcans gifted the Orcas another chance and they capitalised, taking a commanding 14-0 lead.

Then came a shift in momentum. A surge in the final 20 minutes saw the Auckland Vulcans fight back to force a 14-all draw scoring three unanswered tries. That surge was ultimately sparked by former Kiwi Fern Lorina Papali’i and her sharp runs on attack that led to points on the board. The women’s rugby league veteran will be pleased with her performance as she returns to the field for the first time since retiring in 2010.

Wellington captain, Acacia Te Iwimate was named Mainstream Player of the Match after an outstanding game at hooker but admitted a lapse in defense cost them the win.

“We started off really well but against teams like the Vulcans, you can’t afford to go to sleep at any stage like we did. Of course, we’ve got to be happy with a draw, especially when it comes to an Auckland v Wellington battle.

“There were a couple of easy turnovers that we let slip at crucial times and they were able to counter-ruck off that and get the points so that will definitely be one of our work-ons going forward,” she said.

In Pool B, the Akarana Falcons lead with four points after beating Wai-Coa-Bay (24-0) and Canterbury (38-6) convincingly.

Akarana’s first try of the game came on the left wing for Lara Diamond-Brahne.

They then scored again off the ensuing set from kickoff, with a great slicing run from their second-rower, setting up a try for Tessa Wright.

Akarana began to pull away, with an overlap on the right side leading to a kick and chase. A great recovery from Luafalealo with a flick pass out the back to Diamond-Brahne extended their lead further with the winger running in her second try. Her impressive game saw her pick up the Mainstream Player of the Match.

Wayward passes and kicks, as well as several dropped balls didn’t work in Wai-Coa-Bay’s favour. Their strong defence helped set up numerous attacking opportunities, but all went begging as Akarana pulled on their great line speed to hold them scoreless.

A team that Akarana couldn’t keep scoreless was last year’s third place winners, Canterbury. A tight first half, one that Canterbury would be proud of, saw Akarana gain a narrow 8-6 lead.

The second half was a different story as the Falcons piled on the points. Their left side attack, which had been strong for most of the day produced a try produced another four points through left winger Tasha Tapu. Great running from the forwards in the middle opened the Canterbury defence up numerous times, and scoring chances flowed for Akarana. Final score being 38-6.

If Counties continue their winning streak, they could find themselves playing off for their ninth successive National Women’s Tournament title.

National Women’s Tournament – Day one 

Saturday, 2 June 2018 – Cornwall Park 

Round one:

Counties 28 – Wellington 0
Auckland Vulcans 16 – Canterbury 0
Akarana 24 – Wai-Coa 0

Round two:

Auckland Vulcans 14 – Wellington 14
Counties 40 – Wai-Coa 0
Akarana 38 – Canterbury 6

Photo Album from today’s games here

The New Zealand Rugby League is pleased to announce today, Kelvin Wright as the new Head Coach of the Kiwi Ferns ahead of the Queen’s Birthday weekend National Women’s Tournament taking place 2-4 June.

Since his coaching career began in 2011, Wright has fulfilled several coaching roles at New Zealand level including as Junior Kiwis Head Coach, Junior Warriors Head Coach, Warriors Assistant Coach and Kiwis Assistant Coach, roles which will prove beneficial when he begins his journey with the national women’s rugby league team.

Wright will lead the selection panel identifying the top 30 female players in New Zealand during this weekend’s National Women’s Tournament. These players will contribute to the make-up of the Kiwi Ferns wider squad to be announced on Monday 4 June at the conclusion of the final where the national women’s champion team will be crowned.

NZRL Coaching Manager, Gary Peacham said he was “excited to see a coach of Kelvin’s ability put his hand up for the top job and is confident he can successfully lead the Kiwi Ferns programme.”

While Kelvin boasts a wealth of rugby league experience, he was particularly excited to accept this new challenge  – to coach the three time World Champion Kiwi Ferns team. With the supreme level of talent available in New Zealand, Wright is welcoming of the new era women’s rugby league is about to enter into, and believes he can offer significant value to the team.

“I’ll bring fresh ideas and experience which I’ve gained through a number of different campaigns. On a technical level, I’ll be challenging the players to improve in all areas to take our game to the next level. We are very lucky to have a tremendous amount of Kiwi talent across New Zealand and Australia who will be competing for spots in the squad,” Wright said.

As a part of the trans-Tasman triple-header taking place in Auckland on October 13, the Kiwi Ferns will go head-to-head with the Jillaroos ahead of the Kiwis v Kangaroos clash, in their first match since the 2017 Rugby League World Cup final in Brisbane.

For Kelvin, the road to the October match-up starts this weekend when six teams including last year’s champions, the Counties Manukau Stingrays, Akarana Falcons, Wai-Coa-Bay Stallions, Canterbury, Wellington Orcas and the Auckland Vulcans teams descend upon Cornwall Park.

“I’m sure we’ll see quality games played at a tremendous pace. I’ll be looking for speed, skill and players who compete on every play with a strong desire to win,” Wright said.

Following the tournament, Wright will support the NZRL in appointing the remainder of the Kiwi Ferns management team.

National Women’s Tournament – two weeks out

In her first appearance since the 2017 Rugby League World Cup, Putaruru born Kiwi Fern Honey Hireme will play for the Wai-Coa-Bay Stallions at the National Women’s Tournament.

Hireme is no stranger to the women’s rugby league scene. She burst onto the world stage of women’s rugby league when she played in her first World Cup for the Kiwi Ferns in 2003 coming away as Champions. In the Kiwi Ferns’ third successive World Cup win, Hireme graced the Ferns line-up in 2008 and again when she captained the team in 2013. In the same year she also took away World Cup Player of the Tournament, an award she was also named as a finalist for during the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.

Her name was in headlines during last year’s Rugby League World Cup racking up an impressive 13 tries over the tournament.


National Women’s Tournament – three weeks out

The National Women’s Tournament is three weeks away and NZRL are pleased to advise there will be one game livestreamed each day of the tournament.

Livestreamed games will include:

Day one 2 June, 2.30pm – Auckland Vulcans v Wellington Orcas
Day two 3 June, 1.30pm – 1st Pool A v 2nd Pool B
Day three 4 June, 1pm – Grand Final

Teams this year include the Counties Manukau Stingrays, Wellington Orcas, Auckland Vulcans in Pool A and Canterbury, Akarana Falcons and Wai-Coa-Bay Stallions in Pool B.


The NZRL National Women’s Tournament is four weeks away. Queen’s Birthday weekend, 2-4 June will see women’s teams from throughout New Zealand battle it out in hopes of being crowned the NZRL Women’s National champions.

Teams this year include the Counties Manukau Stingrays, Wellington Orcas, Auckland Vulcans in Pool A and Canterbury, Akarana Falcons and Wai-Coa-Bay Stallions in Pool B.

Get down to Cornwall Park on Queen’s Birthday weekend to support the women’s game.


NZRL are now open to receiving applications of interest for the roles of Head Coach for the New Zealand Resident 16s and the Kiwi Ferns.

Applications close for the NZ RESIDENT 16S MANAGER, ASSISTANT COACH and TRAINER roles at 5pm on Thursday 10 May 2018.

Successful shortlisted applicants must be available to interview on Thursday 17 May 2018

Applications close for the KIWI FERNS MANAGER, ASSISTANT COACH and TRAINER roles at 5pm on Thursday 17 May 2018.

Successful shortlisted applicants must be available to interview on Thursday 24 May 2018

To view job descriptions for all of these roles, please see the NZRL Careers page here.

If you are interested in the roles please send your covering letter and coaching CV to: admin@nzrl.co.nz before the allocated time and date.

If you have any questions of queries please contact Gary Peacham: 021 274 6975 or email: gary.p@nzrl.co.nz

By NZ Herald

Sporting royalty were included in a cohort of new police constables who graduated in Porirua over the weekend.

Kiwi Ferns Captain Laura Mariu and Kiwi Ferns player and winner of New Zealand Rugby League 2017 Player of the Year, Apii Nicholls-Pualau have both graduated from the black jersey to the blue uniform, along with 56 other constables from Wing 313 and two narcotic detector dogs.

“It is a huge honour to be a part of New Zealand Police and I have enjoyed my time here at College,” Nicholls-Pualau said.

“I believe the [Royal New Zealand Police College] definitely sets the platform for a better future and I can only hope my experiences will help me better engage with our community and set good examples.

“I can’t wait to make a difference and ultimately contribute to the ongoing success of making New Zealand the safest country.”

Mariu and Nicholls-Pualau will both be posted to Counties Manukau district and start on the beat on May 14.

Tomorrow’s graduation is also a milestone for the role the police has played in helping to build dog section capability in the Northern Territories and the Pacific, said national co-ordinator of police dogs Inspector Todd Southall.

“We have a key role in helping maintain training and development, as well as the supply of dogs to the island nations,” he said.

“It’s about helping protect our neighbours and protecting our borders.”

Senior Constable Dean McKie from the Northern Territory Police is graduating with detector dog Hugo, who was bred at the Dog Training Centre.

He will be attached to the Substance Abuse Intelligence Desk.

Sergeant Tyron Bellman from the Northern Territory Police is currently an operational handler and is the detection training sergeant for the entire Northern Territory Police.

Tomorrow he graduates as a detector dog instructor.

Constable Peter Pureau from the Cook Islands Police is graduating with detector dog Hoss, Hugo’s brother.

The Secretary of Defence and Chief Executive of the Ministry of Defence, Helene Quilter, Minister of Police Stuart Nash, MP for Mana Kris Faafoi and Deputy Commissioner Mike Clement will all be attending the graduation.

The NZRL National Women’s Tournament is back in 2018. Queen’s Birthday weekend, 2-4 June will see women’s teams from throughout New Zealand battle out in hopes of being crowned the NZRL Women’s National champions.

Last year, the Counties Manukau Stingrays took out their eighth successive title in a nail biter against Akarana and it was standout fullback, Apii Nicholls-Pualau who was awarded Best Back of the Tournament earning her a spot in the Kiwi Ferns 2017 Rugby League World Cup squad. After outstanding performances on the world stage, she unsurprisingly went on to take out 2017 NZRL Women’s PLayer of the Year.

Five weeks out from this year’s National Women’s Tournament, we look forward to seeing all the talent on display that 2018 has to offer.


Last month, Kiwi Ferns Raquel Anderson and Shontelle Woodman toured schools in Waikato and Auckland spreading the word about education.

As Duffy Books amabassadors, the pair attended assemblies at Tainui Full Primary School, Pukemiro School, Waipa Primary School and Ngaruawahia Primary School giving the gift of learning and promoting the message that ‘It’s Cool to Read and Cool to Achieve’.

For Kiwi Fern Raquel Anderson, her school visit was extra special. Going back to Tainui Full Primary School to share her journey into the Kiwi Ferns jersey, the school she attended as a youngster, had her reminiscing on her days as an eager student.

“I absolutely loved going back to my old primary school it brought back all those feel good memories,” she said.

“There was one boy with autism and aspergers who I’d heard hated going to assembly last year. When I gave him his books he was smiling from ear to ear and even helped me hand out the books to other the kids. That was a precious moment and reminded me just how special it is for these schools to be involved with the Duffy Books in Homes programme.

“Having gratitude, getting a good education and giving back to the community are just as important to being a Kiwi Fern as taking to the field so putting these sort of things into practice are very rewarding for us players,” she added.

Duffy Books in Homes is a literacy programme aimed at breaking the cycle of booklessness in decile 1 – 4 primary and intermediate schools throughout New Zealand. There are 517 schools on the programme and over 100,000 children who get to choose five brand new books each per year as well as the opportunity to ‘earn’ extra books through the ‘Caught Being Good Awards’ incentive.

Former Kiwi Ferns captain and NZRL Wellbeing and Women’s Development Manager, Luisa Avaiki, has been named as head coach of the Warriors’ new NRL women’s team.

The Warriors were confirmed as one of four clubs in the new NRL women’s competition on Tuesday and appointed Avaiki on Wednesday.

Avaiki captained the Kiwi Ferns to victory in two of the first three women’s World Cup tournaments in 2003 and 2008 and was a part of the Kiwi Ferns team that won the inaugural World Cup. Her international career stretched from 1995-2009.

She has been prominent in coaching since her retirement from playing, and has worked for the Melbourne Storm as their games development officer. She has been the New Zealand Rugby League’s well-being and women’s development manager since 2016.

Avaiki, who has also represented Samoa in rugby league, rugby union and touch, said she was humbled when given the opportunity to become the club’s first NRL women’s coach. The Warriors believe she is the first woman to have a coaching position with an NRL club.

The competition, which will also involve the Sydney Roosters, St George-Illawarra Dragons and Brisbane Broncos, will start later this year.

“Women’s rugby league has a long history in New Zealand but the introduction of this competition has taken our game to a whole new level,” she said.

“It’s a huge honour having the chance to take up this role.”

Warriors general manager of football Brian Smith said the club was thrilled to appoint Avaiki.

“It was a huge day being named as one of the four foundation clubs yesterday and it’s even more exciting to be able to announce Luisa’s appointment today. We were keen to move on this quickly as we seek to build our team.

“The new competition is taking the club and the women’s game into a completely new era which we’re so proud to a part of.”

Warriors CEO Cameron George, head coach Stephen Kearney, Smith and Avaiki met prospective players for the women’s team at Mount Smart Stadium on Wednesday night.

“For us, our women’s team will be just like our other three sides in the NRL, the Intrust Super Premiership and the Jersey Flegg Cup,” said George.

“They’ll strive to attain the same values we have for the club’s other teams.

“We are all about winning, about having a crack every time we play and making our members and fans proud.”

Following a massive season with the Melbourne Storm, Nelson Asofa-Solomona (Kiwi #804) burst onto the international rugby league scene with the Kiwis in 2017. His physicality turned heads at the Rugby League World Cup and has earned him a spot as a finalist for both Kiwis Rookie of the Year and Kiwis Player of the Year.

Finalists have been selected in all 12 NZRL Awards categories, with winners to be announced at an Auckland function on February 10.

Kiwis stalwart Simon Mannering (Kiwi #731) joins Asofa-Solomona and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Kiwi #779) as finalists for the top award while Asofa-Solomona will also face-off for the Kiwis Rookie of the Year title.

The Women’s Player of the Year award will be another heavily contested category with hard-hitter Teuila Fotu-Moala, Women’s Rugby League World Cup Player of the Tournament up against Kiwi Ferns hooker Krystal Rota and fullback Apii Nicholls-Pualau. Rota’s 2017 Auckland Player of the Year accolade will see her as a strong contender as well as Nicholls-Pualau’s dominance at the back for the Kiwi Ferns Rugby League World Cup campaign.

A special recognition award will also honour an individual’s service to the women’s game.

The full list of NZRL Awards finalists is:

Pirtek Female Volunteer – Naioma Chase (Dannevirke Rugby League/Mid Central), Sonyia Anania (Glenora Bears/Akarana), Fipe Fa’amoe Ione(He Tauua/Southern), Alana Lockhurst (Cooks Rugby League/Sothern), Sandra Hickey (Physical Disability RL/Akarana), Jasmine Tuli (Linwood Keas/Sothern), Victoria Malone (Marist Saints/Akarana), Karla Matua (Manurewa Marlins/Counties Manukau), Chantez Connor (Otaika Eagles/Northland), Nicole Baker-Havea (Otahuhu Rugby League/Counties Manukau)

Pirtek Male Volunteer – Nathan Robinson (Country Cowboys/Aoraki/Southern), James Waetford (Ellerslie Eagles/Akarana), Will Harris (Wairau Taniwha/Sotuhern), Willy Simon (Hornby Panthers/Southern), Lawrence Erihe (Linton Cobras/Mid Central), Jack Newson (Hornby Panthers/Southern), Riki Shelford (Portland Rugby League/Northland), Jim Doolan (Otara Scorpians/Counties Manukau), Dennis Stewart (Trentham Titans/Wellington)

Grassroots Club – Northcote Tigers (Akarana), Taniwharau (Upper Central), Dannevirke (Mid Central)

Domestic Coach – Rusty Matua (Auckland), Morgan Kutia (Waikato), Rod Ratu (Auckland)

Referee – Jason Wilson (Canterbury), Chris McMillan (Auckland)

Domestic Player 16s –
Christian Tuipulotu (Akarana), Caius Fa’atili (Southern), Sione Moala (Counties Manukau),

Domestic Player 18s
– Steven Marsters (St George Illawara), Tyler Slade (NZ Warriors),
Seth Tauamiti (Southern), Jonathan Aumua Falelua-Malio (Akarana)

Domestic Player Premier
– Aaron Jolley (Waikato/Hamilton City Tigers), Daniel Reuelu-Buchanan (Akarana Falcons/Glenora Bears), Phil Kingi (Akarana Falcons/Glenora Bears)

Junior Player – Moeaki Fotuaika (Gold Coast Titans), Jarome Luai (Penrith Panthers), Isaiah Papali’I (NZ Warriors)

Kiwis Rookie – Nelson Asofa-Solomona (Melbourne Storm), Danny Levi (Newcastle Knights), Isaac Liu (Sydney Roosters)

Women’s Player – Teuila Fotu-Moala (Otahuhu Leopards/Counties Manukau), Krystal Rota (Manurewa Marlins/Counties Manukau), Apii Nicholls-Pualau (Manurewa Marlins/Counties Manukau)

Kiwis Player –
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (NZ Warriors), Simon Mannering (NZ Warriors), Nelson Asofa-Solomona (Melbourne Storm)

Following the success of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup, the new world rankings have been announced for the men’s game and, for the first time, the women.

Australia, after picking up the silverware in both tournaments, are at the head of the respective tables.

Kangaroos head coach Mal Meninga said “We believe a strong international programme is essential and see our success, and the manner in which we fought for it, as a catalyst in continuing this push to prioritise Test match rugby league. The players have been central to this achievement and I know they are very proud and humble to maintain the status quo.”

Nine nations make up the inaugural Women’s rankings.

In the men’s rankings, Lebanon are the main movers, up nine places from eighteenth into the top ten, whilst Tonga go from eleventh to fourth. Papua New Guinea rise six places to tenth and there is a welcome move for Chile, who won the first South American Championship, as they go from 37th to 32nd in a year when more internationals have been played than ever before.

Tongan head coach Kristian Woolf noted: “The Mate Ma’a’s move is just reward for a very strong year including a great World Cup campaign. It is something we want to continue, with the opportunity to be involved in more International games in the future and the ability to compete against the top three nations.”

PNGRL chairman Sandis Tsaka added: “The performance of the Kumuls during the 2017 World Cup has helped PNG get back up the world rankings and we now have the challenge of continuing to rise by playing more full international games. The PNG supporters and players have shown that they love international rugby league.”

David Collier OBE, chief executive of the Rugby League International Federation, commented: “On behalf of the RLIF board I would like to congratulate Australia on retaining their position and the other major movers, in particular Lebanon, Fiji, PNG and Tonga who all lit up the World Cup.”

“The rankings are a statistically-weighted reflection of results over the past five years, with greater emphasis on recent displays. Scotland and Samoa have retained a top six place due to their recent performances against the tier one nations, and Ireland are improving on the field yet drop out of the top 10 because of the ranking of the opposition they faced.

“What we have seen is that the success of the World Cup has reinvigorated the international game, even more fixtures are being arranged across the tiers and that will have a reflection in future rankings as past results gradually degrade.”

The Test series scheduled for next autumn between England and New Zealand will, most likely, determine which nation will end 2018 as the second ranked side.

Women’s Rankings

1. Australia
2. New Zealand
3. England
4. Canada
5. Cook Islands
6. Papua New Guinea
7. France
8. Italy
9. Lebanon

Men’s Rankings
Current / Previously
1. Australia 1
2. New Zealand 2
3. England 3
4. Tonga 11
5. Fiji 7
6. Samoa 5
7. Scotland 4
8. France 6
9. Lebanon 18
10. PNG 16
11. Ireland 8
12. Wales 9
13. Italy 12
14. USA 10
15. Jamaica 13
16. Serbia 14
17. Canada 15
18. Malta 17
19. Russia 19
20. Belgium 20
21. Spain 21
22. Norway 22
23. Greece 23
24. Philippines 34
25. Ukraine 25
26. Czech Republic 26
27. Netherlands 27
28. Germany 28
29. Hungary 29
30. Cook Islands 24
31. Sweden 30
32. Chile 37
33. Niue 31
34. Denmark 32
35. South Africa 33
36. Vanuatu 35
37. El Salvador 39
38. Thailand 36
39. Argentina –
40. Colombia –
41. Japan –
42. Solomon Islands 38
43. Brazil –
44. Uruguay 40
45. Hong Kong –
46. Bulgaria 41
47. Latvia 42
48. Morocco 43

Rating points are awarded for all sanctioned internationals over the previous five (5) years and are calculated by an independent company of sports data experts. A higher weighting is given to the most recent internationals.

A field goal on the stroke of fulltime from Australian, Caitlyn Moran sealed the game for the Jillaroos after holding off a late surge from a determined Kiwi ferns outfit.

Moran also bagged a double in the match which laid the platform for the Jillaroos to build a lead after spending much of the first half fending off New Zealand attacks.

New Zealand try scoring machine, Honey Hireme, also scored two tries but it wasn’t enough as the Jillaroos won their second straight Women’s World Cup.

As soon as play got underway, the Ferns flexed their muscles and put the Jillaroos on the back foot by sending their powerful forwards up the middle to gain some early momentum.

But despite controlling the opening minutes of the game, some creative play from the Jillaroos resulted in the first points of the final.

With two defenders on her back, Renae Kunst managed to get an offload to fullback Nakia Davis-Welsh who flew downfield before drawing the Kiwi fullback and finding Isabelle Kelly unmarked who crossed over for a brilliant team try.

Caitlyn Moran made no mistakes adding the extras to give Australia an early 6-0 lead just eight minutes into the match.

But New Zealand wouldn’t stay behind for long thanks to smart play from stand-off Raecene McGregor, then turning to Honey Hireme, who got her first of the day to level the scores just four minutes later.

Now with some momentum behind them, the Ferns started to regain control of the match with some quick line speed preventing the Jillaroos from moving up the field.

And as the clock ticked into the back end of the first half, Hireme once again gave New Zealand the upper hand after she forced her way over for her second try of the day.

Despite dominating for most of the first half, New Zealand only held onto a slim 10-6 advantage before Australia finally broke through on the verge of halftime.

As both teams took the field for the final 40 minutes of the 2017 Rugby League Women’s World Cup, the match was still well and truly anyone’s for the taking.

And it was the Jillaroos who took control of the match following play getting underway, landing a swift double blow within four minutes of each other to gain a firm grasp on the game.

The first came from an Ali Brigginshaw grubber kick which deflected off a New Zealand defender, bouncing up perfectly for Kelly who was in pursuit and put the ball down under the posts for her second try.

Then just four minutes later, forward Elianna Walton forced her way over next to the posts to give Australia a 22-10 lead with a little over 20 minutes yet to play.

But New Zealand were far from done and after finally making their way back down the right end of the field, New Zealand got themselves back into the match.

The Ferns moved the ball through the hands using quick passes and offloads to break up the Australian defence before Raecene McGregor finally found a way over the try line.

As the game moved into the final 10 minutes and with just one converted try the difference, the energy of both teams lifted as they could sense a World Cup victory was just one play away.

And that play would come from two-try hero, Caitlyn Moran, who slotted a field goal from 15 meters out on the stroke of full time to secure a second straight Rugby League Women’s World Cup for Australia, finishing champions 23-16.

James Coman | @JamesComan1
Rugby League World Cup 2017 Reporter‌‌

Kiwi Ferns forward Teuila Fotu-Moala admits feeling pressure to deliver in Saturday’s Rugby League World Cup final after being crowned player of the tournament.

Fotu-Moala beat Ferns teammate Honey Hireme and Jillaroos star Ali Brigginshaw following an impressive campaign where she was among the leaders in metres and line break assists.

“Overwhelmed, I was speechless when I heard my name,” she said on Wednesday.

“When they started talking about my stats. I didn’t realise my stats were pretty decent for the tournament. I’m still quite speechless, have no words yet.

“I don’t think it has kicked in yet but it is a massive World Cup and it’s quite competitive this time around. I’m real honoured to say the least.”

View image on Twitter

While humbled, Fotu-Moala, who turned 24 on Wednesday, said she had begun to feel the weight of expectation that came with recognition.

It was true she’d once been dubbed ‘The Jukebox’ by Kangaroos great Darren Lockyer, she said. The name was given because the hits keep coming from Fotu-Moala.

“I loved Darren Lockyer. He’s one of my favourites and for him to give me a nickname, that’s real cool. I’ll take it, but there’s another pressure for hitting out. If it happens, it happens. I don’t want people expecting hits.

“It puts a bit of pressure on me, there’ll be more eyes on me. (People will say) ‘Oh okay, she’s the fearless woman, let’s see what she’s got’, for those who haven’t been following.

“I just have to prove that I’ve worked hard to get here where I am.”

Fotu-Moala said she also had to overcome the difficulty of initially being discouraged by her family to pursue her rugby league dream.

“From the start of my journey, they haven’t been that supportive only because it wasn’t feminine to be out of the house training at night,” she said.

“Later on as I made the Kiwis, they only started being supportive and giving me a push and pushing me to do the best I could.

“I wasn’t allowed to play Sundays or because I was a girl my family would stop me from playing but I kept sneaking out of the house on Sundays and just going anyway.

“It was just those little traditional things they wanted me to be real traditional. When they saw I was doing well, then they just let it go because they got tired of saying no.”

Story care of stuff.co.nz.

New Zealand will take part in their fifth consecutive Rugby League Women’s World Cup Final after overcoming England Women’s 52 – 4 at Cronulla Stadium.

New Zealand overcame a poor start in the first half completing just 35 percent of their sets to record seven tries in the second half to blow England off the park and become the first team to qualify for the Final on Saturday.

A hat-trick to Honey Hireme and a double to Krystal Murray helped the Ferns cause, while forwards Teuila Fotu-Moala and Lilieta Maumau both notched up over 200 running meters throughout the match.

England started the match with their backs against the wall after they knocked the ball on from the kick off gifting New Zealand with a great early attacking chance.

And true to their class, the Kiwi Ferns wasted no time finding a way through England’s defence, scoring in the second minute of the match after executing a slick backline move through the hands for Maitua Feterika, who crashed over the line for the opening points of the game.

Then just four minutes later, the Ferns found themselves in attacking range once again and after a full set on the English line, the three-time champions opted to run the ball on the fifth for Shontelle Woodman, who ran through a gaping hole in England’s defence for their second try after just six minutes.

Following two unsuccessful conversions, the score line remained at 8-0 as things started to look ominous for the lacklustre English side.

But after completing just 35% of their sets in the opening 40-minutes, the Ferns gave the English time to slowly find their groove and work their way back into the match.

And in the 21st minute, England found the breakthrough after halfback, Kirsty Moroney, put a beautiful cross-field kick into the Ferns in goal, bouncing favourably for Tara-Jane Stanley who quickly got the ball down for England’s first points.

England’s try would be the last points of the first half as unforced errors slowed the momentum of both sides before the break for New Zealand to walk off the field with a 14-4 advantage.

Looking to rebuild their uncharacteristically low completion rate, the Ferns started the second half much the same as the first, scoring early points to immediately put England on the back foot.

Winger, Honey Hireme, crossed over for the first of her three tries of the day after just six minutes of the second half, finding enough space down the side-line to plant the ball down as New Zealand started to look dangerous.

Following Hireme’s four-pointer, New Zealand started to show why they haven’t missed a World Cup final since the inception of the tournament in 2000.

Improving their completion rate from 35 percent to 68 percent, the Ferns ran in seven tries in the second half thanks to a second-half hat-trick from Hireme to streak away with the match and secure a spot in their fifth consecutive Rugby League Women’s World Cup.

Kiwi Ferns 52 (Feterika, Woodman, Murray 2, Hireme 3, Fotu-Moala, Peters, Maumau, Mariu tries; Nati 4 penalty goals) England 4

James Coman | @JamesComan1
Rugby League World Cup 2017 Reporter‌‌

Kiwi Ferns Coach Tony Benson has named his side for tomorrow’s Women’s Rugby League World Cup semi-final against England at 1.45pm (AEDT).

Top try-scorer of the tournament Honey Hireme who pocketed six tries against the Cook Islands, will start on the left wing alongside Captain Laura Mariu who slots back in as lock.

While New Zealand have been fairly dominant in the pool stages, Benson is aware Sunday’s semi-final encounter against England will be no easy feat.

“They’re an incredibly physical side that will come at us hard so it’s our job to be ready for that,”

“We’ve identified a number of areas to work on that will improve our performance, and execution of those tweaks will be key for us,” he said.

A win for the Kiwi Ferns on Sunday would see them play the winner of the Australia v Canada clash taking place at 4pm AEDT following the first semi-final at Southern Cross Stadium, Sydney.


Kiwi Ferns v England
November 26, 1.45pm (AEDT)
Southern Cross Group Stadium, Sydney

1 – Apii Nicholls-Pualau
2 – Atawhai Tupaea
3 – Maitua Feterika
4 – Shontelle Woodman
5 – Honey Hireme
6 – Georgia Hale
7 – Kimiora Nati
8 – Aieshaleigh Smalley
9 – Krystal Rota
10 – Lilieta Maumau
11- Teuila Fotu-Moala
12 – Hilda Peters
13 – Laura Mariu (Captain)
14 – Nita Maynard
15 – Annetta-Claudia Nuuausala
16 – Krystal Murray
17 – Ngatokotoru Arakua
18 – Amber Kani
19 – Kahurangi Peters

Despite the Ferns crossing for two tries in the opening ten minutes, the Orchids were able to hold out an array of attacking raids to keep the score to just 8-0 at half-time.

Their efforts were to no avail, however, as the Ferns put together a clinical second half with Annetta-Claudia Nuuausala and Maitua Feterika inspiring the hard-fought win.

Luisa Gago gave New Zealand the early buffer as she zig-zagged her way through multiple Orchids defenders to sneak her way over the try-line.

It wasn’t long before they extended their lead after fullback Raecene McGregor crashed her way over for their second unanswered try.

Papua New Guinea showed their resilience with some committed goal-line defence holding out a third Ferns try, but their success didn’t resonate with the ball-in-hand with New Zealand holding them out at the opposing end.

Both teams were fighting valiantly in a third-hitting contest that saw some brutally absorbing tackles on either side of the ball, and New Zealand looked to have finally made a breakthrough with Maitua Feterika slicing through but eventually knocked the ball forward just metres out from the try line.

Just moments later, a scorching kick at the opposing end from PNG halfback Amelia Kuk ricocheted off the post and planted down by the scrambling Orchids attackers, but the video referee ruled there was a knock-on in the process of scoring.

As their only chance went begging, they were able to maintain the 8-point deficit at half-time despite conceding two tries in the opening ten minutes of play.

The Ferns began the first-half with some great lead-up play from McGregor and Georgia Hale as they broke the line to earn their side great field position, but the scrambling PNG defence was able to hold out the raid.

New Zealand thought they had grabbed their much-needed just a few tackles later after a classy backline movement saw Feterika crash over in the right-hand corner, but some desperate defence from Male Mar stripped the ball in the process of scoring.

Despite their gallant efforts, they couldn’t stop winger Hilda Peters scoring in the opposite corner after a swift right-to-left shift.

Ngatokotoru Arakua was unable to convert from the sideline as the Ferns held onto a handy 12-0 lead.

With a wave of momentum behind them, the Ferns were able to strike shortly after with centre Amber Kani crossing the line before Fetrika scored their fifth unanswered try in similar fashion just two minutes later.

Although conceding three tries within a relentless 15 minute period, PNG clawed their way back with Joan Kuman going close to scoring but was forced into touch by the gutsy Ferns defence.

Their defensive efforts were rewarded with a four-pointer at the opposite end after some barnstorming runs through the middle-third gave them valuable field position, before going through the hands to give Atawhai Tupaea open space and give them a 26-point lead with just over 20 minutes remaining.

Brimming with confidence, the Ferns weren’t afraid to throw the ball around and they found themselves scoring a contender for try of the tournament, with a series of offloads eventually leading to Racquel Anderson crossing for their seventh try of the tournament.

Anderson was unable to convert her own try as the Ferns ran away with a comfortable 30-0 lead with 15 minutes remaining in the contest.

Annetta Nuuausala and Amber Kani put the icing on the cake in the closing stages with tries of their own to finish off a 38-0 win.

Kiwi Ferns play England in their semi-final at 1.45pm AEDT on Sunday November 26- Southern Cross Stadium, Sydney

Andre Cupido | @AndreCupido10​
Rugby League World Cup 2017 Reporter‌‌

Kiwi Fern stand-off, Georgia Hale will captain her team for the first time in New Zealand’s third and final pool match of the Women’s Rugby League World Cup against PNG tomorrow at 6.30pm (AEDT).

While this is Hale’s first Rugby League World Cup, the PNG match-up will be her fifth international Test having played at the 2015, 2016 and 2017 ANZAC Tests.

Aieshaleigh Smalley also joins Hale as the starting prop for her first international Test in the black jersey. She credits the support of her Otahuhu Leopards team and family in Auckland for being able to represent her country in the sport she loves.

“I’m so grateful to be where I am today, I just cannot wait to run out on the field in front of my family and friends who have flown across to Sydney to support me,”

“My three-year-old son Kayson will also be there to cheer me on so I can’t wait to make him proud,” she says.

If the Kiwi Ferns win their game against PNG tomorrow, they will finish top of Pool B and will play their semi-final against the team ranked second in Pool A on Sunday November 26.


Kiwi Ferns v PNG
November 22, 6.30pm (AEDT)
Southern Cross Group Stadium, Sydney

1 – Raecene McGregor
2 – Atawhai Tupaea
3 – Maitua Feterika
4 – Amber Kani
5 – Hilda Peters
6 – Georgia Hale (Captain)
7 – Racquel Anderson
8 – Aieshaleigh Smalley *
9 – Krystal Rota
10 – Kahurangi Peters
11 – Teuila Fotu-Moala
12 – Louisa Gago
13 – Sharlene Atai
14 – Nita Maynard
15 – Annetta-Claudia Nuuausala
16 – Bunty Kuruwaka-Crowe
19 – Lilieta Maumau

21 – Ngatokotoru Arakua
22 – Apii Nicholls-Pualau

*International debut

By Marvin France

When Kiwi Ferns coach Tony Benson was forced to find a new captain for the World Cup, he did not need long to settle on a replacement.

There are not too many players who know more about the tournament than Laura Mariu.

The 36-year-old loose forward has taken part in all five Women’s Rugby League World Cups dating back to its inception in 2000, a remarkable feat of longevity that has seen her walk away with three winner’s medals.

Surprisingly, though, the current event in Australia is her first as captain. And after New Zealand’s run of dominance was broken by the Jillaroos four years ago, what better way to cap off a special career than by leading the Kiwi Ferns back to the top.

“It’s very humbling. It’s always a privilege to represent your country but to lead the team to the World Cup is a huge honour,” Mariu told Stuff.

“I started in 2000, made the side then and haven’t looked back. I found a love for this game, I played other sports as well but I’ve become really passionate about rugby league.”

Forget about getting paid. It’s that sort of passion that kept Mariu and her teammates turning up year after year, even when they had to pay for the right to represent their nation on the world stage.

There is still a long way to go before the elite women’s players receive the same treatment as the men. But Mariu says the difference in support now compared to the early days is night and day.

“At the beginning it was marae styles and now we’re at the Novotel, which is huge and we’re truly grateful for everything the NZRL have been doing for us,” she said.

“They’re paying for hotels and for us to fly over to Australia. In the past we’ve had to pay levy fees just to represent our country. With the game evolving and the support from the NZRL, Rugby League World Cup and even the NRL, it’s made a huge difference for the game.

“It’s good to know they can see a future for the women’s game,” Mariu added. “There was a time when it seemed like there was nothing really happening but now there’s new opportunities and the exposure we’re gaining, hopefully it will draw new players and grow the game.”

Mariu, who had captained the side once previously, was handed the role when fullback Sarina Fiso became unavailable.

And with all but four of the 24-strong squad tasting their first World Cup, Benson was fortunate enough to be able to call on a player of her experience.

“It’s an easy one with Laura because she’s consistent, she’s highly likely to be on the field most of the time and we have a good relationship,” the coach said.

“When you’re touring you need to know everything that’s going on, who is happy and not and what works and doesn’t work in her mind. She has a big say in pretty much everything.”

They may be light on experience but Mariu is excited by the talent in the squad and the way they have gelled off the field.

The Kiwi Ferns made a nervous start during Thursday’s opening game against Canada before finding their groove in the second half to record a 50-4 victory.

They play their second pool game against the Cook Islands on Sunday and Mariu is confident they will continue to improve as they work towards a place in the final on December 2.

“If we stick to the basics and do them well, all good things can come from that,” the skipper said.

“It’s about keeping our unit tight, keeping the culture strong and knowing that there’s no individuals out there. It’s a team effort.”

The Ferns ran in 14 tries in a near-perfect performance with speedster Honey Hireme crossing for six tries in a clinical display of rugby league.

Halfback Kimiora Nati put in another strong showing as she led her team around with her pin-point kicking game and combined strongly with halves partner Raecene McGregor, who crossed for two tries of her own.

Cook Islands enjoyed a promising opening stanza with their threatening attacking raids causing havoc for the New Zealand defence, but it was the Ferns who broke the deadlock with a right-to-left shift at the opposing end which gave Hireme the first try of the contest.

Hireme found open space in the ensuing set with a burst down the left-hand touchline, and a second try was looming for New Zealand but winger Atawhai Tupea couldn’t maintain possession in the opposite corner.

While the Cooks Islands were desperately searching for a quick reprieve, the Ferns were brimming with confidence and rampaging front-rower Lilieta Maumau extended their lead after she brushed off a host of defenders on her way to the try-line.

Kimiora Nati converted from in-front to take a 10-0 stranglehold after 20 minutes.

New Zealand continued their dominance with their forwards laying a strong platform through the middle-third, and Shontelle Woodman took full advantage as she added her name to the scoresheet just moments later.

Nita Maynard was providing significant impact off the bench with some darting runs out of dummy-half, and a break through the middle was finished with a quick play-the-ball for fellow interchange player Krystal Murray, who crossed for their fourth try.

Hireme and Woodman were causing trouble for the Cook Islands right-edge defence as they combined for three tries within a relentless five minute period, with Hireme grabbing her hat-trick courtesy of a some brilliant inside play from Woodman.

Murray was denied a second try in the closing stages of the first-half, but it made little difference as the Ferns dominated proceedings to take a 38-0 lead at the break.

New Zealand five-eighth Raecene McGregor split the defence in the early exchanges of the second-half and was brought down just metres out from the try-line, with Hireme capitalising on the broken defence and crossing for her fourth try of the game.

Hireme eventually grabbed her fifth try after being previously denied by the video referee with Nati unable to convert as the Ferns took a 48-0 lead after 50 minutes.

Fullback Apii Nicholls-Paulau was putting in another stellar performance with some evasive runs and tireless efforts from the back, and soon turned provider fro McGregor with a brilliant offload that put the five-eighth over from close range.

McGregor raced away for her second try off the following set before Maynard snuck her way over the try-line just five minutes later.

The Cook Islands were valiant despite trailing on the scoreboard as they continued to fight hard for valuable field position and were frantically scrambling in defence, but the left-side attack of the Ferns couldn’t be stopped as Hireme sprinted away for her eighth try of the tournament.

Murray scored her second try with a bulldozing run from 30 metres in the closing stages out before her team backed it up with some committed goal-line defence to hold out the Cook Islands and finish with a dominant 76-0 victory.

New Zealand 76 (Hireme 6, McGregor 2, Woodman 2, Murray 2, Maumau,, Maynard tries; Nati 10 goals) def. Cook Islands 0

Three debutants have been named in Kiwi Ferns Coach Tony Benson’s starting line-up to take on Cook Islands in New Zealand’s second Women’s Rugby League World Cup game tomorrow at 4pm (AEDT).

While Nicholls-Pualau, New Zealand’s stand-out player against Canada will remain in fullback, Racquel Anderson, Louisa Gago and Australian-based Kiwi Raecene McGregor will play their first international Test.

Hailing from Waikato, Racquel Anderson will reap the benefits of making the three hour round trip to each training in the lead up to the World Cup.

“I’m rearing to get out on that field and put all those hard yards spent travelling and training hard into practice,”

“I know when I pull on that black jersey for my first time I’ll be thinking of the little league community that we have back in Tokoroa and hopefully my story will empower more young women to get out there and play the game we all love,” she said.


Kiwi Ferns v Cook Islands
November 19, 4pm (AEDT)
Southern Cross Group Stadium, Sydney

1 – Apii Nicholls-Pualau
2 – Atawhai Tupaea
3 – Amber Kani
4 – Shontelle Woodman
5 – Honey Hireme
6 – Raecene McGregor *
7 – Kimiora Nati
8 – Lilieta Maumau
9 – Racquel Anderson *
10 – Kahurangi Peters
20- Hilda Peters
12 – Louisa Gago *
13 – Laura Mariu (Captain)
14 – Nita Maynard
15- Krystal Murray
16 – Ngatokotoru Arakua
17 – Bunty Kuruwaka-Crowe
19 – Aieshaleigh Smalley *
22- Annetta-Claudia Nuuausala

*International debut

Fullback Apii Nicholls-Pualau starred for the Ferns as she continued to cause havoc with the ball in-hand, while halfback Kimiora Nati was a shining light with a clinical performance.

The Kiwis got off to the perfect start with winger Honey Hireme crossing for the first try of the tournament courtesy of some nice lead-up play from Nicholls-Pualau.

Their lead was short lived, however, as they were unable to withstand the pressure from Canada with back-rower Megan Pakulis barging her way over from dummy-half.

The Ferns regained the lead just moments later with speedster Atawhai Tupaea streaking down the right-hand touchline for their second try of the contest.

Kimiora Nati converted to take a handy 10-4 advantage after 15 minutes.

The Kiwis continued to force an array of handling errors with some brutally absorbing tackles but were unable to extend their lead with some costly mistakes of their own.

Despite the valiant efforts of Canada to level the scores, Ferns centre Shontelle Woodman eventually found a breakthrough after palming off a host of defenders before passing inside to Hireme for her second try of the contest.

Nati polished off a dominant first-half performance with her second conversion as the Ferns went into half-time with a 16-4 lead.

New Zealand earned an attacking raid off the first-set thanks to some barnstorming runs from their forwards, and Hireme looked to have completed her hat-trick only to knock the ball on as she dived in the left-hand corner.

Teuila Fotu-Moala continued her dominance as she brushed off defenders to burst through the middle-third, and their momentum couldn’t be stopped as Lilieta Maumau added her name to the scoresheet.

Brimming with confidence, the Ferns soon found themselves on the attack again with Krystal Murray providing significant impact off the bench with a try of her own.

Nati continued her strong day with the boot as she converted to take a comfortable 28-4 lead after 55 minutes.

Fotu-Moala was rewarded for her determined efforts with a four-pointer before Nicholls-Pualau scored their fourth try within a relentless 11 minute period.

Fotu-Moala and Mama both grabbed their second tries in the closing stages to round off a dominant 50-4 victory.

New Zealand 50 (Hireme 2, Fotu-Moala 2, Maumau 2, Tupaea, Murray, Nicholls-Pualau tries; Nati 7 goals) Canada 4 (Pakulias try)

Andre Cupido | @AndreCupido10​
Rugby League World Cup 2017 Reporter‌‌