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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Match Snapshot

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

Play of the Game

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Clubs: Otahuhu

Provinces: Auckland

 

New Zealand Representative:

 

1995  in Australia

1998  v Great Britain

1999  v Australia (home and away)

2000  World Cup (England)

2002  v New Zealand Māori

2003  World Cup (NZ)

2004  in Australia

 

OTHER ACHIEVEMENTS

 

World Cup team of the tournament (2003)

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

Clubs: Te Aroha

Provinces: Wellington

 

New Zealand Representative:

 

1997  v Australia

1998  v Great Britain

1999  v Australia (home and away)

2000  World Cup (England)

2001  v Australia

2002  v New Zealand Māori

2003  World Cup (NZ)

2004  in Australia

2006  v New Zealand Māori

2008  World Cup (Australia)

2010  v Great Britain

 

OTHER ACHIEVEMENTS

 

World Cup player of the tournament (2000, 2008)

World Cup team of the tournament (2003)

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

Clubs: Richmond

Provinces: Auckland

 

New Zealand Representative:

 

1995  in Australia

1997  v Australia

1998  v Great Britain

1999  v Australia (home and away)

2000  World Cup (England)

2001  v Australia

2002  v New Zealand Māori

2003  World Cup (NZ)

2004  in Australia

2008  World Cup (Australia)

 

OTHER ACHIEVEMENTS

 

Player of the series v Great Britain (1998)

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

Captain of World Cup team of the tournament (2003)

World Cup player of the tournament (2003)

Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (2019)

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

Provinces: Auckland

 

New Zealand Representative:

 

1995  in Australia

1997  v Australia

1998  v Great Britain

1999  v Australia (home and away)

2000  World Cup (England)

2002  v New Zealand Māori

2003  World Cup (NZ)

2004  in Australia

2006  v New Zealand Māori

 

OTHER ACHIEVEMENTS

 

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

World Cup best forward (2000)

World Cup team of the tournament (2003)

June 24, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2022 NZRL LEGENDS OF LEAGUE INDUCTEES

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

Kiwi Ferns
Luisa Avaiki
Nadene Conlon
Trish Hina
Leah Witehira

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Welcome back rugby league.”

June 22, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

KIWI FERNS v TONGA

Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland

3.10pm, Saturday, June 25, 202

  NAME CLUB KIWI FERN NO
1 Autumn-Rain STEPHENS DALY Newcastle Knights (2021, Current) 151
2 Madison BARTLETT St George (2021), Titans (Current) 144
3 Page MCGREGOR St George (2021)
4 Amy TURNER Broncos (2021, Current)
5 Katelyn VAHA’AKOLO Newcastle Knights (2021) 150
6 Laishon ALBERT-JONES Akarana Falcons
7 Raecene MCGREGOR Roosters (2021) 140
8 Annetta-Claudia NUUAUSALA Newcastle (2021) Broncos (Current), 127
9 Krystal ROTA (C) Newcastle Knights (2021) 124
10 Mya HILL-MOANA Roosters (2021) 155
11 Roxy MURDOCH-MASILA Broncos (2021)
12 Ngatokotoru ARAKUA Newcastle Knights (2021) 133
13 Georgia HALE Titans (2021) 122
14 Nita MAYNARD Paramatta Eels (2021), Broncos (Current) 137
15 Charlotte SCANLAN Newcastle Knights (2021) 103
16 Kararaina WIRA-KOHU Newcastle Knights (2021) 153
17 Christyl STOWERS Counties Manukau 156
18 Karli HANSEN Titans (2021) 152
19 Hailee-Jay MAUNSELL Titans (2021)

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

15 June 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

June 14, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

COMING TOGETHER

Whakakotahi | Fakatahataha

Wednesday, June 22

Otahuhu Rugby League Club

From 3:30pm – 5:00pm

 

08 June 2022

as seen on https://www.broncos.com.au

The Broncos have added outstanding power and experience to their forward pack with international Neta Nu’uausala joining Brisbane’s NRLW squad for the 2022 season.

The 27-year-old prop joins the Broncos off the back of a strong NRLW season for the Knights where she was awarded Player of the Year, making five appearances for more than 450 running metres – 190m of those post-contact, as well as 14 tackle busts, five offloads and a try.

The hard-running forward was a standout against the Broncos in Round 2 running for 127 metres with four tackle busts and three offloads.

A Kiwi Ferns representative representing New Zealand from 2016-19 including a World Cup, Nu’uausala brings power and leadership to a pack already boasting Amber Hall, Chelsea Lenarduzzi, Tallisha Harden, Kaitlyn Phillips, Sara Sautia and Lavinia Gould.

Nu’uausala becomes the 15th player to be announced for the Broncos’ 2022 NRLW campaign, with Jaime Chapman, Ali Brigginshaw, Julia Robinson, Tarryn Aiken, Shenae Ciesiolka, Amy Turner, Emily Bass and Jada Ferguson also part of the squad.

Broncos NRLW Coach Kelvin Wright said, “Neta has always been one of the best front rowers in the game and brings a great deal of power, she makes a really big impact in attack and defence.

“It’s really exciting to have her on board and I have no doubt that her best footy is ahead of her. She had a fantastic season for the Knights, picking up their Player of the Year award so it’s great to have her come and join us up in Brisbane.

”Neta will be leading from the front and taking us forward and she is a great addition to our club both on and off the field.”

The Broncos’ NRLW preseason will begin in mid-July with the NRLW season to kick-off on the weekend of August 20/21.

May 23, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

THE RETURN

Te Hokinga Mai | Toe Foki Mai

Saturday, 25 June Mt Smart Stadium Auckland

3:10pm NZT Kiwi Ferns v Tonga

Tickets from Ticketmaster!

April 14 2022

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

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

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

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

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

 

NRLW NEW ZEALAND MERIT TEAM

 

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

 

12 April 2022

as seen on https://home.nzcity.co.nz

Plenty of the Roosters’ NRLW side experienced a rollercoaster ride in 2022, but nobody rose from the depths quite like halfback Raecene McGregor.

McGregor, a two-time premiership winner with Brisbane and a seasoned New Zealand international, was without a club through much of the NRLW pre-season.

Despite the competition expanding to six teams, and with players of her talent in the halves hard to come by, no team managed to find room for the cunning halfback.

McGregor was resigned to missing out on the season before Roosters coach John Strange reached out to add her to his play-making stocks.

Courtesy of that last-minute chance, McGregor has now become the first player to win NRLW premierships with two different clubs after the Roosters’ 14-4 win over St George Illawarra in Redcliffe.

“Originally I thought I wasn’t going to get picked up. I hurt my shoulder last year, so I was going to miss some time, but Strangey called me up the day before All Stars. He just offered me an opportunity and I took it, and here I am now,” McGregor said.

“I knew the Roosters had a strong side. When he reached out I was really grateful, because I didn’t think they needed another ball-player.

“I knew they were already strong. But he still asked me, so it was awesome.

“For me, this is probably the best premiership. I really enjoyed the whole season, nobody made me uncomfortable coming in late.”

Like many of the Roosters, McGregor grew into form as the season went on.

Her two best performances of the year came in the preliminary final and the decider, with her experience and sharp kicking game shining through on the biggest stage.

The victory was just a little bittersweet given McGregor’s sister Page was playing in the centres for the Dragons, but to the victor goes the spoils.

McGregor’s big-match experience was crucial to the Roosters’ resurrection in recent weeks, with her composure helping them stay the course as the heat ramped up, especially on the season’s biggest day.

“That was one of the toughest games I’ve ever played in my life. It was so fast, I don’t think people understand how quick it was, and when we were down that early we had to dig deep to get the win,” McGregor said.

“We knew it was going to be physical, we knew we had to be aggressive, and especially after half-time, we had a chat in the sheds about how we had to come out tough.”

There will be no late start for McGregor for this year’s second season, which is expected to kick off in September.

She’s found a home at the Roosters and is desperate to stay, and the Tricolours would do well to make her a priority retention.

Her combination with wily five-eighth Zahara Temara will only improve given the Roosters have now had a taste of success.

“We just had to keep the noise out, focus on us and our own game. There was a few girls who got nervous, but we brought it all together,” McGregor said.

“This is my home now, so hopefully the Roosters want me back.

“I love playing with Z [Temara], being picked up by the Roosters was an opportunity to play with her, so I really appreciated it.”

07 April 2022

As seen on https://www.1news.co.nz

Wairoa’s Madison Bartlett is leading the Dragons to their first NRLW grand final on Sunday as the competition’s leading try scorer.

When the Warriors women’s team was cut as a cost-saving measure, Bartlett was one of a number of Kiwi Ferns who feared their NRLW dream was over.

“Six months ago, I didn’t know if I was going to play at all in the NRLW,” she said.

Bartlett was part of the Warriors squad that was last year stunned to learn they’d been cut so the club could save on costs. Some moved to other teams while others weren’t so lucky.

“I just reached out to a few clubs and said I’d be interested in playing. and then I sent through footage and video and stuff, and I was just lucky the Dragons took a chance on me,” she said.

The Kiwi Ferns winger hasn’t looked back, scoring more tries than anyone else this season.

Her season was rocked momentarily by a biting charge that was downgraded so she could lead the grand final favourites this weekend against the Roosters, which features a handful of Kiwis.

Bartlett is keen to stay wearing the famous Red V beyond this season.

“I think I’d like to come here and play, I know the Warriors aren’t in for the next season at the end of the year, but I’m not sure what their plans are for the year after,” she said.

Besides, Bartlett says she has a new family in the form of the six teammates she lives with.

The group call her the Gordon Ramsay of the house.

“She is Gordon Ramsey, she makes out that she’s this sweet little thing, as soon as she gets in the kitchen, it’s like a new person,” captain Kezie Apps explained.

30 March 2022

As seen on newcastleknights.com.au

Annetta Nu’uausala has won the inaugural nib Newcastle Knights NRLW Player of the Year award.

In a season of firsts for the Club, the awards night was held at Wests Mayfield, where Nu’uausala was presented the award in front of her teammates.

Annetta was also crowned the Player’s Player, a huge recognition of her efforts during the 2021 NRL Telstra Women’s Premiership.

Knights NRLW coach Casey Bromilow presented Nu’uausala with the award.

“In all of our games, she was outstanding and our best player,” Bromilow said.

“She’s been reliable, and she’s very humble and quiets away from the field, but as soon as she crosses that line and steps onto the field, she leaves nothing out there.

“She led from the front really well, and every time she carried the ball, she ran with intent.”

A Kiwi Fern international, Nu’uausala played all five games for the Knights during the rescheduled 2021 campaign.

Leading from the front in the front-row, ‘Netta’ averaged 91 running metres per game and had 14 tackle breaks for the season.

The former Warrior left it all on the park in each game to take home the prestigious and inaugural award.

29 March 2022

The regular season of the rescheduled 2021 NRL Telstra Women’s Premiership has wrapped up. The St George Illawarra Dragons, Gold Coast Titans, Brisbane Broncos and Sydney Roosters have all secured their spots in the semi-finals this weekend.

Let’s look back on our Kiwi Fern talent in round five.

Illawarra Dragons

Dragon’s winger Madison Bartlett racked up 117 metres to go with a try and two tackle busts. Her intercept effort during the second half broke the spirits of the Roosters, who had the momentum for most of the contest. Bartlett, week in week out, continues to prove she is dangerous in and around the ball and definitely one to watch in the upcoming NRLW Finals.

Brisbane Broncos

Amber Hall had another powerhouse performance we’ve come to expect. Hall was at her rampaging best at Suncorp Stadium, charging her way over the line in the second half while racking up 214 metres with four offloads and four tackle busts.

Newcastle Knights

Five-eight Autumn-Rain Stephens-Daly played a massive part in the match’s opening try. A high kick from Stephens-Daly bounced over the Titans defender, and debutant Paige Parker was on hand to score her first try in the NRLW. Katelyn Vaha’akolo played one of her best games of the season. Vaha’akolo posted up a total of 143 meters, 22 post-contact meters and the most line breaks in the game. She showcased her speed as a winger and attacking threat, scoring her first try of the season. Charlotte Scanlan was immense for the Knights, topping the game’s most tackles and fantasy points. Veteran Annetta Nu’uausala showed her veteran class and savy, racking up 126 meters, a staggering 42 post-contact meters, six tackle breaks and 19 tackles in the game. The Knights end their campaign for the 2021 season, focusing on the 2022 campaign at the back end of the year.

Sydney Roosters

Playmaker Raecene Mcgregor continues to prove her skilled ability as a halfback, racking up a total of 107 kicking metres.

Kiwi Fern prospect Leianne Tufuga had a chance in the 35th minute of the game, swooping on a loose pass to streak 30 metres downfield, putting the Roosters in great field position. She also ended the game without missing a single tackle. Tufuga has made her claim as one of the best young players in the competition and will be one to watch in the finals.

 

The NRLW ladder after round 5

 

Semi-Finals Matchups:

 Dragons vs Titans – Sunday 3rd April, 2:00 pm NZT

Broncos vs Roosters – Sunday 3rd April, 3:45 pm NZT

 

 

March 15 2022

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

Roosters

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.

Titans

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.

Broncos

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.

Knights

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

07 March 2022

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

Roosters

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

Titans

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

Broncos 

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

Knights

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

Dragons

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

 

Round 3 Matchups:

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

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

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

March 2, 2022

The NRLW is underway, and over 20 of our Kiwi Ferns are taking the field for their respective clubs throughout the season. Each week we will be highlighting a few of our Kiwi Fern standouts and how they performed over each round.

Dragons

The Dragons opened their 2022 NRLW season with a tough victory over the Titans, 20 – 12.

Madison Bartlett is one of the few Kiwi Ferns playing for the Dragons this season and produced another consistent outing. Always dangerous in and around the ball, Bartlett added a four-point for St George in the 26th minute after a superb line break.

Titans

A gallant Titans go down fighting in a historic NRLW opener, losing 20-12 against the St George Illawarra Dragons.

Shannon Mato, the powerful prop, polled the most fantasy points ending the game with 45 points. Mato was efficient, showing her prowess in only 43 minutes on the field, making 24 tackles at an 89 per cent clip while being rewarded with a try late in the game.

Kiwi Fern veteran Georgia Hale was given a late chance to start the match and repaid the faith with her trademark effort on defence. Hale made 22 tackles at an incredible 96 per cent efficiency rate, another imposing performance by one of the world’s best.

Broncos

The Broncos were immediately in impressive form after a dominant 20 – 4 season-opening win against the Roosters.

Amber Hall was her dominant self with 107 metres, 24 tackles, four tackle busts and four offloads and continues to stamp herself as one of the best forwards in the game.

With a line break in the 24th min, Roxy Murdoch – on debut, managed to spin her way over the line, scoring her first try of the season.

Roosters

The Sydney Roosters have come away with a spirited performance against the Brisbane Broncos.

Leianne Tufuga, another Kiwi Fern on NRLW debut, ended the game without missing a single tackle in her 70 minutes on the field, showing why she is deserving of her NRLW start.

Knights

The Newcastle Knights side has suffered a heart-breaking 13 – 12 loss in their opening round clash against the Parramatta Eels.

Annetta Nu’uausala did not disappoint, coming up big for Newcastle in both attack and defence and showing why she is regarded highly in the NRLW.

Katelyn Vaha’akolo, on debut for the Knights, had an incredible try-saving moment in the  23rd minute of the game. Busting from her wing, across the field to chase down superstar Botille Vette-Welsh before the try line.

This Sunday’s triple-header will be played at Wollongong, WIN stadium.

Round 2 matchups:

Knights vs Broncos, 2:00 pm NZT

Roosters vs Titans, 3:50 pm NZT

Dragons vs Eels, 5:40 pm NZT

 

as seen on NRL.com

February 12th 2022

Two tries from Autumn-Rain Stephens-Daly were unable to overcome a strong Indigenous All Stars side, as the Māori All Stars went down 18-8 at CommBank Stadium on Saturday night.

After suffering a heavy 24-0 defeat in last year’s clash the Indigenous side took one back squaring the ledger at 2-2 across the four years of the contest.

A runaway try by Chapman in the second quarter gave the Indigenous side a 6-0 lead before Bo Vette-Welsh produced a dazzling 30-metre burst and found Tiana Raftstrand-Smith who sent the final pass to Stephens-Daly for the Maoris’ opening try.

Chapman had her second just after half-time when Upton produced a superb cut-out pass and the Indigenous side had a 12-4 lead thanks to Kirra Dibb’s second conversion.

Debutante Stephens Daly then grabbed a double of her own courtesy of a brilliant cut-out pass by Vette-Welsh and the Maori were back within four points.

A barnstorming try from close range for Eels prop Tommaya Kelly-Sines put the game beyond doubt for the Indigenous side as they made it 18-8.

Match Snapshot

The speedsters may take all the glory but it was upfront where the foundation was laid with Caitlan Johnston (10 runs for 86 metres) and Keilee Joseph (10 runs for 75 metres) leading the way for the winners while Shannon Mato (22 runs for 191 metres) was inspirational for the Maori.

  • No.1 guns Tamika Upton and Bo Vette-Welsh dug deep into their bag of tricks with try assists, tackle breaks and countless reminders of their class in an intriguing duel.
  • Indigenous hooker Quincy Dodd got through a power of work in the middle with 26 tackles and was a key factor in the victory while Kennedy Cherrington racked up 30 tackles for the Maori.
  • Caitlan Johnston gave her Indigenous team-mates a massive lift during the first half when she powered across in cover defence to bundle rival prop Shannon Mato into touch. Johnston looks set for a huge NRLW season with the Knights.
  • The online defence by the Indigenous team as the Maori launched a number of late raids was inspirational.
  • Chapman’s dazzling debut was rewarded with the Trish Hina Medal as the  player of the match.

 

What They Said

“The girls have bonded and created some unity and they did it for themselves and for their mob and their families. It’s been a massive week and to cap it off like that and how they defended, I’m pretty proud as a coach. The defence in the women’s game is just getting better and better.”  – Indigenous All Stars coach Ben Jeffries

“What a game. What a week. It was such an awesome way to celebrate two beautiful cultures and we lapped up every second of it. This moment here is more than just a game, to celebrate our heritage and our culture, and I want to congratulate the Indigenous girls on one hell of a match, you girls came out roaring and full of fire.” – Māori captain Corban Baxter at the post-match presentation.

Press Conference: Maori Women’s v Indigenous Women’s, 2022

Press Conference: Maori Women’s v Indigenous Women’s, 2022

What’s Next

For the majority of players who strutted their stuff in Sydney tonight it’s on to round one of the NRLW season, which kicks off with a massive triple-header at McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle on Sunday, February 27.

02 February 2022

Māori All-Stars Head Coach, Keith Hanley, has called upon both experienced and fresh Kiwi Ferns to make a solid All-Stars spine in their bid to go back to back against the Indigenous All Stars Women next Saturday.

Kiwi Fern Captain Krystal Rota is a notable inclusion as she’s joined by her Newcastle and Kiwi Fern teammates, Autumn-Rain Stephens-Daly, and Katelyn Vaha’akolo, both set to make their debuts in the green and white and NRLW this season.

Bay of Plenty rugby union convert Autumn-Rain Stephens enjoyed a meteoric rise after only switching to rugby league in 2020. During her inaugural Test against Fetu Samoa, Stephens stole the show, earning herself the 2020 Kiwi Fern Rookie of the Year.

Former Upper Central Stallion Mya Hill-Moana returns to the squad after debuting for the All-Stars in 2020, while Hanley calls on the experience of Kiwi Fern talents; Raecene McGregor, Nita Maynard and Rona Peters.

Former Manurewa Marlin, Jocephy Daniels was the youngest player to lead the NZ Māori Wāhine Toa side when they took on the Australian Indigenous in Sydney in 2018. Earning an Eels call up for the NRLW, she’s also set to make her debut for the Māori All-Stars next Saturday.

“I’m knowledgeable about the Māori culture, and so I want to help share that culture with the Australian-based girls to give them another perspective.” – Jocephy Daniels.

The match will be the first occasion the All-Stars teams have played in Sydney since the concept began in 2010 on the Gold Coast, and it will be the first official fixture of the 2022 NRL season.

The women’s clash will kick off at 7:20 pm on Saturday, February 12, at CommBank Stadium, with the men’s match to follow at 10:10 pm.

Māori All Stars (Wāhine)

Autumn-Rain Stephens-Daly (KF #150)

Botille Vette-Welsh

Corban Baxter (c)

Jocephy Daniels

Katelyn Vaha’akolo (KF #149)

Kennedy Cherrington

Krystal Rota (KF #123)

Lavinia Gould

Mya Hill-Moana (KF #154)

Nita Maynard (KF #137)

Olivia Kernick

Page McGregor

Raecene McGregor (KF #139)

Rona Peters (KF #75)

Roxette Mura

Shannon Mato

Tiana Raftstrand-Smith

Zahara Temara

Coach: Keith Hanley

10 December 2021

as seen on titans.com.au

Titans NRLW player Karli Hansen is confident she can lead the team around the park as playmaker in 2022.

Hansen, who made a barnstorming international debut for the Kiwi Ferns in 2020, was so determined to play in the NRL Telstra Women’s Premiership this season she quit her full-time job in New Zealand and waited patiently as four flights were cancelled.

With the Titans’ inaugural season now confirmed to start in early 2022, Karli says the team is counting down the days until they can begin training and play together as a team. 

“I’m so excited, we can’t wait to be together.”

Asked what position she will be eyeing in the Titans line up, the Kiwi playmaker is confident that she can secure the number seven jersey for the coming season. 

“My coaches, like Ricky Henry from the Kiwi Ferns, they’ve really helped me and guided me to be a confident halfback.

“I have confidence in myself that I can be the seven of this team.”

While the squad is yet to officially begin training together, Karli says social media and group chats have helped them to build relationships before pre-season starts.

“The girls are becoming a lot more comfortable with each other now we are able to talk more often and be together in person as well.”

“It’s going to help us a lot, knowing who we are off the field is as important as who we are on the field.”

The Titans will kick off their inaugural NRLW season when the delayed 2021 competition starts on February 27. 

With pre-season training to begin early in the New Year, players and staff are eagerly awaiting the start of the NRLW season. 

01 December 2021

16 Women Coaches from 15 different sports across Aotearoa New Zealand have been selected for High Performance Sport New Zealand’s second intake to Te Hāpaitanga, a women’s coach development initiative.

Te Hāpaitanga – the act of elevating, lifting and empowering.

Te Hāpaitanga is one of a number of HPSNZ initiatives in our ongoing commitment to Women in High Performance Sport. It is a holistic coach development initiative designed to enable more females to pursue and maintain a career in high performance coaching in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Over 18 months Te Hāpaitanga will provide these 16 women coaches a range of opportunities that test and develop their coaching capability and allow them to develop new skills to navigate a complex and challenging career in high performance sport.

The 16 Women Coaches are;

  • Lucy Brown, Snow Sports, Queenstown
  • Fiona Bourke, Rowing, Cambridge
  • Danielle Cranston, Hockey, Auckland
  • Elyse Fraser, Cycling, Christchurch
  • Alana Gunn, Football, Christchurch
  • Honey Hireme-Smiler, Rugby League, Hamilton
  • Krystal Kaua, Rugby Sevens, Mount Maunganui
  • Arna Masjstrovic, Surf Life Saving, Gisborne
  • Terena Ranui, Football, Hamilton
  • Tamara Reed, Triathlon, Palmerston North
  • Julie Seymour, Netball, Christchurch
  • Holly Sullivan, Boxing, Christchurch
  • Heelan Tompkins, Equestrian, Rotorua
  • Leanne Walker, Basketball, Hamilton
  • Emily Willock, Canoe Racing, Gisborne
  • Angela Winstanley-Smith, Water Polo, Christchurch

NZRL GM of High Performance and Football, Motu Tony says, “Having Honey on the Te Hapitanga programme is great recognition for Honey and rugby league. Honey had an outstanding playing career, and we are excited that she now wants to coach at the highest level possible. The Te Hapaitanga programme will help Honey develop her coaching skills and experience further. We are incredibly grateful to High Performance Sport NZ for recognising Honey and the rugby league through this opportunity.”

In 2020 HPSNZ announced the inaugural intake of 12 women coaches to Te Hāpaitanga. Those women are now reaching the final stages of their 18-month journey.

Football’s Maia Vink, who was among that group, describes her experience; “Te Hāpaitanga has been an accelerant for me to understand the value that I bring, see my own purpose clearly, intimately work with some brilliant minds in sport, leadership and pedagogy, and enhance our performance systems as a team.”

“The conversations I have are richer, I am more aware of where to draw my attention to, when to lead, when to listen, and how to trust my intuition. In the moments I’ve faced challenges, my mentorship group has helped me shift my thinking and revealed strengths in me, I didn’t know were there. I am able to connect people together in deeper, more meaningful ways which has had a massive impact in our team and will lay the foundation of my coaching for years to come.”

Te Hāpaitanga connects emerging female coaches with their peers and established female high performance coaches providing mentoring and inspiration. The initiative accelerates the growth and development of emerging female coaches by mitigating current and future challenges to pursuing a career in high performance coaching. And it works by integrating the national sporting organisation (NSO) and an experienced coach mentor intoeach coach’s development journey for better access to existing resources, knowledge and experiences.

SCHEDULE AND TICKETS AVAILABLE FROM 19 NOVEMBER

  • Revised tournament schedule for 2022 to be released on 19 November – one year out from the men’s and women’s showpiece double-header final at Old Trafford, Manchester
  • All 32 teams across the 21 nations participating in the men’s, women’s and wheelchair competitions have fully committed to the tournament which will kick off on 15 October at St James’ Park, Newcastle
  • The rescheduling has impacted only 5 matches (4 match-days) across the 61-match schedule
  • General admission tickets and hospitality for all 61 matches will go on sale from 9am GMT on Friday 19 November via: rlwc2021.com/tickets

The road to the rescheduled Rugby League World Cup 2021 (RLWC2021) officially begins today (15 November) as organisers confirm the 61-match schedule will be revealed in full on Friday 19 November at 9am GMT.

In recent weeks, organisers have worked collaboratively with all tournament partners to finalise the 61-match schedule which will kick off at St James’ Park, Newcastle on 15 October 2022 when England men take on Samoa men. The tournament will then culminate in spectacular fashion at Old Trafford, Manchester on 19 November 2022 with the men’s and women’s double-header final.

In a unique and busy year of international sport and events, staged both domestically and overseas, only five RLWC2021 fixtures (four match-days) have been affected during the rescheduling of 61 matches staged at 21 iconic venues, across 18 host towns and cities.

These changes are the switching of two fixtures between existing venues and the movement of two events to alternative venues.

Despite collective best efforts this has resulted in the disappointing loss of both Anfield Stadium and the M&S Bank Arena, Liverpool from the schedule due to the Anfield Road expansion and prior commitments respectively. However, Liverpool will still play a key role during the tournament with the city providing the training bases for Italy and Tonga. The details of the venue switch and replacement venues will be revealed this Friday, 19 November.

All 32 teams across the 21 competing nations participating in the men’s, women’s and wheelchair tournaments have fully committed to the tournament in 2022. In addition, organisers can also confirm the re-introduction of the Physical Disability Rugby League World Cup, hosted in Warrington, which will welcome Ireland as a sixth participant.

General admission tickets and hospitality for all 61 matches will be back on-sale from 9am on 19 November in line with the full schedule reveal. For all the latest tournament news and ticket information sign up: rlwc2021.com/signup

Fans who have purchased tickets for the small number of revised fixtures will be contacted with information on what will happen next with their tickets. A dedicated refund window will be available from Wednesday 24 November to request refunds.

In unprecedented coverage in the UK, the BBC have reaffirmed that every minute of all 61 RLWC2021 matches will be shown live and free across their platforms.

Jon Dutton, RLWC2021 Chief Executive Officer, said:

“For everyone involved in this trailblazing tournament, today is a very important and exciting milestone on our journey to 2022.

“We have suffered a setback, but since that moment in August we have dedicated all our energy towards rebuilding.

“A huge amount of work has gone in behind the scenes and thanks to so many people we have the opportunity to deliver a bigger and better tournament next autumn.

“I want to thank all partners, in particular the UK Government, our broadcast and commercial partners, the administrators of the competing nations for their full commitment, as well as our host towns, cities and venues for providing the perfect stage for the best players in world to shine.

“I also want to extend a special thanks to the incredible number of loyal fans who held onto their tickets and have continued to support this event that will see the men’s, women’s and wheelchair tournaments take place simultaneously for the first time ever.”

Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston, said:

“Rugby league means so much to many people across the country, so I’m delighted

the Rugby League World Cup is on track to kick off next autumn.

“The UK has a strong record of hosting major international sporting events and this will be

another fantastic opportunity to showcase our towns and cities, and to inspire our young

people to get involved in sport.

“The Government is a keen supporter of rugby league, and we absolutely can’t wait to host

the world’s best teams in what is set to be a bumper year of sport and culture in 2022.”

Troy Grant, IRL Chairman, added:

“Everyone appreciates that international Rugby League has a huge part to play in the future growth of the sport and the tournament is something the world of Rugby League can now look forward to with great excitement.”

“The IRL would like to thank RLWC2021 Chair Chris Brindley and CEO Jon Dutton as well as the wider RLWC2021 team for the thorough and time effective response to postponement and with the full schedule to come this week players, administrators and fans can start to plan their role in creating sporting history.”

22 April 2021 – Ashley Stanley, Newsroom

Kiwi Fern Christyl Stowers has faced some tough times – from depression to crippling arthritis. Now she’s part of a bold initiative with her league club giving women tools for on and off the field. 

Sport saved Christyl Stowers’ life. 

When she needed to escape periods of her childhood, the now 28-year-old found peace on the footy field. 

Stowers says she witnessed domestic violence growing up. “That was hard for me. But I found a safe place in sport,” she says. “The only reason why I played footy was because it was the only time I felt clear-minded. It gave me something really positive to focus on. 

“I had some stuff happen to me which was really challenging and I always found that when I had sport in my life, I was just happy.”

Stowers, now a Kiwi Fern, is at a stage where she wants to help others in similar situations. Admittedly, she wasn’t one for paying attention at school, but she’s committed to studying online for a certificate in life coaching. 

“I’m doing it because I want to be able to help others who may have had a difficult time in their childhood,” says Stowers, more commonly known as Sharky. “I just want to help people because I know you can get into some dark places.” 

She’s overcome a fair few barriers in her lifetime. Last year her father died from bowel cancer – he had been living with the illness for four years. And at the same time, Stowers was battling with depression. 

“It was just from a lot of things that I hadn’t dealt with when I was younger,” says Stowers.

And then just after her dad’s death, she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. 

“It’s an autoimmune disease where your immune system attacks the healthy joints in your body causing chronic inflammation. So I’m dealing with that at the moment and still trying to play footy,” she says. 

Stowers is wanting to fulfil her “big dreams” of playing for New Zealand at the Rugby League World Cup at the end of this year in England.

She’s in the wider training squad after making her Kiwi Ferns debut late last year against the Fetu Samoa Invitational side, and has also represented the Māori All Stars over the last two years. 

Her parents and siblings are the motivation to push through the pain and keep playing. “I guess I learned it from my dad. Seeing his struggles with cancer was really bad and he was in so much pain,” Stowers says. 

“But he always smiled, he just never gave up really. I just keep showing up every day, just to make them proud and I guess I just want to keep doing better.” 

It’s painful, says Stowers. Some days she can’t get out of bed without assistance. But other days she can get through a training session. “It’s just all about training my mind to block the pain out really,” she says. “But I found the less I do, the more sore I am. It’s strange, a catch-22 really.” 

Stowers has an injection in her stomach every week to help manage the arthritis, but  the side effects include nausea, fatigue, acne breakouts, weight gain, breathing issues and longer recovery times. 

She’s been back on the footy field since February as part of her club’s new Māreikura girls and women’s rugby league development programme. 

As a senior player at the Manurewa Marlins, Stowers plays an important role in mentoring and training alongside the young players coming through. 

“We just train with the girls and try to encourage them. We never really had that when I was younger; I definitely wish I had it, I may have been better when I started,” she laughs.

She used to play rugby but gave league a go about five years ago and has been a member of the Marlins’ grand final champions in 2017 and 2018. She also won the inaugural Sky Sports New Zealand Rugby League national women’s premiership title with Counties Manukau last year.

“It’s really beneficial because if you grab the talent when they’re young, they learn all the right things to do early and will probably have longer careers,” Stowers says. Off-field she will start working in a learning support role, teaching different sporting skills to children at Māngere Central School in May.

Former provincial rugby representative and local sporting legend Karla Matua created the programme from scratch after seeing a need to do things differently. 

“I just got frustrated knocking on doors and thought ‘Oh well, we just have to make it happen ourselves’. If we come up with something that’s good then we can share it with other clubs too,” says Matua, who wears a number of hats in the community. In her day job she works for Aktive – Auckland Sport & Recreation, in a role focused on Māori communities staying active. 

She then volunteers at the Marlins, coaching and sitting on their committee, overseeing the women’s and girls’ grades. She also serves on Auckland Rugby League’s advisory committee, encouraging women and girls to stay in the sport.

Matua grew up in a “leaguie” household in west Auckland but went onto rack up over 100 senior games in rugby for Manurewa. Her brothers played the 13-man code, parents were involved in the local league club, and her husband, Rusty, is a player and coach, who used to coach the Kiwi Ferns and Māori sides. And their children also play. It’s a real family affair. 

The Māreikura programme was built over time and was informed by what Matua has seen, what the coaches know, and input from families and players. “It’s really reflective of the girls in front of us,” she says. “It’s purpose-built, not just to them, but to the needs of their family and the needs of our community. 

“There’s an amazing pathway now with NRLW, so it’s about strengthening what we’ve got at club level.” 

There’s a nationwide push to to strengthen and widen the female talent pool in rugby league both on and off the field, with the NZRL recently launching the  ‘Aspiring Her’ programme.

A key difference with the Māreikura development programme is the foundations are not based around on-field performances. “I think most programmes are about winning games, winning grades, becoming this, becoming that, and that’s not even on our landscape,” Matua says.

“Not at any stage have we talked about winning our grade or winning games. That’s not what drives this. I think that’s really important because that’s not the end game.” 

Matua says it’s about the development of young women as individuals. “Just giving them tools that they can take into life. Whether it’s in sport, whether it’s a leader within their whānau or their school, whether it’s in confidence or body awareness,” she says.

“It’s this overall holistic wellbeing. Because when you have strong confident girls, there’s just a natural alignment that carries over into their sport and into other aspects of their life.” 

The eight-weekprogramme started in February and has focused on conditioning. “The biggest thing that came from our girls was they wanted to be fitter. They wanted to be better prepared because that was probably one of the work-on areas after playing a season.”

A small amount of funding allowed Matua to approach a local Māori woman to help run the fitness component of the programme. The three sessions each week did not deter players. Up to 50 women were attending each pre-season training.  

The funding also meant equipment could be purchased specifically for the women’s teams. Up until then, tackle bags and training resources were being used from the men’s teams which are usually bigger.

The programme also includes education around hydration, nutrition and how to look after themselves. “It’s real simple nutrition because the reality is we have to work with what kai [food] is inside their cupboards. So we’ve stripped that right back to make it real practical,” says Matua. 

“We’re sharing information around how to stretch because they’re not getting this education anywhere else. They don’t know about lactic acid, they don’t know how to keep their bodies in tip top shape, so we’re trying to load them with information and tools.” 

The programme wraps up with a two-day camp focusing on team building, leadership activities, goal-setting and mentor-matching. Training for the mentors is also being explored. 

Camp activities will be based in Manurewa so the team can learn the history of their community. “We’re going to learn about the maunga, the moana; we’re going to try and lock in that sense of connectivity to our area,” says Matua, who’s lived in Manurewa for 20 years and spent most of her working career with youth in south Auckland. “Then we’ll finish with a big kai with all our families to launch our season.”

To extend the players’ development and stay connected with the community, Matua has also organised senior members to go into local schools and hold training sessions for young girls. 

Even if players switch codes or clubs, Matua will be happy knowing they have tools to assist whatever pathway they choose. They’re building layers of education and knowledge.

“And then maybe at the end of the season we might get some results. But if we don’t, we don’t,” she says. “I just still believe whatever we do is of value, it’s going to benefit them and it’s going to make an impact.” 

22 February 2021

Captain Corban McGregor praised her team for “keeping the foot on the throat” as the Maori team delivered an emphatic 24-0 win over the Indigenous All Stars in a thoroughly one-sided contest.

The Maori women led 12-0 after just 11 minutes and, fearing an Indigenous comeback, McGregor pulled her team together in a huddle to remind them the job was far from done in front of a vocal home crowd for the Indigenous women in Townsville.

Not only did the Maori side keep the Indigenous women scoreless, they ran in three more tries to ensure a dominant victory, avenging last year’s tough 10-4 loss on the Gold Coast.

“It was super important and we used that exact term after the second try, let’s keep the foot on the throat and keep leading and pushing as hard as we can,” said McGregor.

“They are a strong side and they have some power coming back and we knew that if we gave them a chance they’d make the most of it so we definitely just wanted to keep dominating through the middle and things opened up for us.

“I had a taste of this game last year and we didn’t come out on top so there was fire in the belly to get the win tonight.”

Maori coach Keith Hanley was ecstatic with the result as his team – minus all their New Zealand-based players – produced a complete performance with powerful defence, skill and precision.

Whether it was halfback Zahara Temara orchestrating tries from pinpoint grubber kicks or the rampaging runs of front-row duo Rona Peters and 18-year-old rookie Mya Hill-Moana, the Maori women just had an answer for everything.

“We couldn’t possibly have scripted that,” Hanley said.

“Obviously it was still a very competitive contest. Credit to the Indigenous side. They never faded and never went away and again we just re-emphasize our love and respect for them.

“We have a very gifted group and they certainly came together today and were all singing the same theme song.”

Raecene McGregor won the player of the match award with her two-try effort while sister Page McGregor chimed in with a try of her own for a family treble.

Indigenous coach Ian Bourke said his team could never get themselves into the contest as sloppy handling in the wet conditions cost them dearly.

“We certainly learned the hard way tonight,” Bourke said.

“But I think the girls will learn a fair bit out of it.

“I don’t know the average age but it’s hovering probably around 20 to 21 and let’s be honest, that compared to the opposition is pretty experienced in key positions and unfortunately we couldn’t get into the rhythm or feel as though the energy was there.

“I’m definitely proud of the girls in the back end of the game.

“It’s not about the short-term event. It’s the long-term plan for the program.”

Indigenous skipper Tallisha Harden said her team were devastated by the result but it would only strengthen their resolve to become better footballers.

“The emotion at the end, a lot of them are pretty heartbroken,” she said.

“It’s tough when you lose but we’ll bounce back and I’m really excited to see what the girls do next and their pathway for the rest of the year.”

December 16, 2020

James Fisher-Harris and Krystal Rota have been named the 2020 New Zealand Rugby League Players of the Year for the first time in their careers, while Dylan Brown earned Young Kiwi Player of the Year for the second year running and Autumn-Rain Stephens Dally took home Kiwi Ferns Rookie of the Year.

In a season that saw no Kiwi Internationals due to the ongoing implications of Covid-19, the 2020 Kiwis High-Performance Awards were judged solely on NRL performance. The Kiwi Ferns Awards have been credited on international merit due to their clash against Fetu Samoa Invitational which was the only New Zealand Rugby League International for the year.

2020 Kiwis Player of the year, James Fisher-Harris (Kiwi #801), was named 2020 Dally M Prop of the year and earned recognition as one of the NRL’s best and most hardworking forwards. Passing the 100-game milestone for the Panthers, he led the competition in post-contact metres, was the top forward in terms of total run metres and played an integral role in the Panthers’ drive to their first grand final in 17 years.

Kiwis Head Coach Michael Maguire says, “James has performed consistently right throughout the year at such a high standard and to make it to the grand final is a real credit to him.”

“It’s been a pleasure to watch him develop into the player he is, one of his biggest strengths is consistency, you know what he’s going to deliver for his team and he’s a step above where he’s ever been and how he performs. He’s a quiet achiever but he’s all about action. James is a clear asset to any team he’s a part of and is well-deserving of this accolade.”

Captaining her country for the first time, the 10 Test veteran Krystal Rota and 2020 Kiwi Fern player of the year,  led the Kiwi Ferns to their 28-8 win over Fetu Samoa Invitational in November. No stranger to the captaincy role, 2020 also saw her captain the Māori All-Stars as well as the Counties Manukau Stingrays, leading them to their 11th straight women’s title in the Sky Sport Women’s Premiership.

Kiwi Ferns Head Coach Ricky Henry says, “This was Krystal’s most influential year. I knew she had leadership capabilities from watching her in the Māori All-Stars and throughout her Counties campaigns but these qualities were definitely on display in Kiwi Ferns camp.”

“Captaining your country is whole other ball game, it’s the highest level of leadership and responsibility a player can have and she rose to the challenge.  A worthy recipient and these qualities will only continue to grow.”

For the second year running, Kiwis Junior Player of the Year, Dylan Brown cemented his place in the NRL as one of its elite playmakers. Brown made 16 regular-season appearances for Paramatta, with nine line-breaks, 52 tackle-busts, 11 forced dropouts and five tries. At just 20 years of age, he was instrumental in the Eels’ run to the playoffs drawing praise from the highest levels of the game for his defence and multi-faceted attack.

Kiwis Head Coach Michael Maguire says, “A real quality Dylan has shown is his ability to improve every time he steps out on the field.”

“He’s grown as a player and he had a taste of the Kiwis at the Nines last year but I know a real driver for him is to earn a Kiwis Test jersey and he’s definitely heading in the right direction. Watching him push his team around the park, putting his body on the line, growing his leadership capabilities but at the same time building his own game has been pleasing to watch. He’s maturing as a player and showing his true character both on and off the field.”

2020 Kiwi Ferns Rookie of the Year, Autumn-Rain Stephens Dally, enjoyed a meteoric rise after switching to rugby league in 2020.

Named MVP of the inaugural NZRL National Women’s Championship after her stand-out performance at full-back for the Upper Central Stallions, she then made her international debut at five-eighth for the Kiwi Ferns against Fetu Samoa Invitational.

The 24-year-old’s skills were on display at Mt Smart Stadium, as she played a key hand in two tries before scoring two more of her own, including a blistering 50-metre effort.

Coach Ricky Henry said, “Autumn-Rain scored three tries in the first ever game I watched her play, she’s an outstanding talent that seems to have found her home with rugby league.”

“She’s willing to learn and grow, initially playing out of position but rising to the challenge. She wreaked havoc on the field, she’s explosive, fast and these skills will only mature. She’s definitely one for the future.”

 

2020 High-Performance Winners:

 Kiwis Player of the Year – James Fisher Harris

Kiwi Ferns Player of the Year – Krystal Rota

Kiwi Ferns Rookie of the Year – Autumn-Rain Stephens Dally

Kiwis Young Player of the Year – Dylan Brown

 

2020 NZRL Community Award Winners

Grassroots Club of the Year – Mangere East

Domestic Men’s Player of the Year – Francis Leger

Domestic Women’s Player of the Year – Harata Butler

Domestic Coach of the Year – Phil Gordon

U16s Player of the Year – Tre Fotu

U18s Player of the Year – Sam McIntyre

Match Official of the Year – Paki Parkinson

Pirtek Volunteer of the Year – Shayne Wassel

7 November 2020

Rising five-eighth Autumn-Rain Stephens-Daly scored two tries and set up another on debut as the New Zealand Kiwi Ferns proved too powerful against a Fetu Samoa invitational side 28-8 at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday.

In a week when the Kiwi Ferns were celebrating 25 years of rich history, an inexperienced New Zealand outfit put on a show in front of past players who proved unstoppable across two decades from 1995.

The game also marked the only international fixture scheduled on the rugby league calendar this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recently appointed coach Ricky Henry turned to 11 debutants from New Zealand’s local and domestic competitions with several stars including Georgia Hale, Amber Hall and Raecene McGregor unavailable.  

Fielding just five players who played in last year’s Test match loss to the Jillaroos in October, fill-in halves Stephens-Daly and Karlee Hansen impressed to help give Henry his first victory in charge of the national team and food for thought ahead of the 2021 World Cup.

A rugby sevens convert from Bay of Plenty, Stephens-Daly’s double set up a commanding 24-4 lead midway through the second half in a scrappy performance in wet conditions.

Stephens-Daly was well supported by Hansen, opened the scoring for the Kiwi Ferns in the third minute with a crafty chip-and-chase but failed to finish the game with a knee injury in a concern for Henry.

The power of Kiwi Ferns veteran Honey Hireme-Smiler, returning from a knee injury, was on display with the star centre causing nightmares out wide next to Katelyn Vaha’akolo, who also crossed for a try in her maiden appearance.

Back-to-back penalties to Fetu Samoa, who too were made up of local New Zealand-based Samoan players due to border restrictions, enabled the visitors to get on the board through Ricshay Lemanu.

The Fetu Samoan playmaker Lemanu took her opportunity against classy defenders Hireme-Smiler and Krystal Rota to bamboozle the pair close to the line with a dummy.

Fetu Samoa centre Leianne Tufuga was next to cross for the side in a spirited finish for the visitors, who improved overall after last year’s corresponding 46-8 result.

Kiwi Ferns back-rower Crystal Tamarua, coming off a 14-day quarantine after her NRLW stint with the Warriors in Australia, crossed before the full-time siren in a well-deserved try late to seal the win.

Alicia Newton NRL

2 November 2020

Kiwi Ferns veteran hooker Krystal Rota has been honoured with her first Test captaincy for this Saturday’s clash against Fetu Samoa Invitational.

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

No stranger to the captaincy role, Rota has captained the Counties Manukau women’s team for three years, including over the weekend when they won their 11th straight women’s title by taking out the Sky Sport Women’s Premiership in a convincing win over the Akarana Falcons.

Rota has also captained the Maori All-Stars for two years where she scored the match-winning try in their inaugural game against the Indigenous All-Stars and was subsequently awarded the Trish Hina Medal as player of the match.

The Manurewa Marlins junior has gone on to play nine Tests for New Zealand and was a standout in the NRL World Nines campaign where the Ferns were crowned World Nines Champions after beating the Jillaroos 17-15 in the final.

Despite opting to miss out this year due to Covid-19 logistics, she is also a key member of the Warriors’ NRLW campaign where she played a vital role in their first two seasons.

Kiwi Ferns Head Coach Ricky Henry says, “Krystal has been a standout member of this team for the past four years and shows all the qualities of a great leader. She’s no stranger to the responsibility and the impact she has on those around her is evident.

“It’s one of the highest honours to captain your country and it was a pleasure to give her this opportunity.”

The Clash of the Pacific Women’s Double Header is taking place Saturday, November 7 at Mt Smart Stadium. Tonga women will face Niue women at 2:00 pm followed by the Kiwi Ferns v Fetu Samoa Invitational at 4:00 pm.

Both games will be televised live on Sky Sport 4 and Fox Sports in Australia. To purchase tickets to the Clash of the Pacific Women’s Double Header, please click here.

1 November 2020

Newly appointed Head Coach Ricky Henry has named 11 debutantes for the much-anticipated International against Fetu Samoa Invitational on Saturday, November 7 at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland (4:00 pm kick-off local time).

The Kiwi Ferns squad is fresh with budding talent from the inaugural Sky Sport Women’s Premiership and NZRL Women’s Championship as well as seasoned Kiwi Ferns and returnees from the NRLW Warriors campaign.

Standouts from the National Women’s Championship who have earned their debuts include Upper Central Stallion’s Autumn Stephens and Mya Terehia Hill-Moana.

Stephens was crowned MVP of the National Women’s Championship and Mya Terehia Hill-Moana earned herself MVP of the Women’s Championship final where the Stallions came away with a 12-10 win over the Auckland Vulcans. Auckland Vulcan’s Lavinia Tauhalaliku and Shannon Muru have also earned their debut spots after impressive seasons.

Out of the Sky Sport Women’s Premiership, champion Counties Manukau powerhouses Kere Matua and Christyl Stowers both earn their debuts as well as MVP of the Premiership Harata Butler and MVP of the grand final Kararaina Wira-Kohu. Akarana front three of the 11 Kiwi Fern debutantes in Karli Hansen, Katelyn Vaha’akolo and Sharliz White.

Seasoned Kiwi Fern names return to the squad including star Counties’ fullback Amber Kani, Captain Krystal Rota and unstoppable forward Maitua Feterika who all impressed for the Stingrays throughout the Premiership competition.

Resilient Kiwi Ferns’ winger Julianna Newman returns post knee surgery, impressing in Akarana colours and Kiwi Fern veteran, Honey Hireme-Smiler is back after missing out on the NRWL Warriors campaign due to injury. Crystal Tamarua and Kanyon Paul also join the 19-women squad fresh from the Warriors’ NRLW campaign.

“I want to congratulate those selected for our up and coming International against Samoa,” says Head Coach Ricky Henry.

“It’s a proud moment to wear the Black and White jersey, especially for those making their debut in front of family and friends. I have been encouraged by the performances in the Sky Sport Premiership, National Championship, and NRLW competition.

“There is an exciting mix of fresh talent and experienced leadership in this squad and it was no easy feat narrowing the wider squad to 19. The women’s game is strong and there is depth across the park – all positive signs as we build towards the 2021 World Cup.”

The Kiwi Ferns last faced Fetū Samoa in June 2019 where they came away with a convincing 34 -14 victory.

The Clash of the Pacific Women’s Double Header is taking place Saturday, November 7 at Mt Smart Stadium. Tonga women will face Niue women at 2:00 pm followed by the Kiwi Ferns v Fetu Samoa Invitational at 4:00 pm.

Both games will be televised live on Sky Sport 4 and Fox Sports in Australia.

To purchase tickets to the Clash of the Pacific Women’s Double Header, please click here.

New Zealand Rugby League wishes to congratulate the following players:

PLAYER NAMECOMPETITIONTEAM
Amber KaniPremiershipCounties
Autumn Stephens *ChampionshipUpper Central
Charlotte ScanlanPremiershipAkarana
Christyl Stowers *PremiershipCounties
Crystal TamaruaNRLWWarriors
Harata Butler *PremiershipCounties
Honey Hireme-SmilerChampionshipUpper Central
Juliana NewmanPremiershipAkarana
Kanyon PaulNRLWWarriors
Kararaina Wira-Kohu *PremiershipCounties
Karli Hansen *PremiershipAkarana
Kere Matua *PremiershipCounties
Katelyn Vaha’akolo *PremiershipAkarana
Krystal RotaPremiershipCounties
Lavinia Tauhalaliku *ChampionshipAuckland Vulcans
Maitua FeterikaPremiershipCounties
Mya Terehia Hill-Moana*ChampionshipUpper Central
Shannon Muru *ChampionshipAuckland Vulcans
Sharliz White *PremiershipAkarana

(Alphabetical order by first name)

*Debutante

29 October 2020

Trish Hina arguably one of New Zealand’s greatest sportswoman, will run out for the Upper Central Stallions this Saturday in the NZRL National Women’s Championship final after a ten-year hiatus from rugby league.

Ex Kiwi Fern captain, Hina has impressively represented her country in four sports: league, union, touch and softball.

Hina’s journey with rugby league began in 1993 when New Zealand Rugby League established competitions for women where Hina would play club rugby on Saturday and league on Sunday.

She was selected for the first Kiwi Ferns side that toured Australia but didn’t attend because of softball commitments. However, the stand-off soon established herself as the best women’s league player in the world.

Hina was a member of the Te Ahora club side in Wellington that won 11 consecutive Wellington titles. In 1999 she captained Wellington to the National title, historically an event dominated by Auckland.

In 2000 Hina was named MVP at the first women’s rugby league World Cup and in 2000 Hina was named New Zealand Rugby League Player of the year.

The second World Cup was staged in Auckland in 2003 and was a much larger event to which the Kiwi Ferns beat the New Zealand Maori 58-0, illustrating the strength of the women’s game in New Zealand.

In 2008 the Kiwi Ferns defended their World title again and Hina was named MVP of the World Cup for a second time. In the final, New Zealand thrashed Australia, 34-0 and Hina played arguably her greatest game, scoring two tries and kicking three conversions.

In 2009 the Kiwi Fern trailblazer moved from Wellington to Auckland in an attempt to achieve the one goal that had eluded her – to make the New Zealand women’s rugby union team, the Black Ferns, and that she did.

Within a year, Hina cracked a side that had only lost three games in twenty years. However, she then struck adversity:

“In 2011, I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Kidney Disease, which prevented me from playing High-Performance Sport, so I moved from Auckland to Gisborne to focus on my health and wellbeing. It was basically the same disease that Jonah Lomu had, but in a more mild form,” said Hina.

Her last game of league was for the Kiwi Ferns against England at Trusts Stadium in 2010.

Hina will return to the same stadium, exactly ten years from when she last said goodbye, but this time as an Upper Central Stallion in the NZRL National Women’s Championship final this Saturday.

“10 years later I’m feeling fitter then I have ever been,” says Hina.

“I have my 20month old son SEKANI-HEIZ who inspires me every day to enjoy the things I love to do.

“Emotions were very high leading up to the tournament; I was nervous, excited, unsure if my body would cope with the contact, once I got on the field my natural footy instinct kicked in and I started having some fun. I still have a long way to get to the standard I want to be at; it is going to be a lot of hard training during summer break this year.

“Playing with the Stallion team has also helped with my transition back to league, the culture within the team and the support from the management and the Upper Central Rugby League staff have been amazing, it feels like being a part of a high-performance team again.”

2020 marks the inaugural NZRL Women’s Championship and Sky Sport Women’s Premiership, stand-alone women’s competitions that have been a long time coming but showcase the growth and strength the women’s game in New Zealand possesses.

“Finally women are getting the recognition they deserve,” says Hina.

“I’m loving the pathways and opportunities women have in league nowadays, the standard of league has really improved, girls are quick, fit and strong and that’s a result of the work, money and time going into this space.”

The Upper Central Stallions are taking on the Auckland Vulcans at 10:30 am on Saturday 31st October at Trusts Stadium, Auckland. Thanks to Radio Tainui the game will be livestreamed on New Zealand Rugby League’s Facebook page.

September 16, 2020

International rugby league is returning to New Zealand soil as the World Nines Champion Kiwi Ferns are set to take on Pacific rivals Fetū Samoa at 4pm on Saturday 7 November at Mt Smart Stadium.

A packed afternoon of women’s rugby league action celebrates the Kiwi Ferns’ 25th Anniversary year. Tonga will take on Niue at 2pm followed by the much anticipated Kiwi Ferns v Fetū Samoa Test in what will be the only New Zealand international Test match for 2020.

The Kiwi Ferns last faced Fetū Samoa in June 2019 where they came away with a convincing 34 -14 victory. The Ferns will be looking to assert further dominance heading towards the 2021 World Cup while the firey Fetū Samoa will be hungry for redemption.

NZRL CEO, Greg Peters says; “It is really exciting to see this Test come to light despite the COVID-19 setbacks throughout the year.

“What better way to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Kiwi Ferns than with a stand-alone women’s Test and an afternoon packed of women’s rugby league action. It reflects the exponential growth our female game has experienced, which is only continuing to grow.

“To have the only New Zealand international Test match for the year on home soil is great for the game and also our communities who have missed their fix of live rugby league action in 2020.”

The Ferns will take the field under the helm of new coach Ricky Henry who was recently announced as the Kiwi Ferns Head Coach through until the 2021 World Cup.

Both games will be televised live on Sky Sport with a 4pm kick-off.

NZRL will release further information re ticket on sale dates and prices in due course.

September 15, 2020

New Zealand Rugby League has appointed Ricky Henry as the new Kiwi Ferns Head Coach ahead of the 2021 Rugby League World Cup.

The vastly experienced Henry takes on the role after coaching as an Assistant Coach on both the Kiwi Ferns and Vodafone Warriors Canterbury Cup teams for 2020.

Henry brings with him significant coaching experience having worked as the New Zealand Warriors Assistant Development Coach (2008) Warriors NRL Assistant Coach (2013-14) and Warriors Nines Head Coach (2014), and at a national level, the NZ 18s (2012) and NZ Maori (2016) Head Coach.

NZRL GM of High Performance, Motu Tony says; “Ricky’s appointment is a positive step forward in our preparations for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup.

“With Ricky assisting the Kiwi Ferns under previous Head Coach Justin Morgan; we are able to maintain the continuity and familiarity Ricky has with our Kiwi Ferns players and our female programme.

Ricky has an impressive list of coaching accolades and is well respected throughout our rugby league communities. It’s exciting to think what the Ferns under the helm of Ricky will be able to produce and we are delighted that he will be taking us to the World Cup next year.”

New Head Coach, Ricky Henry says; “It is a privilege to lead the Kiwi Ferns into the 2021 World Cup.”

“I am passionate about the long term success of Women’s Rugby League and building a strong foundation for the future. It’s a privilege to have the opportunity to coach these elite women athletes as we work towards a World Cup victory come 2021.”

NZRL will be releasing further detail on an upcoming international fixture tomorrow.

If you ever take a drive from Sydney to Newcastle and drive along the Brooklyn bridge, you’ll see a small island on the left that is about to inspire the Warriors’ NRLW campaign in 2020.

Located an hour north of Sydney in the Hawkesbury river, Milson Island is usually busy hosting school camps, weddings and tour groups throughout the month of September with a 200-person capacity.

Previously, the land has been used as a hospital for World War I soldiers, an alcohol rehabilitation clinic and a women’s jail.

But today the vacant sport and recreation centre is catering to five Warriors NRLW players, two support staff, and Broncos forward Amber Hall, who all arrived to Australia last Saturday to begin a 14-day quarantine ahead of the third season.

“It doesn’t feel like isolation, there’s a huge field to train on and a swimming pool for recovery,” Warriors winger Madison Bartlett told NRL.com

“The whole week has been a wild adventure. We got to Sydney on Saturday and stayed in the CBD for three days.

“We got some equipment dropped off to us so just got through a bit of training and made do.

“Then we got on a boat and didn’t really know where we were going. Everywhere we go is a world of the unknown, we just get on the bus and listen to the right people.

“But the staff here are unbelievable – so kind and going to all lengths to get anything we need.

“We’re so pumped, we talk about it every day that we’re grateful to be over here.”

While Bartlett may be grateful, the NRL will be just as proud of the “fab five” efforts to represent the Warriors this season after the NRLW was given the all-clear to go ahead in June.

Bartlett, a student liaison officer, received the green light from her employers at Massey University to embark on the eight-week trip, which includes another 14-day quarantine once returning to New Zealand.

Georgia Hale, Hilda Peters and Crystal Tamarua have all taken leave at their jobs – some without pay – while Kanyon Paul continues to study a Bachelor of Health, Sport and Human Performance degree on the island.

“It’s been an emotional rollercoaster, at no one’s fault because of all the uncertainty, but we were getting information at the last minute and things were always changing,” Bartlett said.

“I wouldn’t have been able to come if it wasn’t for my job, which I love, letting me do this.

“I love rugby league but it’s important I have a job to go back to. My dad probably needed the most convincing, I had to really explain everything in place, how safe it would be, and now he’s stoked I came over.”

Aside from a close encounter with a snake a day after arriving on the island, the women have been able to train as a group before they’ll link with their new teammates and coach Brad Donald in another week.

While they’re yet to find out who their teammates are, Bartlett insisted there will be no issues bringing the team together in a short space of time.

“Especially in isolation we’ve got a bit of time to work on that – bringing the values that we hold back home and drive that into the team as a group of five,” she said.

“We want to introduce those into our team. The situation, in general, is crazy for everyone so it’s going to be a time to remember. Brad is something special and we’ve all put our trust in him.

“He was like I’m all in – and you can tell the people who say they are but aren’t – but you can tell with him he really is. He’s texting, calling and trying to keep us in the loop.

“We’ve been using a lot of Maori words so that will be fun to teach him but overall he’s got a good feel for who we are and with a leader like him, Bucko [Simon Buxton] and Andrew [McEwen] … I don’t think we can go wrong.

“We just want to play footy. At the core of everything is footy.”

The fab five will unfortunately miss the inaugural Sky Sport NZRL Women’s Premiership and potential international window due to quarantine requirements.

Auckland, New Zealand, August 27, 2020 – Vodafone Warriors CEO Cameron George has today announced successful Australian Jillaroos coach Brad Donald will take charge of the Warriors in this year’s NRLW premiership scheduled to kick off in October.

Donald, who guided the Jillaroos to victory over the Kiwi Ferns in the 2017 Women’s Rugby League World Cup, was appointed following extensive consultation with the Vodafone Warriors, New Zealand Rugby League, NRLW clubs and marquee players.

Due to Covid-19 challenges, the Warriors are set to assemble a squad largely made up of players based in New South Wales and Queensland along with a group of players resident in New Zealand.

“We’re extremely grateful we’ve been able to secure a coach of Brad’s calibre to coach our side in these challenging circumstances,” said George.

“The shape of our campaign has been severely impacted by the continuing Covid-19 crisis but having Brad to take on the role is a real coup.

“We’ve really appreciated being able to work closely with (NZRL general manager high performance) Motu Tony and the NZRL to bring this about.

“There’s still much work to be done including securing travel exemptions for players and staff from New Zealand to enter Australia but Brad’s appointment is hugely exciting.”

Former Kiwi Slade Griffin, who was initially appointed to coach the side, will remain in Auckland.

Six New Zealand-based players and two officials are set to travel to Australia for the duration of the competition. The remainder of the squad will be made up of Australian-based players, with a focus on continuing to provide an elite level pathway for eligible Kiwi Ferns players.

“The NZRL sees the NRLW as an important part of the female pathway for our current and future Kiwi Ferns players and coaching staff,” said Tony.

“Unfortunately Covid-19 has placed extra demands on our New Zealand-based players and led to many having to forego playing in the NRLW.

“However, it is a positive for our National Women’s Premiership, where many of our Kiwi Ferns will now play for their respective regions.

“We have a strong contingent of Kiwi Ferns players and staff involved in this year’s NRLW campaign for the Warriors which will be fantastic for their growth and development. 

“With the New Zealand-based players needing to remain in Australia for the duration of the NRLW, the NZRL viewed our Wellbeing Manager Carmen Taplin travelling and remaining with the NRLW squad as essential. This will ensure that the wellbeing needs of all players are met.”

While he was initially surprised to be offered the role, Donald said it was an easy and exciting decision to make in the interests of the women’s game in New Zealand and Australia.

“It was definitely unexpected and there are still some challenges ahead, but it’s a wonderful opportunity that Cameron (George), the NZRL, the players and entire Warriors organisation have not only given me, but all the female players from New Zealand and Australia,” he said.

“I also want to acknowledge Slade (Griffin) for the work he has already done in what should’ve been his first year as a NRLW head coach.

“Ultimately though, none of this would be possible if it wasn’t for the players. The ones sacrificing time away from family, careers and the comforts of home to keep the competition going, as well as those who couldn’t for those very same reasons. Their selflessness won’t go unappreciated or unrecognised.

“We look forward to getting the group together to ensure that everyone understands the sacrifices made to pull on a Warriors jersey in 2020. This will be a unique opportunity for those involved, and we will be doing everything possible from this point forward to build a very successful NRLW premiership campaign.”

The Warriors’ New Zealand-based contingent is due to fly to Australia in early September.

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.

The Rugby League World Cup 2021 tournament organisers have today revealed the much-anticipated fixture schedule for what promises to be the biggest and best World Cup in the history of the sport, as the men’s, women’s and wheelchair teams all compete at the same time in a major sporting first.

New Zealand’s men’s and women’s side will be competing in RLWC2021.

The full fixture list for New Zealand is as follows:

  • New Zealand vs Lebanon (men’s) – Halliwell Jones, Warrington (Sunday 24th October) – 19.30pm
  • New Zealand vs Jamaica (men’s) – Emerald Headingley Stadium, Leeds (Saturday 30th October) – 19.30pm
  • New Zealand vs Ireland (men’s) – Emerald Headingley Stadium, Leeds (Friday 5th November) – 19.30pm
  • New Zealand vs France (women’s) – LNER Community Stadium, York (Wednesday 10th November) – 17.00pm
  • New Zealand vs Cook Islands (women’s) – LNER Community Stadium, York (Sunday 14th November) – 17.00pm
  • Australia vs New Zealand (women’s) – LNER Community Stadium, York (Thursday 18th November) – 19.30pm

In June, it was revealed that New Zealand’s men’s and women’s sides will be using York as their team training base.

Jon Dutton, RLWC2021 Chief Executive, said: “This is a huge moment for the tournament and for millions of fans around the world as we reveal the full fixture schedule.

“The tournament has been gaining momentum over recent months and global fans can now look forward to being part of this unique sporting event. With match dates and locations confirmed, the excitement will only intensify.

“RLWC2021 will bring together the very best that the sport has to offer, and you can see from the schedule that there is no end of world class, not-to-be-missed matches, across all three tournaments.

“We can’t wait to welcome all our competing nations and their fans to England next autumn for the biggest and best Rugby League World Cup to date.”

With 61 fixtures over a six-week period the tournament will showcase a festival of world class sporting action. The dates, venues and kick-off times for each of the three tournaments is now confirmed and available to view below and at www.RLWC2021.com

Please visit www.RLWC2021.com for more information, for details on how to sign up to receive ticket alerts and all the latest news first.

Georgia Hale’s exceptional qualities on and off the rugby league field have tonight seen her honoured as the 2020 Young New Zealander of the Year.

On a momentous night for the Vodafone Warriors and rugby league, Hale (24) combined her sporting prowess with her selfless contribution in the community to head off fellow young achievers Tabby Besley and Fraser McConnell for the award.

Hale, who works for the Vodafone Warriors as their community relations coordinator, rose to become Warriors WNRL captain last year and also helped the Kiwi Ferns to win the inaugural World Cup 9s tournament in Sydney.

“This is a phenomenal achievement,” said Vodafone Warriors CEO Cameron George.

“We couldn’t be prouder of Georgia. She brings enormous credit on herself in the most selfless manner and richly deserves this recognition as an exceptional young New Zealander.

“It’s also a tremendous night for the game and for rugby league as a code to be able to celebrate this recognition.”

The citation for Hale on the KiwiBank New Zealander of the Year Awards Facebook page says:

“Georgia Hale is a champion sportsperson who has represented New Zealand in four separate sports. She has used her sporting profile as a platform to a create huge community impact around New Zealand.

“Georgia is one of the youngest-ever captains in New Zealand sport, captaining the Women’s Warriors Rugby League team when she was only 24. She has represented New Zealand in touch, tag, league nines and league thirteens.

“Georgia has dedicated herself to supporting communities. She influences thousands of children by visiting schools around the country and teaching students how to live a healthy lifestyle. She has set up a number of community initiatives with the Warriors, including the Great Charity Day which raised more than $120,000 in its first two years. She has also set up a number of initiatives through her platform to help young children, rural communities, the intellectually disabled, and a wide range of other charities.

“A role model to many, Georgia epitomises a Young New Zealander who is striving to better herself and the communities around her.”

A Kiwi Fern since 2015, Hale was appointed Warriors captain last August. In choosing her, Warriors WNRL coach Luisa Avaiki said she epitomises what a leader should be.

“Georgia stands out with the way she holds herself, with her values, her strengths and the passion she has for every team she plays for,” said Avaiki.

“I’ve watched her and she has really good relationships with everyone around her and she’s respectful. Her work ethic, competitiveness and drive are important qualities she demonstrates on and off the field.”

A demonstration of Hale’s all-round abilities could be found in the past three weeks.

For a week she was on the road with the Vodafone Warriors and the New Zealand Rugby League with the Sky Sport Rugby League Roadshow, taking the game to Gisborne, Ohope, Mount Maunganui and Whitianga before flying to Perth to lead the Warriors at the NRL Nines last weekend.

After attending tonight’s awards dinner in Auckland, she will be on an early morning flight to Palmerston North to playing a leading hand the Vodafone Warriors’ community programme ahead of the club’s NRL trial against the Melbourne Storm at Central Energy Trust Arena on Saturday.