28 November 2023
Kiwis captain James Fisher-Harris, lock Joseph Tapine and Kangaroos prop Payne Haas are in line to become the first running forward to win the IRL Golden Boot in 20 years after being selected on a short list of four nominees for the 2023 award.
Fisher-Harris and Tapine, who helped New Zealand to a record 30-0 defeat of Australia in the inaugural Pacific Cup final, are vying with Haas and England centre Harry Smith for the 2023 IRL Golden Boot as international player of the year.
Kiwi Ferns trio Georgia Hale, Mele Hufanga, Apii Nicholls and Jillaroos fullback Tamika Upton have been shortlisted for the women’s Golden Boot, while Frenchman Jeremy Bourson and England’s Lewis King are the contenders for the wheelchair Golden Boot.
The last running forward to win the Golden Boot was former Great Britain captain Andy Farrell, who played mostly second-row or lock in his 34 international appearances before switching to rugby union, where he now coaches Ireland.
Former Kangaroos captain Cameron Smith, who is one of nine players to have played more than 50 internationals, won the Golden Boot in 2007 and 2017 but he was a dummy half and not a running forward like Fisher-Harris, Tapine and Haas.
The only other forward to have won the Golden Boot was former New Zealand captain Hugh McGahan in 1987, while England’s Kevin Sinfield played halfback when he received the award in 2012.
The men’s 2023 IRL Golden Boot short list of Fisher-Harris, Haas, Smith and Tapine was chosen by a panel comprising of Golden Cap recipients Adam Blair, James Graham, Darren Lockyer, Adrian Morley and Ruben Wiki, who have each played more than 50 internationals.
The quartet were selected from a long list of 20 players nominated by members of the media in Australia, England, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, after the conclusion of the Pacific Championships and the historic England-Tonga series.
The women’s IRL Golden Boot winner short list was chosen from 14 nominees after the Pacific Championships, which featured New Zealand’s first triumph over the Jillaroos since 2016, and internationals in Europe.
Players from England, France, Samoa, Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Cook Islands were also nominated, before the New Zealand trio of Hale, Hufanga and Nicholls and Australia’s Upton were shortlisted.
The women’s 2023 IRL Golden Boot winner will be selected by Australian Jillaroos great Karyn Murphy, former New Zealand dual code superstar Honey Hireme-Smiler and England 2017 World Cup prop turned rugby league commentator Danika Priim.
The judges of the 2023 Wheelchair IRL Golden Boot are Malcolm Kielty (England) and Robert Fassolette (France), the two key figures in establishing the sport, along with another driving force in the game’s development in Martin Coyd, and long serving administrator Niel Wood, who has been a member of the IRL’s Wheelchair Rugby League advisory committee.
Bourson and King were shortlisted for the Golden Boot after last weekend’s international between World Cup finalists England and France in Marseilles, in which the visitors avenged their defeat in Leeds three weeks earlier.
France’s Lionel Alazard and the England trio of Sebastien Bechara, who is the current Golden Boot holder, Jack Brown and Nathan Collins were also considered.
IRL Chair Troy Grant congratulated the 10 players shortlisted for the Men’s, Women’s and Wheelchair Golden Boot awards.
“The IRL Golden Boot is one of the game’s most prestigious awards and any of the nominated players would be a worthy winner,” Mr Grant said.
“In recent weeks we have seen all three of last year’s World Cup winners – the Kangaroos, Jillaroos and England Wheelchair team – beaten, and this shows how closely contested the international game is.
“That is reflected in the nominations for the 2023 Golden Boot and there is no clear-cut candidate for any of the awards.
“On behalf of the IRL, I would like to thank the panels of former greats of our game, and those who have made a significant contribution to the development of Wheelchair Rugby League, for their involvement in helping to choose the 2023 international player of the year.”
The IRL Golden Boot is awarded to the best player in sanctioned rugby league international matches each year.
The 2022 IRL Golden Boot winners were New Zealand’s Joey Manu and Raecene McGregor, and England Wheelchair star Sebastien Bechara.
The winners of the 2023 IRL Golden Boot awards will be announced in early December.
IRL Golden Boot Short Lists
James Fisher-Harris (New Zealand)
Payne Haas (Australia)
Harry Smith (England)
Joseph Tapine (New Zealand)
Georgia Hale (New Zealand)
Mele Hufanga (New Zealand)
Apii Nicholls (New Zealand)
Tamika Upton (Australia)
Jeremy Bourson (France)
Lewis King (England)
Previous IRL Golden Boot Winners
1984 Wally Lewis (Australia)
1985 Brett Kenny (Australia)
1986 Garry Jack (Australia)
1987 Hugh McGahan (New Zealand)
and Peter Sterling (Australia)
1988 Ellery Hanley (England)
1989 Mal Meninga (Australia)
1990 Garry Schofield (England)
1992 Garry Schofield (England)
1991-98 No award given
1999 Andrew Johns (Australia)
2000 Brad Fittler (Australia)
2001 Andrew Johns (Australia)
2002 Stacey Jones (New Zealand)
2003 Darren Lockyer (Australia)
2004 Andrew Farrell (England)
2005 Anthony Minichiello (Australia)
2006 Darren Lockyer (Australia)
2007 Cameron Smith (Australia)
2008 Billy Slater (Australia)
2009 Greg Inglis (Australia)
2010 Benji Marshall (New Zealand)
2011 Johnathan Thurston (Australia)
2012 Kevin Sinfield (England)
2013 Johnathan Thurston (Australia)
2014 Shaun Johnson (New Zealand)
2015 Johnathan Thurston (Australia)
2016 Cooper Cronk (Australia)
2017 Cameron Smith (Australia)
2018 Tommy Makinson (England)
2019 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (New Zealand)
2020 No award given
2021 No award given
2022 Joey Manu (New Zealand)
2018 Isabelle Kelly (Australia)
2019 Jess Sergis (Australia)
2020 No award given
2021 No award given
2022 Raecene McGregor (New Zealand)
2019 Jack Brown (England)
2020 No award given
2021 No award given
2022 Sebastien Bechara (England)
A panel comprising some of the most accomplished players in international rugby league will select the men’s and women’s 2023 IRL Golden Boot winners after nominations were finalised following the recent Pacific Championships and historic England-Tonga series.
Golden Cap recipients Darren Lockyer (Australia), Adrian Morley (England), Ruben Wiki (New Zealand), James Graham (England) and Adam Blair (New Zealand), who are among just nine players to have played 50 internationals for their country, will choose the men’s IRL Golden Boot winner.
The women’s IRL Golden Boot winner will be decided by Australian Jillaroos great Karyn Murphy, former New Zealand dual code superstar Honey Hireme-Smiler and England 2017 World Cup prop turned rugby league commentator Danika Priim.
The judges of the 2023 Wheelchair IRL Golden Boot include Malcolm Kielty (England) and Robert Fassolette (France), the two key figures in establishing the sport, along with another driving force in the game’s development in Martin Coyd, and long serving administrator Niel Wood, who has been a member of the IRL’s Wheelchair Rugby League advisory committee.
IRL Chair Troy Grant said: “The IRL Golden Boot is one of the oldest and most highly regarded awards in rugby league, so it is fitting that some of the giants of the international game decide the winners.
“Having former players of such standing choose the men’s and women’s international player of the year adds to the prestige of the IRL Golden Boot and we thank them for their support of the award.
“There could also be no-one better qualified to determine the winner of the Wheelchair Golden Boot than those who pioneered the sport and the IRL is grateful for their involvement.”
New Zealand players dominate the long lists of men’s and women’s candidates, chosen by members of the media in Australia, England, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, after the Kiwis and Kiwi Ferns triumphed against Australia in the Pacific Championships.
Kiwis stars Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Jahrome Hughes, James Fisher-Harris, Joey Tapine and Ronaldo Mulitalo headline the contenders for the men’s Golden Boot, while 2022 winner Raecene McGregor and Kiwis Ferns team-mates Apii Nicholls, Mele Hufanga and Georgia Hale are candidates for the women’s award.
England’s Harry Smith, Mikey Lewis, John Bateman and Matty Ashton have also been nominated after the recent 3-0 series defeat of Tonga, alongside the Kangaroos quartet of Cameron Murray, Harry Grant, Payne Haas and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow.
Other players on the long list include Papua New Guinea pair Lachlan Lam and Edwin Ipape, Fiji prop Tui Kamikamica and fullback Jahream Bula, Samoa fullback Su’a Faalogo, Cook Islands playmaker Esan Marsters and Tonga prop Addin Fonua-Blake.
The women’s Golden Boot is just as keenly contested, with Jillaroos stars Tamika Upton and Jess Sergis also vying with England prop Amy Hardcastle and five-eighth Georgia Roche.
Others in contention include France’s Elisa Akpa and Lauréane Biville, Samoa prop Annetta-Claudia Nu’uausala, Tonga centre Tiana Penitani, Papua New Guinea centre Belinda Gwasamun and Cook Islands front-rower Toru Arakua.
Short lists for the men’s, women’s and wheelchair 2023 IRL Golden Boot awards will be announced after the second wheelchair international between last year’s World Cup winners England and runners-up France in Carcassonne on November 25.
France triumphed 43-34 in Leeds on November 5 in the first encounter between the two nations since the epic World Cup final.
IRL Chair Troy Grant said: “There has been more international rugby league played in recent months than any other period in recent memory outside of a World Cup year and players have again demonstrated their passion for representing their countries of birth or heritage.
“It is a sign of how competitive the game is at international level that the three World Cup champions – the Kangaroos, Jillaroos and England Wheelchair – were all recently beaten in gripping contests that showcased rugby league at its best.”
Nominated Kiwi Ferns
Auckland, New Zealand, October 30, 2023 – The Kiwis take rugby league back to New Zealand rugby union’s home ground Eden Park tomorrow to begin their build-up for Saturday’s Pacific Championships against the Australian Kangaroos at FMG Waikato Stadium in Hamilton (5.00pm kick-off).
It was at Eden Park that the Kiwis opened their campaign with a 50-0 win over Toa Samoa on an emotion-charged occasion on October 21.
The two finalists arrived in Auckland yesterday following the Kangaroos’ 36-18 win over the New Zealanders in Melbourne on Saturday night.
“We appreciate the opportunity to have the Kiwis training at Eden Park,” said New Zealand Rugby League CEO Greg Peters.
“It’s a big week for the game in New Zealand, the first time since the Four Nations final in Wellington in 2014 that we’ve had a championship decider played here.
“It’s also only the second time since then that the Kiwis have played the Kangaroos in New Zealand.”
The last Trans-Tasman clash on New Zealand soil was the one-off Test at Go Media Stadium in 2018 when the Kiwis triumphed 26-24.
After training in Auckland tomorrow, the Kiwis travel to Hamilton on Wednesday where they will mix with the public at a signing session at Centre Place in the central city scheduled for 3.00pm.
They have a field session on Thursday morning before winding up their on-field preparations at FMG Waikato Stadium on Friday.
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As seen on NRL.com
A courageous defensive performance led the Kiwi Ferns to their first victory over Australia in seven years on Saturday afternoon, as they edged past the world champions 12-6 in Melbourne.
With seven minutes to play in a match which saw them spend long periods camped on their own line and enjoy few opportunities in attacking territory, Leianne Tufuga scored her first try at Test level to end New Zealand’s seven-game winless streak against their trans-Tasman neighbours.
From there the Kiwi Ferns did what they had done for the entire game and toughed it out off the ball, denying Australia any right of reply at AAMI Park in the second game of their two-match Pacific Championships series, the first of which saw the Jillaroos run out 16-10 winners.
From the opening exchanges the Jillaroos dominated possession and looked the superior team on the ball, but outside of Jaime Chapman’s opener on 10 minutes, they couldn’t break down the stoic Kiwi defence.
Despite dominating all of the key stat categories through the opening 35 minutes, Australia found themselves heading to the sheds tied at 6-6, with a later-ruled-out claim from Tamika Upton their only action after Chapman’s try out wide.
Dominant as they were, Brad Donald’s side continuously shot themselves in the foot with errors which saw them complete under 40 percent of their first-half sets.
It was a one-on-one strip from Tiana Davison, who had just entered the field from the bench, which gave the Kiwi Ferns possession to send Mele Hufanga over in the final minute of the half.
Another Jillaroos turnover looked to have led to a go-ahead try for New Zealand, but Apii Nicholls’ effort was ruled out when the Bunker found obstruction in the lead up.
As Australia continued to boss time on the ball, New Zealand continued to come up with big plays in defence and turn their rivals away, with the best of them coming 16 minutes from full-time when they rallied to deny Jakiya Whitfeld a try on debut.
Then with seven to play they finally got their breakthrough at the other end, spreading wide for Tufuga to score, with McGregor nailing the sideline conversion.
As the 2023 NRLW season and the Pacific Championships have proven, there is no more dangerous play in women’s rugby league right now than Mele Hufanga with a one-on-one matchup near the line. The Broncos star was always going to score after Tyla Nathan-Wong dropped her under just before the break, with Tamika Upton no chance of stopping the powerhouse centre.
Written by Suzanne McFadden as seen here on newsroom
Explosive Kiwi Ferns centre Shanice Parker never met her Kiwi dad until her teens. Now the Aussie-born multi-code star is embracing new whānau and giving her son what she missed out on.
Each time Shanice Parker pulls on the Kiwi Ferns jersey, it’s as if she’s adding another layer to a journey of discovery – finding out who she is.
“So, my story’s a little different,” 25-year-old Parker, one of the most exciting outside backs in rugby league, says.
“I didn’t know my dad until a bit later in my life. For a big part of my teenage years, I had a bit of an identity crisis.”
But now Parker, who’s spent all her life in Australia, is filling the gaps in her story – learning her whakapapa and connecting with her whānau in the Waikato. And becoming a true-blue Kiwi Fern.
Born in the Perth suburb of Yangebup, the daughter of former Jillaroo league star Danielle Parker, Shanice always knew she was Māori. But she knew nothing of her New Zealand dad until she was 11, and didn’t meet him for the first time till she was 16.
At first, she played footy for her country of birth – but in rugby, for both the Australian Sevens, then the Wallaroos 15s.
But as she began to connect with her Kiwi whānau (she’s Tainui, Ngāti Korokī Kahukura) and switched codes to rugby league, Parker realised she wanted to play for the Māori All Stars, and then for New Zealand. To represent this other half of her life she was unearthing.
Now she’s a mother, to 22-month-old Jakari, Parker says the journey is even more special. “It’s really ignited a drive to give my son what I never had,” she says. A new language, a new culture, a new family.
Sitting next to a pool in Townsville, where she’ll line up for the Kiwi Ferns in the Pacific Championship opener against the Jillaroos tonight, Parker is missing her little boy.
When she made her debut for the Kiwi Ferns a year ago, at the World Cup in England, she was able to take Jakari – then 10 months old – with her. Along with fullback Apii Nicholls and her one-year-old, Felix, they were part of a ground-breaking policy introduced by coach Ricky Henry – encouraging young mums to keep their babies with them on tour.
This past week, Jakari has been at home in Newcastle with Parker’s partner, former league player Kiah Cooper. But Cooper’s mum will fly to Townsville today with Jakari, so he can travel with Parker to Auckland, where the Kiwi Ferns play Tonga at Eden Park next Saturday.
There’s no shortage of “aunties” in the Kiwi Ferns offering to look after Kari. “In fact, he’s going to spend the week with my dad going to the kohanga reo where my dad works,” Parker says.
“My son is really lucky because he’s got two of the best cultures in the world – he’s Aboriginal on his dad’s side, and Māori on mine.
“That’s why I really love immersing myself in these Kiwi Ferns camps because I’m on my own journey as well. It started once my dad came into my life. So being in these camps really just feels so cup-filling.”
When she first met her dad, Robin White, and his wife, Holly, Parker was unsure whether they would begin a relationship. “It’s been kind of a weird feeling, because as soon as we connected, it was just like they’d always been there,” she says.
“It just felt so natural and everything made sense in that moment. Now I have extended whānau everywhere I go. It’s pretty cool.”
The Newcastle Knights scoring star – who’s also a youth worker, studying for a health degree – feels blessed to have a support network in two countries now. “I know it takes a village to raise a child. The girls I play with are a big part of that, but also my partner and his family back home,” she says.
“Kiah has held it down for us and been so supportive for me to come back into the elite space after having Kari. I wouldn’t be here without him, and all of them.”
Parker hopes her son will one day look back and appreciate growing up on league sidelines around the world.
“Obviously he won’t remember going on all these trips, which are a luxury my mum never had in her playing career,” says Parker, who was two when her mum played for the Jillaroos at the 2000 World Cup in England, while she stayed in Perth with her mum’s family. “Mum had to pay her own way, and it would have been expensive to take a baby and a carer with her.
“So it’s really cool how the game has evolved in that sense of supporting women if they have kids, or whatever they do career-wise. I know we’re very fortunate, and we really respect and honour the women who’ve come before us to create this pathway.”
Being a kid watching her mother play moulded the multi-talented player Parker has become.
“Mum obviously played a massive part in the player and the person that I am today. Six days a week, my siblings and I were at the footy fields – whether it was union, tag or league,” says Parker, who started playing league at five.
“There were other people in my life – like my aunty and my nana on my mum’s side – who were really important influences around my sport. My aunty [Melanie Wallis] played league for a Prime Minister’s squad, and even my Nana played. Well, not very well, but she jumped on the field with my aunty and mum.”
Mum Danielle is still playing club league in Perth: “She tries, she hobbles along,” Parker laughs.
It was her mum who encouraged her to leave home at 18 and move across the continent to take up a rugby union contract with the Australian Sevens – turning down a place in the Jillaroos training squad. Having taken up rugby at 15, she could see the professional opportunities sevens would give her.
Multi-code legend Honey Hireme-Smiler remembers seeing the young Aussie bolter playing sevens (it turns out they’re related by marriage).
“Shanice seems so chill and shy off the field, but when she’s on it, she’s a real competitor,” say Hireme-Smiler, now a Kiwi Ferns selector. “She has a massive game face, and she’s right in there. She’s such a dynamic and powerful player – she’s got speed and height, and amazing skills to play anywhere. She’s the full package.”
Parker started playing league again in 2018, and the next year made her NRLW debut with the title-winning Sydney Roosters. This year she collected her third NRLW crown, but with the defending champions Newcastle Knights, scoring an early try in their 24-18 win over the Gold Coast Titans.
“Back-to-back championship victories don’t happen that often, so we’re in a very privileged position,” she says. “It’s just so good to be surrounded by elite players like [NRLW Player of the Year] Tamika Upton, and Jesse and Hannah Southwell. And I’m fortunate enough to have that here with the Kiwi Ferns as well.”
Though some believe Parker is now playing some of her best football, she feels as though she’s just hitting her stride. “When I look back at where I’ve been, my confidence since having my son has just sprouted,” she says.
“I feel like I’m paying good footy because I’m having fun and I’m loving what I do. But there’s always little areas that I feel like I can tweak and improve on.”
But at 25, she reckons she won’t have long to make any modifications. She calls herself an “old girl” now and see her retirement only a few years away.
“When you become a mum, your priorities change. I love having my time away and keeping that little piece of yourself alive which is so important. So I’ll play maybe another three to four years and then I’ll be moving on,” she says. “Well, I say that now.”
The next World Cup in 2026 stands as a beacon in her career after last year’s disappointment, when a serious knee injury in a “weird, ugly tackle” in the second game against the Cook Islands ruled her out for the rest of the tournament.
Parker wouldn’t mind another shot at rugby – specifically with Chiefs Manawa in the Super Rugby Aupiki competition. “If I had the chance to play a season with the Chiefs, it’d be good for me to be around my Kiwi family,” she says.
“But I love league, I love the space. We’re all very supportive of each other and the sport has come from a long history of women getting nothing, to now being able to provide a bit more for our families and for ourselves.”
In the meantime, she wants to make her mark as a Kiwi Fern starter and establish herself as a leader; she’s just been named in a support role for new co-captains Georgia Hale and Raecene McGregor.
“Honestly, when Ricky asked me to be involved in the leadership group, I was a bit taken aback – but I guess I’m ready to step into that role now,” she says. “I’ve been a part of the game for a long time and I’m one of the older heads – and older bodies –in this very youthful side. So I’m really privileged to be part of the leadership squad.”
There are 11 debutants in the Kiwi Ferns line-up for this series, including Annessa Biddle, the NRLW Rookie of the Year and Players Player of the Year, who’ll combine with Parker in the centres tonight.
“I watched all of our debutants – but Annessa in particular – through the whole NRLW campaign. She came over and started off so hard, like one of the strongest outside backs in the game. Hopefully we’ll see a bit more of that on Saturday,” Parker says.
“We’ve got so much talent that’s being unearthed. I’m excited for the future of the Kiwi Ferns. It’s like the beginning of a new era.”
Away from the field, Parker has become a master of multi-tasking. On top of her league training, she works four days a week as a youth worker coordinating wellbeing programmes in schools. And she’s studying for a Bachelor of Health and Movement degree to eventually become a teacher.
“It’s all self-inflicted stress really,” she laughs. “My day usually starts by dropping off my son to daycare, going to work from seven till three, then driving an hour to get straight into training. Everything’s go go go – it’s like I don’t really have time to breathe sometimes.
“But being a parent is the hardest job of all. Sometimes I miss out on a lot of the cool things, as I get home from training like around 9pm and Kari’s in bed.”
But she hopes her son will one day understand.
“Having Kari reignited a spark and gave me more purpose – not just in footy but in life,” Parker says. “I love what I’m doing and I hope one day he can look back at this and say ‘My mum was so cool’. It’s cool to be able to be that female role model in his life.”
10 October 2023Kiwi Ferns head coach Ricky Henry has made his selection for the Kiwi Ferns’ first game in the Pacific Championships on Saturday.
In the Kiwi Ferns’ first appearance against the Jillaroos since their World Cup final loss to the Australians last year, nine debutantes will be looking to rewrite history in Townsville.
Head coach Ricky Henry says his selection reflects the need for balance across the team.
“We have some really exciting outside backs in the line-up, which also means some hard decisions were made.”
Ricky says being forced to make tough decisions ahead of game day can only be a good thing though, with a talented team of individuals to select from.
Among the team of debutantes kickstarting the Pacific Championships is NRLW Rookie of the Year and winger Annessa Biddle and her Sharks teammate and hooker, Brooke Anderson.
2016 was the last time the Kiwi Ferns beat the Australians. “We won’t be sitting back and taking it lightly,” says Ricky.“2026 is where we are looking to but we are here to win these games as we develop this new team.” Jillaroos v Kiwi Ferns kick-off Saturday 14 October 8pm (NZT).2023 Kiwi Ferns Pacific Championship Team List:
10 October 2023
A dual captaincy will see veterans Georgia Hale and Raecene McGregor step up to lead the Kiwi Ferns in the 2023 Pacific Championship.The announcement of the co-captains comes ahead of the Kiwi Ferns’ first game against the Jillaroos in Townsville on Saturday 14 October.Kiwi Ferns head coach Ricky Henry says the experienced duo are the ‘whole package’, who can lead the team to success in the Pacific Championships and beyond to the 2025 Women’s Rugby League World Cup (to be held in 2026).“They’ve both got experience that can’t be matched.”
Ricky says Georgia embodies where the game is going, as a wāhine who has cemented herself as a respected leader, after moving from ‘local footy’ to the NRLW.
“People want to play with her or play for her, which says a lot and that’s coaches and staff too. We saw that in the Titans,” says Ricky.Georgia, 28 led the Gold Coast Titans to second place in the NRLW and has become a strong figure-head in the game for both her versatility, playing as a lock and half, alongside her heart-felt leadership style.
“Georgia has been one of the best players in the NRLW through hardwork and persistence and that’s where the respect comes from first. At the same time she really cares about those around her.”
It’s a proud moment for Georgia, being able to don the black and white jersey once more and continue the legacy of the Kiwi Ferns.
“The most important thing for me to do on this tour is grow the connection of our team, so we can bring our culture to life, which is what we pride ourselves on. It’s our superpower, our inner strength.”
For Georgia, empowering others through their youth, wisdom or own personal culture will also be at the forefront for her on this campaign, with 12 debutantes.
Kiwi Fern half Raecene McGregor, 25 is filled with gratitude at the naming. It comes off the back of a strong NRLW season with the St George Illawarra Dragons.
Raecene, the 2022 winner of the Dally M Medal NRLW, says holding the role of captain is something she has always wanted to do.“Over the last two years I’ve felt ready to take on this position, knowing that I’ve come into myself a little more and gained experience through age too.”
The five-eight says she attributes her leadership qualities to her Mum, who instilled in her the notion to be respectful and kind to other people.
“If you want to be treated a certain way, treat them that way,” she says.
Rick says while Georgia has witnessed the evolution of the game since her test debut in 2015, Raecene has helped build that.“Raecene has got the kicks, the lovely pass, the game IQ and her leadership on the field is what the team trust. She’s been a trail-blaser of the women’s game,” says Ricky.
“Players look to her to come up with the big play or the right play on the field and she expects the best of people on and off the field.”Shanice Parker and Mya Hill-Moana have also been selected to support Hale and McGregor as part of a wider leadership team.
Ricky says he will be looking to the co-captains and leadership team to help deliver key messaging and simplify technical language. “If they can help us lead better, then we can be more effective as a team.”
Auckland, New Zealand, October 4, 2023
Kiwi Ferns head coach Ricky Henry has confirmed his squad for the 2023 Pacific Championship, which features 11 potential Kiwi Ferns debutantes.
Following their World Cup final loss to the Jillaroos last year, Henry calls on a fresh crop of NRLW talent set to stamp their mark on the international scene after impressive 2023 seasons.
Among the new debutantes is NRLW rookie of the year medallist Annessa Biddle, who took the NRLW by storm, earning two tries, 1366 running metres and 33 tackle breaks. After being voted the Rugby League Players’ Association NRLW Rookie of the Year, Biddle looks to continue her flying form in Black and White colours.
Joining Biddle in the squad is Sharks teammate and hooker Brooke Anderson. Anderson is no stranger to representative rugby league, having represented the Māori All-Stars and NSW Sky Blues in 2023.
Olympic gold medallist and dual code star Tyla Nathan-Wong gets her first Kiwi Ferns selection after an impressive debut NRLW season alongside halves partner and Golden Boot winner Raecene McGregor. Dragon’s teammate Angelina Teakaraanga-Katoa also gets her maiden call-up.
Wests Tigers duo Leianne Tufuga and Najvada George join the squad after they combined for 2163 running metres this season, with Tufuga scoring five tries in nine appearances.
Newcomers Jasmine Fogavini of the Brisbane Broncos and Amelia Pasikala of the Sydney Roosters help strengthen an already dominant forward pack. While Auckland and Taupō natives, Cheyelle Robins-Reti and Ashleigh Quinlan are named after stand-out seasons for the Canberra Raiders.
Dally M Centre of the Year Mele Hufanga returns to the Kiwi Ferns after a break-out NRLW season with the Broncos. Veterans Georgia Hale, Apii Nicholls and Mya Hill-Moana also return, while 2023 NRLW champions Shanice Parker, Laishon Albert-Jones and Abigail Roache look to carry on their winning momentum.
“We’ve listed an impressive group of players who have rightfully earned their spots, and we acknowledge them for their form in the NRLW competition,” Henry said.
“The depth we have and the new generation of players coming through is exciting. I’m confident our newcomers will flourish alongside our World Cup campaigners and veteran leaders who set an excellent foundation for us last year.
“The Jillaroos are world-class, and Tonga is no easy feat, but I’m confident in this playing group. I know everyone can’t wait to get out there.”
2023 Kiwi Ferns Pacific Championship Squad:
* denotes potential debut
A number of Kiwis, Kiwi Ferns, and fellow New Zealanders are set to take the field in the NRL and NRLW Grand Finals this Sunday October 1st. The games will be played at Sydney’s Accor Stadium, featuring defending champions the Newcastle Knights women and two-time consecutive NRL Premiers, the Penrith Panthers, looking to achieve a three-peat.
NRLW Grand Final – Newcastle Knights v Gold Coast Titans, Sunday 1st October, 5:55 pm NZST
#3 Shanice Parker (Kiwi Fern #163)
#4 Abigail Roache (Kiwi Fern #168)
#11 Laishon Albert-Jones (Kiwi Fern #161)
#14 Nita Maynard (Kiwi Fern #137)
The Newcastle Knights look to defend their 2022 title and are touted as favourites to win, having only lost once during the regular season. Kiwi Ferns bolster the Newcastle side across the pitch, with Roache and Parker in the centres, Albert-Jones inside Parker at second row, and Maynard to come off the bench as a substitute hooker. The Knights secured their spot in the Grand Final after a thrilling Preliminary Final which saw them narrowly outlast the Brisbane Broncos.
Gold Coast Titans:
#4 Niall Williams-Guthrie
#13 Georgia Hale, Captain (Kiwi Fern #122)
The Gold Coast Titans women enter their first Grand Final as underdogs after finishing the 2022 competition in last place. In an outstanding turnaround, the Queensland side finished fourth on the table and then went on to beat the formidable Sydney Roosters outfit in the Preliminary Finals. Kiwi Fern veteran Georgia Hale will lead the team onto the park as they aim to win their first NRLW Premiership. Niall Williams-Guthrie will take her place in the centres after only her first season of rugby league, having made the code-switch from New Zealand rugby sevens.
NRL Grand Final – Penrith Panthers v Brisbane Broncos, Sunday 1st October, 9:30 pm NZST
#8 Moses Leota (Kiwi #827)
#10 James Fisher-Harris (Kiwi #801)
#11 Scott Sorensen (Kiwi #831)
Moses Leota and James Fisher-Harris line up as the starting props in Penrith’s daunting forward pack, while Scott Sorensen will appear on the left edge at second-row. The Panthers will look to complete the first three-peat since the Eels 1981-1983 Premierships, but were beaten by the Broncos once during the regular season. Penrith enter their fourth consecutive Grand Final, following a dominant 38-4 win over the Melbourne Storm in their Preliminary Final.
#2 Jesse Arthars
#12 Jordan Riki
Young Jesse Arthars and Jordan Riki will lace up for the Brisbane Broncos after consistently exceptional seasons. Both have been in the Broncos squad since the club’s infamous last-place season in 2020. The fiery Brisbane side has since become a force to be reckoned with, due to their powerful forward pack and explosive backs. They enter the Grand Final looking to win their first Premiership since 2006.
As seen on nrl.com
Cronulla centre Annessa Biddle has claimed the 2023 Dally M NRLW Rookie of the Year Award after a superb debut season for the Sharks.
Spotted by Sharks recruiters playing for the Otara Scorpions in the Auckland rugby league competition, Biddle began her NRLW career on the Sharks’ edge before coach Tony Herman shifted the 21-year-old to right centre due to her strength and speed.
Biddle took her game to new heights on Cronulla’s right side and went on to score two tries, lay two assists and make 26 tackle breaks in her six games at centre.
“What a season it’s been for me and I’m just so honoured and privileged to receive this award especially with the amount of outstanding rookies there were,” Biddle said.
The Kiwi rookie also finished second in the competition for post-contact metres (620), only 83 metres behind star Titans prop Shannon Mato at the end of the regular season.
Biddle was also voted by the players as the Rugby League Players’ Association NRLW Rookie of the Year earlier in the week.
The other finalists for Dally M rookie of the year were China Polata from the Cowboys and Rilee Jorgensen from the Titans.
The 2023 Dally M Awards at Sydney’s Royal Randwick racecourse saw several Kiwi men and women take home some of the most prestigious awards at the NRL level.
The NRL and NRLW Dally M Teams of the Year recognises the best player in each position across all regular season rounds. Judges regularly vote on the best player in each position throughout the year, with a further vote conducted at the end of the regular season.
Significant changes to the Dally M voting process for both the NRL and NRLW competitions were introduced for the 2023 season. This season, two independent judges each gave out votes on a 3,2,1 basis for every game, meaning players could earn a maximum of six votes per game compared to three in previous years. The decision to add a second judge to assess each game in 2023 will increase the final total of points to players, but also the level of fairness in further removing potential variances arising from a single judge voting on a game.
First-class wingers Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Jamayne Isaako were named Wingers of the Year, with Jamayne also the NRL’s top point scorer this season. Watene-Zelezniak achieved the New Zealand Warriors club record for most tries in a season, while fellow teammate Shaun Johnson rightfully earned Halfback of the Year. Johnson had an outstanding comeback season that helped his side reach the NRL Preliminary Final for the first time in 12 years. He was only beaten by 1 point to narrowly miss out on the prestigious Dally M Medal.
Having only made their NRLW debuts at the beginning of the season, Mele Hufanga and Annessa Biddle took home the Centre and Rookie of the Year awards after consistently outstanding performances week in and week out. Hufanga starred for the semi-finalist Brisbane Broncos after debuting for the Kiwi Ferns at the 2022 Rugby League World Cup. The 21-year-old Biddle also finished second in the competition for post-contact metres (620). “What a season it’s been for me and I’m just so honoured and privileged to receive this award especially with the amount of outstanding rookies there were,” Biddle said.
Winger of the Year – Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (New Zealand Warriors, Kiwi #794), Jamayne Isaako (Redcliffe Dolphins, Kiwi #808)
Halfback of the Year – Shaun Johnson (New Zealand Warriors, Kiwi #774)
Centre of the Year – Mele Hufanga (Brisbane Broncos, Kiwi Fern #166)
Rookie of the Year – Annessa Biddle (Cronulla Sharks)
For the full Team of the Year lists see here: NRL, NRLW
26th September 2023
After a long and esteemed international Test career, with almost a decade of service to the Black and White jersey, Kiwi Fern #124 Krystal Rota has called time on her international career.
Former Manurewa Marlin and Papakura Sea Eagle, Krystal Rota developed into one of the most prominent players in women’s rugby league and one of New Zealand’s great captains in recent years. She went on to win seven NZRL National Championship titles with the Counties Manukau Stingrays, to which she captained the team to victory in four.
Krystal earned her Kiwi Ferns call-up in 2015 for the Kiwi Ferns v Jillaroos 9s match before later debuting off the bench in the Anzac Test.
Rota earned a promotion to the No. 9 jersey for the corresponding Anzac Test in 2016, then retained her spot for the following 2017 Anzac clash. By then, the dynamic dummy half had cemented her place in the Kiwi Ferns, soon joining the 2017 Rugby League World Cup team. Rota was a mainstay during the tournament and in the Ferns’ gallant defeat to the Jillaroos in the final.
After being crowned ARL Player of the Year in 2017, Krystal went on to feature in the 2018, 2019, and 2022 NRLW seasons for the New Zealand Warriors and Newcastle Knights, earning an NRL Dally M nomination for Women’s Player of the Year in 2018.
Back in Black and White colours, Krystal played a crucial role in the 2019 World Cup Nines campaign, which saw the Kiwi Ferns make history, upsetting Australia in the final, 17-15.
Rota also received captain honours in both 2019 and 2020 to lead the Māori All-Stars against the Indigenous All-Stars.
The veteran’s leadership qualities continued to be recognised in 2020 when she was named Kiwi Ferns’ captain for the end-of-season Test against Fetū Samoa. She subsequently earned Kiwi Ferns’ Player of the Year.
Most recently, Krystal led New Zealand in the mid-2022 Test against Tonga and was among the Kiwi Ferns’ most experienced campaigners at the England World Cup later that year. She played all five matches to ultimately finish her international career with 15 Test caps gained over seven years.
GM of High-Performance and Football at NZRL Motu Tony reflects on Rota’s illustrious career, “Krystal’s retirement from the Kiwi Ferns marks the end of an era, but her impact on the team and rugby league will remain.
“Her dedication and talent have inspired many players, particularly our young up-and-coming female participants. We are grateful for all she has done for the Kiwi Ferns and rugby league in New Zealand. We wish her the best in her future endeavours.”
New Zealand fans have had the privilege of seeing Krystal in the #9 jersey and leading the team by example for the past seven years.
Rota fondly reflects on her accomplished time as a Kiwi Fern and Kiwi Ferns captain,
“An absolute honour & privilege it’s been to wear the Kiwi Fern.
Worn with passion & pride, but now it’s someone else’s turn.
Memories I’ll forever cherish with lifelong friendships made,
The vision of playing at the pinnacle with many legends will never fade.
To represent our beautiful country in the code that I adore,
It’s been a dream come true, signing out Kiwi Fern #124.”
The National Rugby League (NRL) has announced the nominees for the 2023 NRL Dally M Team of the Year as well as several individual Dally M awards for the NRL Telstra Premiership.
The Dally M Awards recognise the game’s most outstanding performers from both the NRL Telstra Premiership and NRL Telstra Women’s Premiership each year, with this year’s awards to be presented on Wednesday, September 27 in Sydney.
Significant changes to the Dally M voting process for both the NRL and NRLW competitions were introduced for the 2023 season.
This season, two independent judges each gave out votes on a 3,2,1 basis for every game, meaning players were able to earn a maximum of six votes per game compared to three in previous years.
The decision to add in a second judge to assess each game in 2023 will increase the final total of points to players, but also the level of fairness in further removing potential variances that arise from a single judge voting on a game.
Any player suspended for a total of two NRL regular season games becomes ineligible to claim any Dally M award, while a one-game suspension brings with it a deduction of six points this year (compared to a deduction of three points in past seasons). Players who become ineligible for awards due to suspension are still able to pick up points in subsequent games so as not to distort the voting process throughout the regular season.
However, players who are suspended for two games will be ineligible to collect any awards, deeming Kiwi players such as Jeremy Marshall-King, Jahrome Hughes, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Marata Niukore, and Annetta-Claudia Nuuausala not available.
The NRL Dally M Team of the Year recognises the best player in each position across all rounds of the regular season. Judges vote on the best player in each position at regular intervals throughout the year with a further vote conducted at the end of the regular season.
The player who polls the highest number of votes in each position is included in the Team of the Year, while players who finish in the top three of the overall Dally M Medal leaderboard receive their respective position in the Team of the Year if available.
Winger of the Year (two winners) – Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (New Zealand Warriors), Jamayne Isaako (Redcliffe Dolphins), Ronaldo Mulitalo (Cronulla Sharks)
Halfback of the Year – Shaun Johnson (New Zealand Warriors)
Prop of the Year (two winners) – James Fisher-Harris (Panthers), Nelson Asofa-Solomona (Melbourne Storm)
Second Row of the Year (two winners) – Briton Nikora (Cronulla Sharks)
Lock of the Year – Tohu Harris (New Zealand Warriors)
Captain of the Year – Tohu Harris (New Zealand Warriors)
Rookie of the Year – William Warbrick (Melbourne Storm)
YOUI Tackle of the Year – Joseph Tapine (Canberra Raiders)
Centre of the Year (two winners) – Annessa Biddle (Cronulla Sharks), Mele Hufanga (Brisbane Broncos), Shanice Parker (Newcastle Knights)
Five-Eighth of the Year – Gayle Broughton (Brisbane Broncos)
Halfback of the Year – Raecene McGregor (St George Illawarra Dragons)
Second Row of the Year (two winners) – Otesa Pule (Sydney Roosters)
Lock of the Year – Georgia Hale (Gold Coast Titans)
Captain of the Year – Georgia Hale (Gold Coast Titans)
Try of the Year – Leianne Tufuga (Wests Tigers)
Read more on nrl.com
Kiwi Ferns star Raecene McGregor believes the end-of-season Pacific Championships may help convince her Dragons halves partner Tyla Nathan-Wong and other rugby union converts to stick with league.
Nathan-Wong, who was a member of New Zealand’s gold medal winning rugby sevens team at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, is among a host of NRLW newcomers set to bolster the depth of the Kiwi Ferns.
Niall Williams-Guthrie and Cheyelle Robins-Reti are other cross code stars to have made an immediate impact this season, as the number of players eligible for the Kiwi Ferns in the NRLW has risen to 58.
“It is very exciting to see the new players who are coming through,” McGregor said.
“I have been in the Kiwi Ferns for a number of years now and when I first started there was probably one person for each position so to see that we have got some depth now is awesome.”
McGregor was regarded as the best player in the world last year after winning the 2022 Dally M Medal and IRL Golden Boot, but the Kiwi Ferns were outgunned 54-4 by the Jillaroos in November’s World Cup final at Old Trafford.
However, McGregor believes that the likes of Nathan-Wong, Williams-Guthrie, Robins-Reti and Broncos star Gayle Broughton to choose from the Kiwis Ferns will be much stronger for their two Tests against Australia and one against Tonga.
Nathan-Wong is only on a one-year NRLW deal with the Dragons, but McGregor is hopeful she will stay beyond this season and resist approaches to return to rugby sevens.
“I’m not 100 per cent sure what Tyla is going to decide at the moment,” McGregor said. “I think she has got a few things that she does want to do in sevens possibly, but hopefully she does decide to play in these Test matches at the end of the year.
“If she enjoys that she will hopefully give away the sevens and commit to league.”
The Dragons have eight players eligible for the Kiwi Ferns, including prop Madison Weatherall and teenage forward Alexis Tauaneai, who was selected in the NSW U19s State of Origin team but has pledged her allegiances to New Zealand.
“She is 100% Kiwi and I have been in her ear so NSW can wish but she’s not going there. She will definitely be playing for the Kiwi Ferns,” McGregor said.
“With this NRLW season being longer it has been really exciting to see some of the young girls playing and hopefully we can get a good side together for the Tests at the end of the season.”
The women’s section of the Pacific Championships will feature seven nations, with Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Cook Islands and Samoa to play Tests in Port Morseby.
Jillaroos coach Brad Donald predicted that the expansion of the NRLW competition to 10 teams this season would ensure the Pacific nations become stronger.
“We’ve got so many players playing in the NRLW that have got Pacific heritage and if we can open up the eligibility so some of those players can help their Pacific nations, we’re going to see more and more growth and a higher standard,” Donald said.
“Pair that with what [NRL CEO] Andrew [Abdo] has said about helping pathways in countries like Tonga, Samoa, Fiji and PNG, and we’re going to see a lot more players come through the NRLW, especially as we expand and provide great opportunities for all the females in those countries.”
“It’s a great result for NRLW, it’s a great result for the NRL and it’s an even greater result for international rugby league for women.”
Read more on nrl.com/news/2023
As seen on foxsports.com
With the 2023 NRLW season having just kicked off, Dragons NRLW coach Jamie Soward has opened up on why his halves pairing have the potential to be the “best ever.”
One of the 24 players proud to don the Red V for this season is the reigning Dally M medallist and Kiwi Fern, Raecene McGregor. The 25-year-old halfback steered the Roosters to a premiership in the rescheduled 2021 season and then backed it up with the Dally M the following season as well as claiming 2022 Golden Boot honours. McGregor has been appointed captain this season, but there’s so much more than her experience and leadership that has impressed Soward.
“I love the fact that she’s a competitor. She’s always wanting the ball and always wanting to pull the trigger on a play. Rae is so well-organised around what she wants to do I don’t have to over-coach her too much in terms of what she needs to do,” he said.
Another major coup for the Dragons is the signing of New Zealand Rugby Sevens star Tyla Nathan-Wong, who is set to partner McGregor in the halves. It’s that combination that Soward believes “has the potential to be the best ever.”
Nathan-Wong wasn’t on the Dragons’ radar until her manager reached out to the club. The 29-year-old is a two-time winner of the New Zealand Sevens Player of the Year and has represented her country at the Olympics, Commonwealth Games and Sevens Rugby World Cups. She played a big part in the Black Ferns claiming gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Besides her obvious skill, it was important that Nathan-Wong could fit in with the Dragons and Soward’s — culture.
“Players were getting shopped around and we interviewed players on whether we felt like it was going to be a fit or not. It’s not just about coming across to get a pay cheque — she probably could’ve gotten paid more back in the Sevens system. She wanted to test herself on the biggest stage,” he said.
Soward said Nathan-Wong who will be McGregor’s vice-captain this season, “has been a fantastic addition” and she “commands so much respect.”
“Her game awareness, being able to execute a skill at high speed I think is something I was surprised with how quickly she picked it up,” he added.
“I feel like that halves pairing in Rae and Tyla has the potential to be the best ever.”
Read more on foxsports.com.au/nrl/nrlw
As seen on newshub.co.nz
Read more here – https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/sport/2023/08/rugby-league-mackenzie-wiki-following-in-footsteps-of-kiwi-nrl-icon-father-ruben.html?
While NZ Warriors are riding high in the men’s NRL, a big group of Kiwi women hope to make a similar impact in the NRLW.
One of them is quite literally creating history, with Mackenzie Wiki following in the footsteps of her father, representing the ‘Green Machine’ of the Canberra Raiders.
Whenever Wiki works out, there are reminders that rugby league is in her DNA – working out underneath a poster of dad Ruben.
“The old man up there in the top corner,” she told Newshub. “Looking down on me, making sure I’m doing it right.”
Read more here – https://www.nrl.com/news/2023/07/26/nrlw-showdown-awaits-star-converts/
After years of teaming up together for New Zealand in a different code, Niall Williams-Guthrie and Gayle Broughton face each other for the first time as NRLW players on Thursday night.
The former rugby sevens stars clash at The Gabba, with Broughton’s Broncos playing host to Williams-Guthrie and the Titans – who also have Evania Pelite, a long-time opponent of the pair on the sevens circuit while playing for Australia – in Round 2 of the expanded 10-team competition.
Last year it was Broughton who started the trend of New Zealand sevens players coming across to the NRLW when she signed with the Eels, and since then Williams-Guthrie and Tyla Nathan-Wong (Dragons) have followed.
13 July 2023
After a breakout Kiwi Ferns debut at the 2021 RLWC, Mele Hufanga is set to make her NRLW debut with the Brisbane Broncos. Her impressive performances for the Kiwi Ferns, scoring three tries in four games, earned her a spot in the Women’s Team of the Tournament. Hufanga’s power and skill make her a formidable presence on the field and a player to watch in the upcoming season.
A decorated athlete with experience representing NZ in rugby sevens and touch rugby, Niall Williams-Guthrie is ready to make her impact felt in the NRLW. Her remarkable collection of medals, including an Olympic silver medal, two Commonwealth Games medals, and two Rugby World Cup Sevens medals, speaks to her talent and versatility. Williams-Guthrie’s addition as the Titans centre brings a wealth of experience and skill to the team.
A veteran of both the Black Ferns and Black Ferns Sevens, Tyla Nathan-Wong is set to make her NRLW debut with the St George Illawarra Dragons. Nathan-Wong is a skilled playmaker known for her success in rugby sevens, including multiple Olympic and Commonwealth Games medals. Teaming up with McGregor in the halves, she will bring her experience and leadership to the Dragons’ lineup.
Highly anticipated in her NRLW debut, Alexis Tauaneai is a young prop forward with immense potential. Having earned recognition for her outstanding performances in the Tarsha Gale Cup and Harvey Norman Women’s National Championships, Tauaneai’s inclusion in the Dragons’ squad is well-deserved. Her physicality and skill in the forward pack will undoubtedly make an impact.
After an impressive Kiwi Ferns debut campaign at the 2021 RLWC, Abigail Roache is set to make her NRLW debut with the Newcastle Knights. Her versatility across multiple positions, including centre, fullback, and five-eighth, adds depth to the Knights’ lineup. Roache’s recognition as the Auckland Rugby League Cathy Friend, Women’s Player of the Year, makes her one to watch.
Following in the footsteps of her father, Kiwi legend Ruben Wiki, Mackenzie Wiki is ready to make her mark in the rugby league world. Representing the Cook Islands at the 2021 RLWC, Wiki showcased her skills and scored two tries in her three matches. Her move to the Canberra Raiders NRLW team provides her with a platform to further develop and shine.
The Knights have signed rising star Laishon Albert-Jones, a versatile Kiwi Ferns international who made her test debut in June 2022 against Mate Ma’a Tonga and was part of the Rugby League World Cup campaign. Coming from a rugby league family with legendary uncle Stacey Jones, she brings exceptional skills and dedication. Recognised as the Cathy Friend Women’s Player of the Year in 2021, Albert-Jones adds international experience and a winning mindset to the Knights. Fans can anticipate her crucial contributions as the Knights strive for success in the NRLW.
Anessa Biddle, the talented winger, is set to leave her mark on the NRLW as she joins the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks for the upcoming season. With a background as a former Counties Manukau representative and playing for the Otara Scorpions, Biddle has honed her skills in the New Zealand rugby league system. Now, she embarks on a new chapter with the Sharks, eager to showcase her talent and contribute to the team’s success. Fans can look forward to seeing Biddle’s speed, agility, and try-scoring ability on full display in the NRLW.
As the 2023 NRLW season unfolds, all eyes will be on these talented Kiwi rookies poised to make their mark in the competition.
As seen on cowboys.com.au
Kiwi Ferns Test star Autumn-Rain Stephens-Daly has agreed to a two-year contract with the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys.
Born in Rotorua, Stephens-Daly grew up playing rugby union, before moving to rugby league in 2020.
She made her NRLW debut in the delayed 2021 season for Newcastle and was a member of the Knights’ premiership-winning squad in 2022, although missed the grand final through injury.
Stephens-Daly returned from injury to play four games for the Kiwi Ferns in the 2022 World Cup, including the final against Australia. She also represented the Maori All Stars in 2022, scoring both her team’s tries in an 18-8 defeat.
The 26-year-old has the ability to play wing, centre and fullback.
Stephens-Daly returned to rugby union earlier this year, signing for the Hurricanes Poua in the Super Rugby Aupiki and registered the third-most tries in the competition.
“Not only can Autumn score tries, she will bring an abundance of NZ International and NRLW experience,” Cowboys Head Coach Ben Jeffries said.
“She can play any position in the back five, which adds depth to our back line.
“When recruiting players, off-field character is one of the areas we look at and Autumn is highly regarded amongst her peers. Knowing she competes hard both in games and training and carries a humble personality, it was an easy decision for us to bring Autumn to the Cowboys.”
As seen on newcastleknights.com.au
New Zealand Kiwis duo Abigail Roache and Laishon Albert-Jones headline an influx of new talent signed for the nib Newcastle Knights Telstra Women’s Premiership defence in season 2023.
Roache and Albert-Jones were part of the Kiwi Ferns squad that reached the final of last year’s 2021 Rugby League World Cup in England, with Roache featuring in the World Cup Final loss to Australia at Old Trafford.
A cross-code star, Roache took out the 2022 Cathy Friend Women’s Player of the Year title, awarded to the Auckland Rugby League’s most outstanding player, for her efforts with the Richmond Roses during the season.
Equally adept at centre, five eighth or fullback, Roache – the sister of former New Zealand Warriors and Parramatta Eels NRL player Nathaniel Roache – joins the Knights fresh off a season with the Hamilton New Zealand-based Chiefs Manawa in the 2023 Super Rugby Aupiki competition.
Two test Kiwi Fern Albert-Jones – the niece of Kiwis legend Stacey Jones – scored a try and kicked three goals in her international debut against Tonga midway through the 2022 season, after also taking out the Cathy Friend Women’s Player of the Year award in 2021.
She was named at five eighth in the Auckland competition’s team of the year in 2022 but has also featured at lock for Mounties in the Harvey Norman Women’s Premiership.
The 2023 season will be the pair’s first at NRLW level.
“Abigail is an astute defensive backline player who on the back of strong year in the Auckland competition gained selection in the New Zealand world cup squad,” Knights NRLW head coach Ronald Griffiths says.
“She has a great attitude and desire to continue to develop into a world class player, and her ability to play multiple positions well will make her a valuable commodity and one we will harness.
“Laishon turned a strong World Cup campaign and a desire for continued growth into a Harvey Norman Women’s Premiership campaign with Mounties this season and finished with a Premiership to her name.
“She is a shrewd ball playing lock who is equally proficient in the halves, and her skill set and deft touch with the boot will hold her in good stead for a great season.”
As seen on www.stuff.co.nz
When sisters Raecene and Page McGregor played against each other in round three of the NRLW last year, they put family ties to one side. Winning was all that mattered.
This year, the Kiwi Ferns representatives finally get to combine forces, after Raecene signed with the Dragons for the 2023 season, joining sister Page at the club with which she debuted back in 2018.
“I spoke about it with my old coach from the Roosters, Strangey [John Strange] about moving over to the Dragons, just wanting to play with my sister. It was a big chat there, it wasn’t something that I took lightly,” Raecene said.
No-one is more excited about Raecene’s switch than Page, who is 18 months younger than Raecene and preparing for her second year in the NRLW.
“We haven’t gotten to play week-in, week-out together since we were little. We played soccer together, we played touch [football] together, and then we went our separate ways. I went rugby and she went to league, and now that I’ve come back across [to league] I’m super stoked that she’s decided to put the Red V on for the season.”
Raecene, the 2022 Dally M Medal winner and 2022 World Cup Golden Boot recipient, is a massive signing for the Dragons who have a squad full of up-and-coming players in 2023.
“That’s why I’m just glad to have her on board, because I’ve always looked up to her,” Page said. “Having her in the same team now, I’m going to be drawing from her.
“Her knowledge, starting from 2018 to where she is now, she’s only getting better and stronger [mentally] so it’s going to help me and the rest of us young girls. We’re definitely going to be looking up to Rae, and I just can’t wait to start training.”
20 April 2023
Mainstream has extended its commitment to New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) for a further four years as Principal Sponsor of the Kiwi Ferns & Referees and Official Associate Sponsor of the Kiwis.
The extended partnership will see Mainstream continue its tenure with NZRL through to the 2025 World Cup after joining the rugby league whānau in 2017.
Throughout the partnership, Mainstream remained an invaluable supporter of the game at all levels, staying loyal to NZRL through the Covid-19 pandemic when there was zero international rugby league activity for nearly two years.
Mainstream continues to show integral support for the women’s game and has been avid supporters of the Kiwi Ferns since the partnership’s inception.
NZRL CEO Greg Peters says Mainstream is an integral member of the NZRL whānau.
“It’s an exciting milestone to extend our partnership with Mainstream through to a third Rugby League World Cup,” says Peters.
“Mainstream has shown invaluable support through some of our most challenging times, and their support of the women’s game has been felt widespread among our Ferns group.
“I know we are all delighted to continue this partnership, and I look forward to what we’ll be able to achieve over the next three years as we enter one of the most exciting eras in international rugby league.”
Managing Director of Mainstream Greg Haliday says, “Mainstream is looking forward to building on the great relationship we have enjoyed over the last few years with the Kiwis and the Kiwi Ferns. You can be sure that our own team will be closely supporting the men’s and women’s teams right through to the excitement of the 2025 World Cup”.
As seen on broncos.com.au
International prop Neta Nu’uausala has become the latest Bronco to recommit for the 2023 NRLW season.
Nu’uausala, with 12 Tests for New Zealand, is fresh off her second World Cup campaign lining up as a starting front-rower in all five of the Kiwi Ferns’ matches at the tournament as they qualified for the final against Australia.
The 28-year-old joined the Broncos last year a, fought back to overcome injury, and played two strong games at the end of the season to showcase the hard-running game she will bring to Brisbane’s 2023 campaign.
Nu’uausala joins a host of returning stars to be locked in by the Broncos including Ali Brigginshaw, Julia Robinson, Chelsea Lenarduzzi, Shenae Ciesiolka, Brianna Clark and Jada Ferguson.
They will be joined by high-quality new recruits Mele Hufanga, Destiny Brill, Gayle Broughton, Romy Teitzel, Tazmin Gray and Ashleigh Werner.
Broncos NRLW Coach Scott Prince said: “Neta brings so much experience and is coming off some great performances at the World Cup for New Zealand, she will bring some really strong form into our NRLW season.
“She will form part of a really strong pack that will lay a platform for us to play some exciting footy this season.”
As seen on www.raiders.com.au
The Raiders are pleased to announce an international representative joining the club for its inaugural NRLW season.
Kiwi Fern Madison Bartlett have signed with the club for the 2023 season.
Bartlett joins Tungai, Simaima Taufa, Zahara Temara, Monalisa Soliola, Ash Quinlan and Sophie Holyman at the club, who were announced last week.
Bartlett has played six matches for the Kiwi Ferns, including being part of their 2021 World Cup campaign.
The 28-year-old has also played four seasons of NRLW, playing two seasons with the Warriors (2019-20), one season with the Dragons (2021) and one with the Titans (2022).
Bartlett is looking forward to relocating to Canberra from New Zealand for the club’s inaugural season.
“I’m super excited to have the opportunity to join the Raiders, especially being a part of the inaugural team,” Bartlett said.
“Bortho (Raiders NRLW coach Darrin Borthwick) is creating something special and I’m very privileged to be a part of it.
“He’s secured some awesome signings and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to learn, train and play alongside them.”
Borthwick is excited to coach both Tungai and Bartlett and see them take to the field when the season kicks off in late July.
“I’m really excited for Shak,” Borthwick said.
“She’s a great person but once again we’ve managed to get a good player as well.
“I think it’s a good change for her too to come down here and I know she’s very excited about it and she can’t wait to get down here and rip in with her teammates.
“Similar to Shak, I’ve worked with Mads before as well and I know what I get with Mads.
“She’s a great girl and she’s also a really good football player.
“She had a good World Cup with New Zealand and I think it’s important what she’s going to add to our team in terms of experience and her knowledge of the game will benefit our team for sure.”
As seen on https://www.broncos.com.au
Powerhouse Test star Mele Hufanga will join the Brisbane Broncos for the 2023 NRLW season.
Hufanga, 28, was one of the revelations of last year’s World Cup for New Zealand, winning selection in the tournament’s “World Team” after a string of breakout performances in the centres.
The blockbusting back was Player Of The Match in the Kiwi’s narrow loss to Australia in the round games, and was again voted best afield in the Semi-Final win over England where she scored a try and ran for a huge 185 metres.
Hufanga joins Destiny Brill, Gayle Broughton and Romy Teitzel as the Broncos’ high-calibre new recruits for the 2023 campaign.
Brisbane have also locked in the elite talent of returning stars Ali Brigginshaw, Julia Robinson, Chelsea Lenarduzzi, Shenae Ciesiolka, Brianna Clark and Jada Ferguson for another season with the club.
Broncos NRLW Coach Scott Prince said: “Mele is an exciting player who made a huge impact the World Cup and we believe she can do the same at NRLW level.
“She is a powerful athlete with plenty of footy smarts and she will slot right into what we are building here at the Broncos in 2023.”
As seen on https://www.leeds-live.co.uk
Five months ago Georgia Hale helped wreck England’s Women’s Rugby League World Cup dreams when she featured in the New Zealand line-up that secured a 20-6 win at the LNER Community Stadium in York and a place in their sixth straight final.
Now the 27-year-old Kiwi is relishing the prospect of swapping old rivalries for the Leeds Rhinos and playing alongside some of those players she reduced to tears when she becomes the first former player from Australia’s full-time WNRL to feature in the new Betfred Women’s Super League season.
Hale’s arrival at the Rhinos, who begin their quest for a second straight Grand Final win over last year’s vanquished rivals, the newly-rebranded York Valkyrie, at Headingley on Easter Sunday, marks another hugely significant moment for the domestic game. In the wake of what was widely regarded to be a successful World Cup campaign both on and off the field, Leeds and York announced they would become the first two clubs to pay their players bonuses, and Hale’s arrival will be central to the campaign to maintain momentum.
“I’m excited to pull on a Rhinos jersey and take to the field with the girls,” Hale, a former Auckland Warriors and Gold Coast Titans player who headed to England as part of a pact with her partner, Rhinos men’s front rower Sam Lisone, told the PA news agency.
“We were hugely impressed with the England girls during the World Cup, especially given so many of them were having to juggle all sorts of things like motherhood, university and shift work. To still turn out the product they did was remarkable. The big strides they’ve made is really clear and the important thing now is that we focus on the growth at the levels below England, to ensure strong pathways and good development, so that you’ve got young players who are able to see a way to emulate their heroes.”
Hale’s Rhinos will start as strong favourites to retain their crown, not least because of another statement close-season signing in former St Helens centre Amy Hardcastle and with two more fast-rising England stars, Fran Goldthorp and Georgia Roche, at their disposal.
It is a further testament of the big strides made in the women’s game that Goldthorp and Roche, along with York’s Hollie Dodd, have been in advanced talks to become the first domestic players to sign relatively lucrative deals to move to the WNRL, and all three could yet still depart prior to the start of the Australian pre-season at the end of May.
Far from bemoaning a potential drain of talent Down Under, Hale believes the first full-time move by an English player will spell a hugely-significant moment in raising the profile of the sport and extending those pathways to prove there is way for English women to make a living from the game.
“It will be a massive thing when it happens,” added Hale. “We don’t want it to look like we’re losing talent, because it will show that England has the systems in place to produce players who can go all the way to the WNRL and experience both the sport and a totally different way of life.
“It’s not about putting WNRL on a pedestal, it’s about the whole package. We’ve seen in the men’s game how players go over there and bring back their experience back to the Super League. Personally I would love to see Super League teams develop relationships with WNRL sides so they can learn and feed off each other.”
The women’s curtain-raiser will take place prior to the men’s Super League clash between the Rhinos and Huddersfield, and the pairing of home fixtures, which will be a permanent part of the club’s 2023 calendar, is set to lead to a peculiar dynamic for Hale at her new home.
“Sam and I keep as far away from each other as possible when we’re approaching match day,” laughed Hale. “We prepare so differently, Sam can sleep all day long whereas I hate sitting around and I’ll be bouncing from one wall to the other. It doesn’t get much better than Sunday afternoon footy and we’re really looking forward to getting started.”
5 April 2023
The New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) board has today announced that Kiwis’ Head Coach, Michael Maguire and Kiwi Ferns’ Head Coach, Ricky Henry, will remain in their positions through the 2025 World Cup.
NZRL recently concluded its 2022 Rugby League World Cup (RLWC) debrief, where both Maguire and Henry’s roles as Head Coaches have been extended, with the board confident they are the right people to lead New Zealand to victory come 2025.
In addition, NZRL has identified key areas where further support is needed to ensure success in the next campaign.
“Overall, there were many positives to take away from both campaigns,” says NZRL CEO Greg Peters.
“However, we recognise where NZRL has to provide further support to put us in the best position to be victorious in 2025.”
Improved depth, a culture change, and evident growth since 2017 were all positive talking points in the RLWC debrief.
“Since Michael came on board, NZRL and the Kiwi playing group have made significant strides since their last World Cup appearance,” says Peters.
“No doubt the semi-final heartbreak still stings, but the growth the squad has experienced under Michael gives the board confidence he is the coach to lead the Kiwis to victory in 2025.”
“The board has the same confidence in Ricky”, Peters adds.
“He has done great work with the Ferns. Despite one of our more inexperienced world cup squads, nearly defeating the Jillaroos in pool play and a convincing win over England in the semi-final are positive takeaways.
“Of course, we were all disappointed in the final result; however, with increased support from NZRL, the board is confident Ricky remains the right man for the job.”
Henry is grateful for the continued opportunity and is determined to nurture New Zealand’s pathways.
“It’s an exciting time to be involved in women’s rugby league and a privilege to lead the Kiwi Ferns through to 2025,” says Henry.
“The women’s game is evolving rapidly, and I’m determined to create the best pathways to nurture and develop New Zealand’s female talent. My focus will be getting us back to number 1 in the world and bringing that World Cup trophy back home to New Zealand.”
Maguire remains confident in the direction and progress of the Kiwi team, with his eyes set on victory in 2025.
“We have achieved enormous growth since 2017,” says Maguire.
“To be only inches away from the final still hurts; however, this playing group is more determined than ever to take home a World Cup for themselves, their families and their country.
“There is a strong culture among the boys, the passion for the Black and White jersey is undeniable, couple that with the exciting talent coming through, we’re in a positive place.”
“No doubt, there’s unfinished business,” adds Maguire.
“Thank you to the NZRL Board for continuing their faith in me as Head Coach. It’s a privilege to coach this Kiwi team, and I’m confident in what we can achieve over the next three years.”
NZRL CEO Greg Peters emphasises the need for regular international programmes.
“The lead-up to the 2022 campaign was heavily disrupted due to Covid, with New Zealand not playing Australia since 2019. The added delay of the 2021 tournament means there’s only a two-year window before the next RLWC.”
“Consistency and yearly international programmes have never been more important,” he adds.
“We need an annual end-of-year International competition with regular Kiwis and Kiwi Ferns Tests that become permanent fixtures in the rugby league calendar.
“We’re working closely with the NRL and IRL to flesh out what this looks like and will be in a position to announce the 2023 International programme soon.”
As seen on https://www.1news.co.nz
St George Illawarra have pulled off a major coup on the first day of the NRLW contract window, luring reigning Dally M medallist Raecene McGregor from the Sydney Roosters.
The 25-year-old playmaker was a member of the Dragons’ inaugural squad in 2018 before leaving to join Brisbane, where she won the 2019 and 2020 premierships.
After two further seasons at the Roosters, McGregor is set to mastermind the Dragons’ attack in 2023 as they look to bounce back from their semi-final defeat last year.
“I’ve been a massive fan of hers for a long time now,” coach Jamie Soward said of McGregor.
“I’m so stoked she’s going to be joining the Red V.”
McGregor is set to play alongside her sister Page for the first time at NRLW level after St George Illawarra re-signed her on a bumper day at the trade table.
The Dragons secured Newcastle premiership winner Bobbi Law as the first official signing of the NRLW off-season, before adding Brisbane second-rower Sara Sautia and rising stars Angelina Teakaraanga Katoa, Jamilee Bright and Cortez Te Pou to the roster.
As well as the younger McGregor sister, the Dragons have re-signed hooker Renee Targett and young middle forward Tarah McGrath-West.
McGregor said she looked forward to returning to the Dragons.
“It’s really awesome to be back at the club, can’t wait to put the Red V back on,” she said.
Elsewhere, the Roosters are closing in on Millie Boyle, the NRLW’s most recognisable player.
Boyle won her third premiership last season while playing for the Knights but has since joined the Roosters’ NSW Women’s Premiership side, making her club debut on Monday.
AAP understands the Roosters will begin locking players in over the coming days, with captain Isabelle Kelly the club’s top priority and Boyle to be confirmed once other key Roosters are retained.
The signings come after the NRL and RLPA last month announced a significant financial increase for NRLW players as part of an in-principle agreement to the NRLW’s first collective bargaining agreement.
Each NRLW club will have a $900,000 salary cap for its top-24 squad, up from $350,000 last year, with a guaranteed minimum salary of $30,000 for the season beginning on July 22.
The league has also expanded following the introduction of Canberra, North Queensland, Cronulla and Wests Tigers, with 48 games to be played this season as compared to the 18 last year.
The 10 NRLW sides have until May 24 to fill their top-24 squads and are able to sign players to multi-year contracts from this season.
One New Zealand Warriors CEO Cameron George today announced leading rugby league administrator Nadene Conlon has been appointed in a new role to create a development and pathways programme for the club’s planned return to the NRLW in 2025.
Conlon, a pioneering figure in New Zealand rugby league, has a long list of achievements including being the Kiwi Ferns’ inaugural captain in 1995 and the first woman appointed as the Kiwis’ fulltime manager, a position she has held since 2016.
Her appointment as the One New Zealand Warriors’ NRLW academy manager is the result of the club and the New Zealand Rugby League joining forces for the betterment of the women’s game in the country.
“Working with (NZRL CEO) Greg (Peters), we have a shared passion and commitment to strengthen women’s rugby league domestically with the end goal of ensuring the One New Zealand Warriors are in the strongest position possible to return to the NRLW in 2025,” said George.
“In Nadene we can call on unmatched experience and knowledge of the women’s game in New Zealand.
“We’re grateful to Greg and the NZRL for making it possible for Nadene to fill this role with our club as well as still working for the NZRL.”
Conlon has been tasked with creating a women’s development and pathways programme for the club and also assisting in the recruitment area with Andrew McFadden, general manager recruitment, development and pathways.
“Both the NZRL and the Warriors will benefit from this joint approach,” said Peters.
“There’s enormous potential for improvement in women’s rugby league in New Zealand. Playing numbers have increased at a tremendous rate and we need to be better placed to make the most of this.
“Nadene is the ideal person to create a vision and plan for the short-term and long-term future. Ultimately this will benefit the women’s game across the board.”
The One New Zealand Warriors were forced to withdraw from the NRLW during the Covid pandemic in 2021 after being one of the foundation clubs in the competition in 2018.
As seen on https://www.nrl.com
A Zali Fay double and some heroic last-ditch defence saw the women’s Māori All Stars to a 16-12 victory over the Indigenous All Stars on Saturday afternoon.
Fay scored the first and last tries of the match, as well as producing a brilliant covering tackle when the game was tied at 12-12, just as the Indigenous looked set to score a length of the field try.
The Māori raced out of the gates to score twice in the first quarter, while holding the Indigenous to a penalty goal, but at half-time the gap had been reduced to 8-6.
After Amy Turner scored to even scores at 12-12 late in the match, the Māori made the brave decision to turn down an easy penalty from in front.
But the decision the was justified in the end as Fay crossed for the winner on the ensuing set.
The Kiwi Ferns have been named to take on the Jillaroos in their Rugby League World Cup final against Australia at Old Trafford in Manchester on Saturday (1.15pm kick-off local time; 2.15am NZT).
Autumn-Rain Stephens Daly makes her return as starting winger outside of centre Mele Hufanga who received Player of the Match at Monday night’s 20-6 semi-final win over England.
RLWC Golden Boot winner Raecene McGregor will start in the halves alongside Abigail Roache, while Charlotte Scanlan and Katelyn Vahaakolo have been named at 18th and 19th Woman.
The rest of head coach Ricky Henry’s side remains unchanged from the Kiwi Ferns’ match last-up.
Shanice Parker has also been ruled out of the side after picking up a minor knee injury following the Kiwi Ferns’ second victory (34-4) versus the Cook Islands.
Parker made her Kiwi Ferns debut in centre for the opening pool match against France where she executed a stunning 100-metre solo try.
Kiwi Ferns World Cup team v Australia by squad number and position:
1 | Apii Nicholls (Fullback)
3 | Autumn-Rain Stephens Daly (Wing)
24 | Mele Hufanga (Centre)
4 | Page McGregor (Centre)
5 | Madison Bartlett (Wing)
15 | Abigail Roache (Five Eighth)
7 | Raecene McGregor (Halfback)
23 | Brianna Clark (Prop)
9 | Krystal Rota (Hooker)
10 | Annetta Claudia-Nu’uausala (Prop)
11 | Roxette Murdoch-Masila (Second Row)
12 | Amber-Paris Hall (Second Row)
13 | Georgia Hale (Loose Forward)
14 | Nita Maynard (Interchange)
8 | Mya Hill-Moana (Interchange)
18 | Otesa Pule (Interchange)
17 | Christyl Stowers (Interchange)
16 | Charlotte Scanlan (18th Woman)
2 | Katelyn Vahaakolo (19th Woman)
As seen on NRL.com
The Kiwi Ferns have marched into their sixth-consecutive World Cup Final with a 20-6 win over tournament hosts England in York on Tuesday (AEDT).
After leading by just two points at half-time, Apii Nicholls and Mele Hufanga led a second-half charge to ensure the Kiwi Ferns continued their remarkable run of playing in every World Cup final since the tournament’s inception in 2000.
After a Nicholls knock-on handed the hosts early field position, the Lionesses opened their account in the fourth minute when fullback Francesca Goldthorp crossed out wide and Tara-Jane Stanley converted for a 6-0 lead.
New Zealand hit back through centre Hufanga in the 15th minute after a strong run by Broncos prop Amber Hall who evaded several defenders and sent a well-timed pass back inside to Hufanga.
Come the 28th minute and New Zealand had their second when NRLW Dally M Medal winner Raecene McGregor exploded out from dummy half five metres out, stepped off her left foot and crashed over the goal line.
After another unsuccessful conversion, Ricky Henry’s side headed to the break with just a two-point lead.
Six minutes into the second half saw a great moment for New Zealand when Hufanga and Nicholls charged downfield to find Otesa Pule on the left who crossed the stripe for her first World Cup try.
Come the 51st minute and courtesy of another barnstorming break from Hufanga down the right edge, the Ferns swung the ball back infield to find Brianna Clark who found the gap to score untouched next to the uprights. Nicholls converted to make it 20-6.
Otesa Pule’s first World Cup try in the 46th minute was beautifully constructed by the Ferns, igniting their second-half charge. Halfback Raecene McGregor found Mele Hufanga on her right side who charged the ball downfield before putting fullback Apii Nicholls into a hole. The explosive Titan raced the ball back through the middle before being brought to ground but got the Hail Mary offload away and Roxy Murdoch-Masila was there to push it onto Otesa Pule to score.
“The build-up to today was just all about working hard for ourselves. It was just our mentality and attitude that changed for us (second half), we knew that it was do-or-die and we weren’t coming home. I think we’ve played every game of this tournament like it was our final.” – Player-of-the-match Mele Hufanga
“They’ve worked so hard for this moment and we’ve been confident in our camp all along. We didn’t play our best footy tonight but I’m so proud of them. But being honest we’ve got to be better with our completions and errors, so we’ll try take it to Australia and get real physical with them as well.” – Ferns coach Ricky Henry
The Kiwi Ferns have been confirmed for the upcoming Rugby League World Cup semi-final against tournament hosts England on Monday, 7.30pm local time at LNER Community Stadium in York.
Head coach Ricky Henry made a few changes to his side, bringing back winger Madison Bartlett to start and Charlotte Scanlan who returns on the interchange alongside Nita Maynard, Mya Hill-Moana and Otesa Pule.
Christyl Stowers is 18th woman and Autumn-Rain Stephens Daly is 19th, while the rest of his line-up remains unchanged from their match against Australia.
Tune in LIVE on Spark Sport at 7.30am NZT (November 15) and delayed on Three at 9.30am.
Kiwi Ferns v England: By touring number and position
2 | Katelyn Vahaakolo (Wing)
15 | Abigail Roache (Five eighth)
10 | Annetta-Claudia Nu’uausala (Prop)
18 |Otesa Pule (Interchange)
16 | Charlotte Scanlan (Interchange)
17 | Christyl Stowers (18th Woman)
3 | Autumn-Rain Stephens Daly (19th Woman)
The Australian Jillaroos overcame a determined New Zealand Ferns, to win 10-8 in a thrilling Round 3 contest between two powerhouses of rugby league.
The defending champions’ experience was tested on Friday morning (AEDT) in York but Brad Donald’s side hung on for the 80 minutes to finish top of their Pool ahead of next week’s semi-finals.
The Jillaroos conceded their first points of the tournament to their Trans-Tasman rivals, with prop Amber Hall and halfback Raecene McGregor leading a brave Ferns outfit to stake their claim as World Cup Final contenders.
It was the Jillaroos who kicked off proceedings, after a closely contested opening, when a Simaima Taufa offload put five-eighth Tarryn Aiken in close range to weave her way through the Kiwis’ defence and crash over the stripe.
Ali Brigginshaw made no mistake with the boot and a successful conversion saw the favourites lead 6-0 21 minutes into the opening half.
But four minutes later Kiwi halfback Raecene McGregor’s kicking came to the fore when a perfectly weighted grubber was collected by Titans star Apii Nicholls to hand New Zealand their first points of the match.
The Ferns had the perfect opportunity to level the scores before half time but after Brianna Clark hooked the conversion from in front, the Jillaroos led by two points at the break.
After another seesawing start to the second half, New Zealand stole the lead in the 54th minute with centre Autumn-Rain Stephens-Daly on the end of a Ferns left side raid.
It all came after an incredible one-on-one steal from rugby union convert Mele Hufanga, who stripped the ball from Sam Bremner and ran 50 metres upfield to hand her Ferns field position. Another missed conversion by Clark left the Kiwis hanging on to just a two-point lead.
But the Jillaroos, trailing for the first time in the tournament, were quick to strike back. Some slick hands saw Brad Donald’s side send the ball down the left side and Julia Robinson crossed the line for her sixth try of the tournament to steal back the two-point lead.
Another try was looking inevitable for the Jillaroos when Shaylee Bent was charging towards the line but Ferns prop Amber Hall produced an incredible try-saving tackle in the 66th minute, crediting New Zealand’s desperation in defence.
However, the Jillaroos held on to their lead until the full-time siren and will head into next week’s semi-final clash against Papua New Guinea undefeated.
Richmond’s very own Abigail Roache will don the black and white jersey for the first time when the Kiwi Ferns take on Australia this Thursday, 7.30pm local time (8.30am NZT) in York.
Roache, who received the 2022 Cathy Friend Women’s Player of the Year Award (awarded to Auckland’s top female player), will start in the halves alongside this year’s NRLW Dally M winner Raecene McGregor.
Following a solid performance and debut against the Cook Islands last Thursday, Mele Hufanga returns and shifts to centre, while Georgia Hale, Roxette Murdoch-Masila, Autumn-Rain Stephens Daly and Katelyn Vahaakolo all return to the side.
Head coach Ricky Henry also named Brianna Clark at starting prop.
Tune in LIVE on Spark Sport at 7.30am NZT (November 11) and delayed on Three at 9.30am.
Kiwi Ferns team v Australia: By touring number and position
1 | Apii Nicholls (Fullback)
3 | Autumn-Rain Stephens Daly (Wing)
24 | Mele Hufanga (Centre)
4 | Page McGregor (Centre)
2 | Katelyn Vahaakolo (Wing)
15 | Abigail Roache (Five eighth)
7 | Raecene McGregor (Halfback)
23 | Brianna Clark (Prop)
9 | Krystal Rota (Hooker)
10 | Annetta-Claudia Nu’uausala (Prop)
11 | Roxette Murdoch-Masila (Second Row)
12 | Amber-Paris Hall (Second Row)
13 | Georgia Hale (Loose Forward)
14 | Nita Maynard (Interchange)
8 | Mya Hill-Moana (Interchange)
18 | Otesa Pule (Interchange)
17 | Christyl Stowers (Interchange)
22 | Karli Hansen (18th Woman)
5 | Madison Bartlett (19th Woman)
The Kiwi Ferns have booked their place in the World Cup semi-finals after beating Cook Islands 34-4 in the second round of group play on Monday morning (AEDT).
New Zealand scored three first-half tries to lead 14-0 at the break, before running in a further four in the second 40 minutes to secure the result, which could have been more impressive but for only three of their tries being converted.
While the performance was far from convincing – particularly when you compare it to Australia’s 74-0 victory over the same side last week – it was enough to ensure the Kiwi Ferns are safely through to the knockout stages ahead of playing the Jillaroos in their final group game.
Halfback Raecene McGregor and debutante Mele Hufanga both impressed for coach Ricky Henry, each scoring two tries, while up front Annetta Nu’uausala was strong, finishing with 142 metres and eight tackle busts.
Cooks Islands fought on bravely after losing co-captain and chief playmaker Kimiora Breayley-Nati to a game-ending head knock two minutes into the game in York.
A magical run from Raecene McGregor, featuring a couple of dummies which bamboozled the would-be defence. This solo effort showed great vision from McGregor, who has continued on from a brilliant NRLW season with the Roosters.
“We got a win tonight which is all we were aiming to do, but we have got a lot of work [to do] with our group. We were pretty clunky, didn’t execute what we wanted to… we will review the video and come back out here and hopefully play well against Australia.” – New Zealand coach Ricky Henry.
“Really proud of our girls’ effort tonight. We just needed to be better with our chase and defence tonight, it just wasn’t up to it. One more game to go, so we are looking forward to France.” – Cook Islands coach Rusty Matua.
New Zealand face the world champion Jillaroos up next, with the winner to claim top spot out of the group. Cook Islands play France, with an eye on finishing their World Cup campaign on a high.
Gold Coast’s Hailee-Jay Ormond-Maunsell has been brought in to make her Kiwi Ferns debut as starting centre against the Cook Islands on Sunday, November 6 at 5.00pm at the LNER Community Stadium in York.
Her inclusion follows the withdrawal of Apii Nicholls due to a minor injury to her Achilles from round one.
The change will see Shanice Parker replace Nicholls in fullback, Ormond-Maunsell join Page McGregor in the centres, Karli Hansen move up to 18th woman and Autumn-Rain Stephens-Daly at 19th woman.
Ormond-Maunsell (18) was surprised by head coach Ricky Henry about her debut at jersey presentation the night before.
“It was definitely a shock, I knew my time would come but I wasn’t in a rush to make my debut,” Ormond-Maunsell said.
“It hasn’t really hit me yet, but I know for sure it will when I get to the stadium.”
Tune in LIVE on Spark Sport at 6.00am NZT (November 7) and delayed on Three at 9.30am.
NZ Kiwi Ferns team v Cook Islands by squad number and position (amended):
21 | Shanice Parker (Fullback)
24 | Mele Hufanga (Wing)
19 | Hailee-Jay Ormond-Maunsell (Centre)
6 | Laishon Albert-Jones (Five Eighth)
8 | Mya Hill-Moana (Prop)
18 | Otesa Pule (Second Row)
16 | Charlotte Scanlan (Loose Forward)
23 | Brianna Clark (Interchange)
20 | Crystal Tamarua (Interchange)
19 | Karli Hansen (18th Woman)
22 | Autumn-Rain Stephens-Daly (19th Woman)
Mele Hufanga has been busy on the field this year representing Auckland in rugby union’s Farah Palmer Cup and playing local rugby league for the Ponsonby Ponies, but one thing she always knew was that she wanted to become a Kiwi Fern.
For the 28-year-old, that dream will come true on Sunday November 6, 5.00pm in York when the Kiwi Ferns take on the Cook Islands in their second match of the Rugby League World Cup.
“I started my rugby league journey on the wing and now I will debut on the wing,” Hufanga said.
“I got itchy feet watching the girls in their first game last week and I’m honestly excited and grateful for this opportunity to represent my family on the big stage.
“I still can’t describe the feeling, hopefully I can after I perform well on my debut (laughs).”
The dual athlete juggled both codes with trainings between Tuesday and Friday followed by a rugby union game on Saturday and rugby league match on Sunday until the seasons ended.
“To be honest I didn’t have a plan,” Hufanga said.
“I literally just wanted to enjoy my footy and take on any opportunity that came my way. I was lucky that Ricky (Henry) chose me for this campaign.
“I want to get this World Cup out of the way before I can start thinking ahead to next year, I don’t want to plan too far ahead as anything could happen between now and then.
“But I’m definitely sticking to rugby league next year. I’m not getting any younger and I feel like I’m at a point in my life where I need to stick to one code, I can’t be a superhero anymore and play both (laughs).
“I feel like rugby league is where I belong.”
Kiwi Ferns head coach Ricky Henry praised Hufanga for her commitment to the game so far.
“She’s been around for a few years and is an unbelievable talent,” Henry said.
“She’s got strike, she’s skilful and I didn’t know much about her personality, but she has come into this camp and really lifted the spirits of the group.
“She’s been massive not only on the field but off the field.”
The idea of suiting up for New Zealand at the World Cup grew stronger for Hufanga in June when she watched the Kiwi Ferns defeat a brave Mate Ma’a Tonga side 50-12 at Mount Smart Stadium.
“I knew Tonga weren’t going to compete at the World Cup so I thought it would be a cool opportunity for me to try and make the Kiwi Ferns squad. I told myself I wouldn’t know unless I tried,” Hufanga said.
“When I got the first call from Ricky it was an overwhelming feeling, I didn’t know how to feel.
“It’s been a crazy year for me, this is my biggest highlight and it’s the first time I’ve been in England so that’s pretty cool.”
Winger Mele Hufanga has been called up to make her New Zealand Test debut against the Cook Islands on Sunday (5.00pm local time; Monday, 6.00am NZT) at the LNER Community Stadium in York.
A rugby union convert, Hufanga represented the Blues Super Rugby team this year and earned her spot in the Kiwi Ferns World Cup squad following an impressive rugby league season with the Ponsonby Ponies.
Also in head coach Ricky Henry’s 17-strong team, Laishon Albert-Jones has been brought into the halves alongside Raecene McGregor.
In the forwards, Sydney Rooster’s Otesa Pule gets a starting spot in second row, while Charlotte Scanlan starts at lock.
Crystal Tamarua and Christyl Stowers were named to come off the bench.
NZ Kiwi Ferns team v Cook Islands by squad number and position:
21 | Shanice Parker (Centre)
19 | Hailee-Jay Ormond-Maunsell (18th Woman)
22 | Karli Hansen (19th Woman)
The Kiwi Ferns shook off a slow start against France to record a 46-0 shutout victory in their opening game of the Women’s World Cup.
Halfback Raecene McGregor, this season’s NRLW Dally M Medal winner, was the standout player for New Zealand, setting up three tries and handling most of the general play kicking.
It took the Kiwi Ferns 23 minutes to get going, as they struggled to break down a stubborn French line, but once that happened the tries came thick and fast for coach Ricky Henry’s side.
New Zealand scored four first-half tries, two of which were converted, for a 20-0 lead at the break, and scored a further five in the second period.
Despite the big scoreline, the Kiwi Ferns will know big improvement will be needed ahead of facing the Jillaroos later in group play.
“Bit of a slow start for us, but give credit to the French team who came out and put it on us. Really pleased with the effort, but we have got a lot of improvement in us.” – New Zealand coach Ricky Henry.
“We did well, we are really proud of our first half. This was the best game a French women’s team ever played. We learned a lot from this game” – France coach Vincent Baloup.
Both sides are back in action on Monday (AEDT), with France facing the back-to-back world champion Jillaroos and the Kiwi Ferns taking on Cook Islands.
3 November 2022
The Kiwis enter the Rugby League World Cup finals this weekend, and what better way to watch the boys than to head down to your local rugby league club and watch as a community! The quarter-final features the Kiwis going up against a robust Fiji Bati side this Sunday, whilst our Kiwi Ferns take on a tough Jillaroo’s side hot off their 46-0 victory over France.
Both games will be streamed at Mt Albert and Mangere East, with the opportunity to send some messages of support to the players and send some questions for your favourite players to answer! Both clubs will provide a menu for both breakfast and coffee.
We encourage everyone to come and support our men and women representing Aotearoa!
Upcoming Watch Parties:
QUARTER FINAL: Kiwis vs Fiji – 6th November 8:30 am (Doors open at 8 am)
Kiwi Ferns vs Jillaroos – 11th November 8:30 am (Doors open at 8 am)
This time last year Kiwi Ferns captain Krystal Rota was adamant she wasn’t going to play in the upcoming Rugby League World Cup.
In 2021 the COVID-19 pandemic presented several challenges for New Zealanders and for Krystal, the wellbeing of her family was paramount especially for her daughter Nikayla Dunn.
Eight-year-old Nikayla has a rare kidney disorder and had a kidney transplant at the age of fifteen months.
“It’s one of her dad’s kidneys, that’s what makes it hard to maintain is that it was an adult kidney put into a baby’s body,” Krystal said.
“Obviously it takes a lot of work and maintenance to keep that kidney functioning to the best of its ability. Maintenance involves a lot of medication for her, time to ensure she remains well and when COVID-19 was first around she was prone to get sick easily.”
When New Zealand went into its first-ever lockdown in August 2021, Krystal said she didn’t leave her house for months.
“Leaving the house would have put a huge risk on Nikayla’s health and I have a son too. Protecting them was important so I had my family do the shopping for me,” Krystal said.
“There were also talks about postponement but by then I had already decided that if the competition was to go ahead I would’ve stayed behind with my daughter as my family will always come first no matter what.
“I’m grateful though that it was moved, I was given the opportunity to come across and here I am now.
“Lockdown put a lot of challenges in front of me but when you want something so bad like I did, to compete at this World Cup you do anything to make it possible.”
Leading the Kiwi Ferns in her second World Cup in England, the impossible was made possible and Nikayla has travelled from New Zealand to attend Krystal’s games.
“To see her in the crowd will mean the world to me,” Krystal said.
“I think back to when the squad was named last year, I spoke to her specialist and she ruled out the idea. To know she’s here is a massive achievement in itself.
“Looking ahead to our first game all the nations have come here to win the World Cup that’s the end goal.
“We’ve come here to put our best foot forward and hopefully take the cup back home to New Zealand.”
The Kiwi Ferns will play their Rugby League World Cup Pool B opener against France on Wednesday, November 2 at 5.00pm local time (Thursday, November 3, 6.00am NZT) at the LNER Community Stadium in York.
Forty-eight hours from their first RLWC Test match against France, under half of the Kiwi Ferns have unfortunately lost their training kit and personal belongings due to smoke damage in their training facility. No-one was present in the area affected at the time.
NZRL CEO Greg Peters says,“This was an unfortunate incident but the problem was quickly dealt with and the training ground are in the process of bringing facilities back online. No outdoor facilities have been affected and the staff at the training ground have been exceptional in supporting us.”
“In the meantime, our main priority is the Fern’s wellbeing and ensuring the team is supported through this.”
Kiwi Ferns Head Coach Ricky Henry says, “It’s been tough for the girls; some have gone well over 24 hours without being able to contact loved ones, unless through a staff member’s phone.
“Sometimes these freak accidents happen, and this one was out of anyone’s control. NZRL are working to replace the damage, and as a team, we will rally together, support each other and focus on what’s ahead.”
The Kiwi Ferns head to LNER Stadium in York to face France in their RLWC opener this Wednesday, November 2, at 5.00pm BST (Thursday, November 3, 6:00am NZT).
The match will be live on Spark Sport and delayed on Three for New Zealand viewers.
NRLW Premiership winner Shanice Parker and forwards Otesa Pule and Brianna Clark will make their New Zealand Test debuts in the Kiwi Ferns’ Rugby League World Cup Group B opener against France.
The match will kick off on Wednesday, November 2 at 5.00pm local time (Thursday, November 3, 6.00am NZT) at the LNER Community Stadium in York.
Parker, a Grand Finalist for the Newcastle Knights, was named in coach Ricky Henry’s starting line-up and will join Page McGregor in the centres who made her Kiwi Ferns Test debut earlier this year against Mate Ma’a Tonga.
Second rower Pule and prop Clark add strength to the starting forward pack consisting of Brisbane’s Annetta-Claudia Nu’uausala and Amber-Paris Hall, Māori All Stars Mya Hill-Moana and Roxette Murdoch-Masila and Gold Coast’s Georgia Hale named in lock.
NRLW Dally M winner Raecene McGregor and veteran Autumn-Rain Stephens Daly were named in the halves, while captain Krystal Rota leads from hooker.
NZ Kiwi Ferns team v France by squad number and position:
3 | Autumn-Rain Stephens Daly (Five Eighth)
20 | Crystal Tamarua (18th Woman)
24 | Mele Hufanga (19th Woman)
They don’t know it yet, but on the other side of the world right now two infants are helping break new ground for the Kiwi Ferns.
Felix, the 13-month-old son of Kiwi Ferns fullback Apii Nicholls, and Jakari, the 10-month-old son of Test newcomer Shanice Parker, have been welcomed into the New Zealand camp for the Women’s World Cup as part of a new policy introduced by coach Ricky Henry.
Both boys flew to England with the squad and will stay with their mums – who each have a primary carer with them – for the entirety of the tournament, as the team embraces a new way to support the young mums in their ranks.
It’s an important step forward for New Zealand’s elite female players, with the Kiwi Ferns following a string of other women’s sporting sides and competitions, including New Zealand’s women’s Super Rugby Aupiki competition, who have adopted similar approaches in recent times.
For Nicholls and Parker, the new policy means they avoided having to decide between being separated from their kids for a month, or turning down the chance to represent their nation on the biggest stage in England.
After returning to the NRLW arena this year with the Titans, Nicholls said leaving Felix back home while she toured wasn’t an option.
“When Ricky asked if I was available, I was doubting myself. I had just got back to footy but I also had baby, and I wanted baby with me wherever I travelled,” Nicholls told NRL.com.
“I am so grateful that Ricky and the team were able to accommodate me having the baby here with me.”
For Newcastle Knights back Parker, it’s also presented her with a chance to make valuable memories with Jakari.
“It means everything to me to have baby in camp,” she said.
“I have thought about how special it is. I thought how cool it was to have baby alongside me through all the moments this year, including winning the NRLW GF, but nothing tops bringing baby to the World Cup.
“This will definitely be one to remember.”
Kiwi Ferns legend Honey Hireme told NRL.com she hopes it will eventually become an accepted part of women’s elite sport.
“That’s just how it should be, and the more sports that get on board with that and support their female athletes the better,” Hireme told NRL.com.
“It’s actually becoming the norm. You are seeing it in other codes now where female athletes can travel with their young babies.
“I think back to my first World Cup in 2003, which was in New Zealand, and we at times had a couple of kids who would come in and visit in camp, but they weren’t travelling alongside the team.
“It’s great for the current Kiwi Ferns to be able to take their babies along.”
Almost every sports team in the world, no matter the code, will tell you that the concept of family is an integral part of their values, and the Kiwi Ferns are no exception.
In making this decision, Henry wants it to be known that those ideas are more than just words.
“We are all about family and want to make sure we keep the camp environment as close as possible to when we are at home,” Henry told NRL.com.
“We talk about family as one of our values, and we want to make sure that we cater for that as well.
“The game and the world is changing and we have to cater for these things.”
At the end of the day, the Kiwi Ferns core focus is on winning the World Cup.
While every mum will feel and react differently to it, there is little doubt that being separated from young children, who remain heavily dependent on their mums, for long periods is an unsettling experience for all involved.
With that in mind, Henry believes having Felix and Jakari nearby will help Nicholls and Parker prepare and perform better.
“We want to make sure that the baby is comfortable, but also that the mum is comfortable too,” Henry said.
“We think they can play their best football if they have their child there and have that peace of mind.
“If we can help players play their best football and feel content, that’s what we are aiming for.”
Parker said if Jakari was back home in Australia, there is no way her focus on the World Cup could be as strong as it is with him in camp.
“It just makes the whole experience so much easier, having them and a carer in camp with us so we aren’t stressing or missing them for a month.
“It means we are able to balance both being athlete and mum. Getting the best of both worlds.”
October 28, 2022
As seen on NRL.com.
Page McGregor has played plenty of footy alongside older sister Raecene over the years, but is looking forward to the unique experience of doing it at the upcoming World Cup with her sibling being a newly-crowned Dally M Medal winner.
Since watching Raecene pick up the 2022 NRLW Dally M Medal last month, Page has embarked on a proud victory lap on her sister’s behalf.
“I am always going around showing people her medal and giving her praise,” Page told NRL.com.
“She doesn’t really worry about that stuff, it’s definitely more me.
“She loves that she got the award and everything, but she’s just really humble.
“She has really deserved this. She has worked so hard over the years and deserves this credit.
Both McGregor siblings are set to play a key role for the Kiwi Ferns as they seek to win their first World Cup since 2008.
After a stunning NRLW campaign with the Roosters, which saw her top the competition with 10 try assists in five games, Raecene will don the No.7 jersey for coach Ricky Henry, while Page is set to play in the centres following her Test debut earlier this year against Tonga.
Raecene told NRL.com she was excited to line up alongside her sister again, while also taking comfort from having two of her key forwards from the Roosters – Mya Hill-Moana and Otesa Pule – in the team.
“It’s awesome to have Page here. We haven’t really been able to play too much together due to injury and now playing for separate clubs,” Raecene said.
“But to play Tests together is special and I can’t wait.
“It’s really cool to have some of those Roosters girls here too and for them to be rewarded for their achievements through the year.
“I have been really enjoying my footy this season and now looking forward to getting on the park with these girls.”
The Kiwi Ferns, who will be based in York along with their New Zealand male counterparts, open their campaign against France on November 3 (AEST), before taking on Cook Islands and Australia in Group B.
If Apii Nicholls is able to return to her damaging best for the Kiwi Ferns during the upcoming Women’s World Cup in England, it will be thanks in part to the influence of a 20-Test Jillaroo.
After two years away from the game, during which time she gave birth to her second son Felix, Nicholls questioned whether she still belonged at NRLW level at the start of the 2022 season.
It was at that point that Steph Hancock, the 40-year-old Titans prop and Jillaroos legend, took it upon herself to become somewhat of a personal mentor to her teammate, with words of encouragement that proved crucial during the pre-season on the Gold Coast.
“Steph was pushing me, telling me that I am ready and that I haven’t lost that elite ability. She supported me to keep going because she felt like I was ready and I could do this,” Nicholls told NRL.com.
“Playing with her, her leadership on the field, she inspires me to do my best.
“To this day she checks in now and then to make sure my mind is in the game.
“You need people like that in your life.”
Nicholls went on to appear in each of the Gold Coast’s five NRLW games this past season, playing as both a fullback and centre, before earning a call up from Kiwi Ferns coach Ricky Henry.
Hancock said she is in awe of how Nicholls and other mum’s managed to return to the field after giving birth, recalling a moment in the Titans’ round 2 clash with the Knights which tested even her own concentration levels.
“I don’t know how Apii actually managed. At the Titans’ home game this year I distinctly remember her son Felix in the stands being looked after, literally at kick off, and I could hear him screaming,” Hancock told NRL.com.
“I looked over at her and you could see she probably wasn’t concentrating and she threw a wild pass right at the start but then came right.
“Even though she definitely has the ability and the talent, I think she sort of second guessed herself with her confidence.
“It’s been an absolute pleasure to get to know Apii.”
However Hancock admits the cordial relationship will be tested if Nicholls goes on to help New Zealand beat Australia to the World Cup title.
“I will be filthy, I’m not going to lie. That will have an impact on our friendship,” Hancock laughed.
“Being a Jillaroo for 20 years my heart is with the green and gold and I hope we do it for a third time in a row.”
28th October 2022
With the Kiwis World Cup campaign gaining momentum and the Kiwi Ferns about to get underway, it is time to support our whānau in England together. NZRL will host ‘Watch Parties’ at certain Auckland clubs to provide an avenue for fans to watch and support our teams as one.
Mangere East Hawks and Mt Albert Lions have opened their clubs to host the watch parties. This Saturday, October 29th, both clubs will host the Kiwis vs Ireland fixture, which will kick off at 7:30 am. Both clubs will provide a menu for both breakfast and coffee.
Confirmed Watch Parties:
Kiwis vs Ireland – 29th October 7:30 am (Doors open at 7 am)
Kiwi Ferns vs France – 3rd November 6:30 am (Doors open at 6 am)
Finals rounds to be confirmed*
October 27, 2022
Richmond utility Abigail Roache has been brought into the Kiwi Ferns touring squad to replace prop Kararaina Wira-Kohu who unfortunately suffered a calf tear last Saturday.
Roache was awarded the Cathy Friend Women’s Player of the Year Award at the Auckland Rugby League Annual Awards earlier this year and is yet to make her Kiwi Ferns debut.
“Losing Kararaina was a huge loss for us knowing how hard she worked over the past four years, on behalf of the team I wish her well on her recovery,” Head coach Ricky Henry said.
“Abigail’s selection was a reward for her current form in New Zealand right now.
“She can cover multiple positions and I’m looking forward to seeing what she has to offer in this campaign.”
Kiwi Ferns World Cup squad (amended) by touring number:
1 Apii Nicholls
2 Katelyn Vahaakolo
3 Autumn-Rain Stephens Daly
4 Page McGregor
5 Madison Bartlett
6 Laishon Albert-Jones
7 Raecene McGregor
8 Mya Hill-Moana
9 Krystal Rota
10 Annetta-Claudia Nu’uausala
11 Roxette Murdoch-Masila
12 Amber-Paris Hall
13 Georgia Hale
14 Nita Maynard
15 Abigail Roache
16 Charlotte Scanlan
17 Christyl Stowers
18 Otesa Pule
19 Hailee-Jay Ormond-Maunsell
20 Crystal Tamarua
21 Shanice Parker
22 Karli Hansen
23 Brianna Clark
24 Mele Hufanga
October 26, 2022
As seen on Lockeroom.
Mya Hill-Moana is just out of her teens, but already a role model and leader in the Kiwi Ferns about to play in the Rugby League World Cup in England. And the promising frontrower brings both her rampaging runs and te ao Māori values to the side.
At 15, Mya Hill-Moana first joined Taniwharau, the local rugby league club in Huntly where her dad still played – even though her parents weren’t too keen on her taking the field.
At 16, after watching the first season of the NRLW on TV, she bravely left her close-knit whānau to move across the Tasman and pursue her dream of becoming “a footie star”.
By 18, Hill-Moana – who’s Waikato Tainui and fluent in te reo Māori – was leading the haka for the Māori All Stars in their annual encounter with the Indigenous All Stars; the rookie making her presence felt on the field of play, too.
Now, at the tender age of 20, she wears an NRLW Premiership ring and she’s on her way to the Rugby League World Cup in England, already a blossoming leader in the Kiwi Ferns side.
In her biggest season yet, she’s a strong bet to establish herself in the Ferns’ starting XIII at this tournament – and to help fellow frontrower Kararaina Wira-Kohu lead their haka, Te Iwi Kiwi, whenever the team take on their opposition over the next five weeks.
Hill-Moana performed a beautiful karakia when her team-mates arrived in camp in Auckland on Friday, to begin their final build-up to the World Cup which kicks off next week.
“It was a huge honour to be asked to do the karakia, but a bit nerve-wracking,” she says. “I’m not the type to stand up in front of crowds and speak.
“But it makes me proud of who I am and where I come from. And it helps to boost my confidence and helps me grow as a person.”
Leading the haka also allows Hill-Moana to release her pre-game nerves. “Being able to lead the girls into war out there, pretty much, and being able to show our Māori culture to the world is so cool,” she says.
Hill-Moana is fully aware, too, she’ll have lots of young eyes on her – she’s become a role model for kōtiro (girls) in her hometown of Huntly and the Taniwharau club where her league journey began. Girls who want to follow her path to making a profession from playing the game they love.
The impact of the powerful young prop no doubt reaches well beyond the Waikato.
A two-test Kiwi Fern, Hill-Moana has already won an NRLW Premiership title with the Sydney Roosters and is a regular in the Māori All Stars.
She laughs when she thinks about what else she’d be doing if she wasn’t playing league. “That’s a good question – I have no idea. I don’t have any other career goals. Since I was 16, I’ve had this dream to make it in footie,” she says.
“It actually blows my mind sometimes; I buzz out at what I’ve done at this age. I’ve won a NRLW Premiership and I’m going to the World Cup at 20. I would never have imagined this would happen so soon.”
Before the Kiwi Ferns squad flew out of Auckland yesterday, eager to play in their first World Cup match against France in just over a week, Hill-Moana and Wira-Kohu spoke to three New Zealand girls sides playing in an inaugural tournament in Auckland on the weekend.
They are the next generation of Kiwi Ferns, and Hill-Moana takes being an example setter seriously.
“I know a lot of people back home in Huntly look up to me, and I think it’s possible for our younger generation – listen to me talking like I’m old – to follow my path, if they’re willing to take it,” she says.
“And I think I’m the perfect example of that coming through the all stages – of NZ Māori, the rangatahi tournaments, playing in the NZNRL – and having the courage to leave my family and pursue my dream over in Australia.”
Hill-Moana’s own role model has been her dad, Tame Moana. For as far back as she can remember, her ‘warhorse’ dad has played prop for Taniwharau, a club in which her whānau have always been deeply involved. “But he’s nearly 50 now, so hopefully he’s hung up his boots for good,” she laughs.
“My dad taught me the basics of footie, making sure I was tackling and training right. He’s also my biggest critic, which keeps me humble. Even when he says: ‘You had a good game’, he will always point out my work-ons, which I’m very grateful for.”
She learned to tackle playing league with the boys at Ngā Taiātea Wharekura, a kaupapa Māori immersion secondary school in Hamilton, but she didn’t take the sport beyond that until she was 15.
“That was when I first started playing for our Taniwharau club,” she says. “At first my parents didn’t want me to play because it was such a physical sport. But over the years, I dropped netball, I dropped all the sports I was doing to pursue my dream of becoming a footie star.”
Hill-Moana admits it was “scary” leaving home at 16 to stay with family in Australia so she could establish her league career. She started off in the Tarsha Gale Cup, the elite U18 women’s competition in New South Wales, for the Roosters and then the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs in 2020. Then Covid froze all competition, and she came home.
But it gave the teenager the chance to help the Upper Central Stallions win the NZNRL women’s competition and to debut for the Kiwi Ferns against Fetu Samoa at the end of 2020. As an interchange player, she came onto the Mt Smart field and made an instant impression with strong runs down the middle and a high work-rate.
“Going from playing under 19s to women’s football was definitely different, but it was so much fun,” she recalls.
When she eventually returned to Australia to play in the 2021 All Stars match, she was scouted for NRLW by the Roosters. She cemented her place in the starting front row for the premiership grand final in April (Taniwharau presented her with the club’s coveted green blazer when she returned home to Huntly) and she’s regarded as one of the best young forwards in the Roosters’ club system.
“I’m really enjoying my footie at the moment,” Hill-Moana says. “My knowledge of the game has grown, which has made me more strategic around how I play. I owe so much to our coach John Strange and the management team at the Roosters for that growth.”
Now she’s excited to see her game make another leap forward at her first international league tournament in the eight-nation World Cup. “We’ve come back together, with a few new faces, and the vibe is good,” Hill-Moana says. The last time the team played together was a 50-12 test victory over Mate Ma’a Tonga in June, where Hill-Moana started at prop and racked up 12 runs for 106 metres and 15 tackles.
Her goal in England next month? “To win it,” she says matter-of-factly. “We have a lot of different levels of experience, we’re coming from different clubs, and everyone’s contributing different skills and abilities. And yes, we can put all that together to win the World Cup.”
Her proud parents will be in the crowd, with an aunty and cousin also travelling from New Zealand. “My mum will get right to the front of the stand and try to yell at me during the game. Even if there are thousands of people there, I’ll probably still hear her,” Hill-Moana laughs.
It’s been 14 years since the Kiwi Ferns have won the World Cup, and Hill-Moana knows it will be a game-changer for the sport in Aotearoa if they bring the silverware home. Because there’s nothing she wants more than to grow the game here, so there’s a pathway for girls to reach the top.
“I want to help create a New-Zealand based programme or pathway for girls, maybe to the Warriors. And then they can pursue a professional career here instead of having to go and live in Australia like I did,” she says. “That’s a really important goal of mine.”
*The Kiwi Ferns open their Rugby League World Cup campaign against France on Thursday, November 3, at 6am (NZT) live on Spark Sport, with delayed coverage at 9.30am on Three.
23 October 2022
Kiwi Ferns Mya Hill-Moana and Kararaina Wira-Kohu took the opportunity to speak to all three New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) girls’ teams last night ahead of the first-ever national representative matches today at the North Harbour Stadium.
The U16 grade will see Auckland Invitational play against Aotearoa Whaanui at 12.00pm, while the U18 NZRL Clubs and Schools match kicks off at 2.00pm.
Both games are free to attend and LIVE on Sky Sport.
Mya (20), an NRLW Premiership-winner and Māori All Star, started her journey in Huntly at the Taniwharau Rugby League Club before making her way up the ranks in rangatahi (youth) tournaments, Waikato-based competitions and New Zealand Māori Rugby League fixtures.
“It was cool to speak to the girls because it reminded me of where I was at their age and how I started. I felt like I was able to give back to them by talking about my experiences,” Mya said.
“This certain campaign is awesome because it provides our girls with the opportunity to be scouted from everywhere.
“It’s growing the women’s game from a young age and preparing them for what’s to come, they’re already wearing the fern and the kiwi on their uniform this weekend.”
For Kararaina (30), who debuted for the Kiwi Ferns in 2020 v Fetu Samoa, her pathway looked quite different to Mya’s.
“My beginnings were opposite to Mya and I mean that in the most respectful way, where I come from in Northland (Whangarei) it’s union-based,” Kararaina said.
“But it’s nice to see a lot of young girls playing in U14-U18 grades now, making these games a win for women’s rugby league in general. More teams mean more opportunities for girls filtering through these channels.
“This is something we didn’t have when I was playing which is massive for the growth and development of not only players but the staff too.”
NZRL Head of Women’s Rugby League Luisa Avaiki Tavesivesi was a driving force behind the success of these matches, a long-standing dream for the former Kiwi Fern
“It was awesome to hear both Mya and Kat speak not only because they’re playing at the highest level but because they came through their own grassroots routes respectively,” Tavesivesi said.
“The female game is so important to us, with the Kiwi Ferns in mind these pathways have been developed not just for our rangatahi but to improve everyone including coaches, referees and administrators.
“What that means is if our emerging talent, even from the youngest age, get opportunities to develop and be their best in competitive competitions it’s only going to improve our Kiwi Ferns system.
“I’m proud, it’s actually kind of emotional to know our young girls are in a campaign just like we are at the Kiwi Ferns right now.
“There’s also so many obstacles we have had to go through to make these fixtures happen, when you see the product and the players are excited to play it makes all the work worth it.”
The Kiwi Ferns are headed to the Rugby League World Cup 2021 in York, England on Tuesday, October 25.
Kiwi Ferns head coach Ricky Henry has confirmed his squad for the Rugby League World Cup next month which includes 2022 NRLW Dally M medallist Raecene McGregor.
Following on from winning the 2021 NRLW Premiership with the Sydney Roosters earlier this year, McGregor dominated this season leading with 10 try assists.
She was also the club’s first player to pick up Halfback of the Year in the NRLW Team of the Year.
Also selected in the squad was dual-code star Shanice Parker who took part in this year’s NRLW Grand Final for the Newcastle Knights against the Parramatta Eels.
Brisbane’s powerhouse props Annetta-Claudia Nu’uausala, Amber-Paris Hall and Brianna Clark bolster an already strong forward pack alongside their teammate Crystal Tamarua.
Tamarua made a remarkable comeback to the game this year from an ankle injury that forced her to withdraw from last season with the Titans.
Gold Coast star winger Madison Bartlett and lock Georgia Hale were also named, while their fullback Apii Nicholls earned the call-up after a two-year hiatus, alongside potential debutants Otesa Pule (Sydney Roosters) and Mele Hufanga.
Kiwi Fern veterans Krystal Rota, Nita Maynard and Charlotte Scanlan return to the roster, while Katelyn Vaha’akolo, Karli Hansen and Mya Hill-Moana, who all earned their Kiwi Fern debuts in 2020 against Fetu Samoa join them.
Among the standouts returning from this year’s June Test v Mate Ma’a Tonga are Page McGregor, Laishon Albert-Jones, Christyl Stowers, Autumn-Rain Stephens Daly, Roxy Murdoch-Masila, Kararaina Wira-Kohu and Hailee-jay Ormond-Maunsell.
“We’re excited about the players we’ve listed based on their current form,” Henry said.
“The vast majority are fresh off NRLW campaigns adding plenty of experience to the mix of leaders and new talent.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing how we compete against top-tier international teams over in York and I want to congratulate each member of the squad on this achievement of representing our country at the World Cup.”
The Kiwi Ferns were listed in Group B and will meet France in Round 1 on Wednesday, November 2 at 5.00pm local time followed by the Cook Islands (November 6) and Australia (November 10).
Click here for full schedule
Kiwi Ferns World Cup Squad:
Amber-Paris Hall | Brisbane Broncos
Annetta-Claudia Nu’uausala | Brisbane Broncos
Apii Nicholls | Gold Coast Titans
Autumn-Rain Stephens Daly | Newcastle Knights
Brianna Clark | Brisbane Broncos
Charlotte Scanlan | Point Chevalier Pirates
Christyl Stowers | Manurewa Marlins
Crystal Tamarua | Brisbane Broncos
Georgia Hale | Gold Coast Titans
Hailee-Jay Ormond-Maunsell | Gold Coast Titans
Kararaina Wira-Kohu | Manurewa Marlins
Karli Hansen | Tweed Head Seagulls
Katelyn Vaha’akolo | Point Chevalier Pirates
Krystal Rota | Manurewa Marlins
Laishon Albert-Jones | Point Chevalier Pirates
Madison Bartlett | Gold Coast Titans
Mele Hufanga | Ponsonby Ponies
Mya Hill-Moana | Sydney Roosters
Nita Maynard | Brisbane Broncos
Otesa Pule | Sydney Roosters
Page McGregor | St George Illawarra Dragons
Raecene McGregor | Sydney Roosters
Roxy Murdoch-Masila | Gold Coast Titans
Shanice Parker | Newcastle Knights
29 September 2022
as seen on nrl.com
Sydney Roosters halfback Raecene McGregor has been crowned the 2022 NRLW Dally M Medal winner following a dominant season for the Tricolours.
McGregor finished ahead of Knight Tamika Upton and Bronco Tarryn Aiken with Roosters teammates Sam Bremner and Isabelle Kelly rounding out the top five.
After helping the Roosters clinch the 2021 NRLW Premiership earlier this year, McGregor picked up where she left off in the 2022 campaign — dominating the year with a league-leading 10 try assists as the Tricolours went undefeated through the regular season.
No player recorded more line engagements than McGregor, who also finished in the top five players for total linebreak assists and kick metres (averaging 193 metres per game).
The Kiwi international is the first Roosters player to win the NRLW Dally M Medal, who also took out the Halfback of the Year title in the NRLW Team of the Year.
as seen on stuff.co.nz
Kiwis duo Joseph Manu and Joseph Tapine have both been named in the Dally M Team of the Year at NRL’s annual awards.
Roosters centre Manu and Raiders second-rower Tapine were rewarded for their strong individual form this season as Cronulla halfback Nicho Hynes claimed a record points haul to take out the NRL’s top gong in dominant fashion.
Hynes on Wednesday night became the clear star of rugby league’s night of nights, with the Cronulla halfback finishing on a record 38 points.
Three points behind Ben Hunt at the halfway mark of the season, the Sharks star stormed home to beat out James Tedesco by five points while Hunt finished third.
In doing so, he joined the likes of Johnathan Thurston as just the fifth player in history to claim the award in his first season at a new club.
“I can hand on heart say I came here not expecting anything at all.
“I can’t believe it. It’s bloody crazy. I am pinching myself.
“To have this around my neck. I frothed Johnathan Thurston growing up, Andrew Johns.
“And now I am alongside them. It’s unbelievable.”
Todd Payten claimed the major men’s coaching gong, while his second-rower, New Zealand-born Jeremiah Nanai, was the rookie of the year after scoring 17 tries for North Queensland.
Penrith’s Isaah Yeo was named captain of the year, headlining three Panthers in the NRL’s Dally M team of the year.
Hynes was also awarded the Provan Summons spirit of NRL award for his work in raising awareness for mental health following his post-match interview after Paul Green’s death.
But it is the top gong he will remember most, given it was his first season as a full-time starter after spending years in the rugby league wilderness before being given a chance at Melbourne.
Named as Ryan Papenhuyzen’s replacement last year when the Storm fullback went down with injury, Hynes was an instant star in the NRL.
A playmaker as a junior, Craig Fitzgibbon placed his faith in the 26-year-old as one of his first signings to lead the Sharks into the next era as No 7.
He was instantly rewarded with Hynes setting up 26 tries in a stellar season and becoming the first Shark to win the award since Preston Campbell in 2001.
And he did it all with his mother as his date for the night, admitting she had almost brought him to tears.
“I almost had a little tear come down [during my speech]. We have been through a hell of a lot,” he said.
“Everything I do is for her, and obviously my dad too … But mum has had a tougher life.
“To bring her with me and see her smile.
“I saw her [getting emotional], but I couldn’t keep looking otherwise I would have got too emotional.”
AT A GLANCE
Dally M honour role:
Player of the year: Nicho Hynes
Rookie: Jeremiah Nanai
Captain: Isaah Yeo
Team of the year: James Tedesco, Joseph Sua’ali’i, Joseph Manu, Valentine Holmes, Alex Johnston, Cameron Munster, Nicho Hynes, Joseph Tapine, Api Koroisau, Payne Haas, Viliame Kikau, Jeremiah Nanai, Isaah Yeo. Coach: Todd Payten
Player of the year: Raecene McGregor
Rookie: Jesse Southwell
Captain: Isabelle Kelly
NRLW team of the year: Sam Bremner, Teagan Berry, Isabeele Kelly, Jessica Sergis, Jaime Champan, Tarryn Aiken, Raecene McGregor, Caitlan Johnston, Keeley Davis, Millie Boyle, Keilee Joseph, Olivia Kernick, Simaima Taufa. Coach: John Strange
As seen on https://www.newsroom.co.nz/lockerroom/
As she did with an oval ball, Honey Hireme-Smiler is leading the way for women behind the mic – this time with league – as Sky Sport strives to make their on-screen voices more reflective of their audiences.
Honey Hireme-Smiler is primed to make history this weekend, believed to be the first woman to commentate an NRL game when she takes the mic for the Warriors’ first home match in almost three years.
Despite her vast knowledge of the game and expertise in front of a camera, the former Kiwi Ferns captain and NRLW player admits she’s still a little nervous.
“History tells us that within the industry, female commentators are often discriminated against and the credibility of females working in sports media is often questioned,” Hireme-Smiler says.
“Some believe ‘female commentators don’t know what they are talking about’ – especially in male dominated sports.”
But more and more female sports experts are proving that dubious assumption wrong on our television screens, with Sky pushing to include more women – especially Māori and Pacific Islander – in their commentary and presenting teams.
Among the six-strong Sky crew covering the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham next month are five expert wāhine – Courtney Tairi, Storm Purvis, Rikki Swannell, Ravinder Hunia and Kristina Eddy (Karl Te Nana is the odd man out).
The move is reflective not only of the current audience for sport in New Zealand, but also who we see out on the field.
Hireme-Smiler, who’s also represented New Zealand in rugby union and sevens, will give her view of the Warriors vs Wests Tigers game on Sunday, alongside former Warriors player Adam Blair and commentator Glen Larmer on Sunday afternoon.
Last weekend she was part of the commentary team at Mt Smart Stadium for the Kiwi Ferns’ decisive 50-12 victory over Mate Ma’a Tonga – her first time calling an international women’s league game.
Hireme-Smiler’s expertise in commentary comes from decades of experience – playing rugby league since the age of five in Pūtaruru, and going on to star in four Rugby League World Cups between 2003 and 2017. She also played for the St George Illawarra Dragons in the inaugural NRLW competition.
“For me I approach [commentary] the same way I would if I were playing in a test match,” she says ahead of this weekend.
“My preparation gives me the confidence to call what I see, to relay those messages so our viewers are interested, informed and hopefully excited and entertained.”
Having commentated on rugby and sevens, Hireme-Smiler hopes to bring her own spin to the league commentary box, balancing her passion for the game with her cool head.
“I think it’s important for passionate fans and viewers to remember that in the intensity of an 80 minute footy game, these athletes are human too and to expect plenty of good moments alongside the bad ones,” says Hireme-Smiler, who will be in the box for all of the Warriors’ home games this season.
“It’s my job as part of the commentary team to promote the game, the players and entertain our viewers.”
Sky Sport recently launched their ‘See the Possible’ campaign, a commitment to women in sport.
The campaign is not only to promote and showcase more women’s sport, but also to support the wāhine telling those stories – writers, commentators, producers and presenters.
For some of the Sky team, it’s a representation of the direction Sky is moving in, with a steadily growing number of women working both on screen and behind the scenes.
Hireme-Smiler is also grateful to those who paved the way.
“I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside and learn from some of the best female hosts and commentators in Aotearoa,” she says.
“Sky continues to give current and past female athletes opportunities to give it a go and I really enjoy sharing and supporting them too. I enjoy hearing a wide range of commentary, expertise and opinions on sport across all codes from other women.
“Sky is invested in changing the face of what sports commentary looks like by taking a more diverse approach – more female voices will attract a wider audience.”
There’s no lack of women waiting in the wings either, Johnson saying all it takes is someone giving them the chance.
“That’s the biggest thing, just actually opening the door,” she says. “We’ve all been ready and waiting, but now we’re actually making the effort to do it.”
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.
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.
New Zealand Representative:
1995 in Australia
1998 v Great Britain
1999 v Australia (home and away)
2000 World Cup (England)
2002 v New Zealand Māori
2003 World Cup (NZ)
2004 in Australia
World Cup team of the tournament (2003)
Trish Hina has been described as one of New Zealand’s greatest sportswomen, representing her country in rugby league, rugby union, touch football and softball. But the Wellington five-eighth undoubtedly made her biggest impact in the 13-a-side game.
Arguably women’s rugby league’s first genuine superstar, Hina’s Kiwi Ferns tenure spanned 13 years and her linchpin role in three World Cup triumphs included two player of the tournament nods. The record-breaking try-scorer and goalkicker boasted a game-breaking kitbag of skill, vision and pace unmatched among her contemporaries.
“Trish was an amazing athlete – she could anything and everything, a dynamic player,” former Kiwi Ferns captain long-time teammate Nadene Conlon reflects.
“Every time she had the ball, you noticed. A brilliant runner, she could step, fend, kick, brutalise girls defensively – she could do it all. Like an Olsen Filipaina of the women’s game.
“She was the driving force in any team she was in, always stood out above everybody. The tries she scored and the skill factor – at the time it was a step above everybody. And a really good person and has given back from her experience in all sports to the community.”
Hina’s softball commitments prevented her from embarking on the Kiwi Ferns’ pioneering tour across the Tasman in 1995, but she made an immediate splash on the international scene two years later with two tries on Test debut in the series opener against Australia and a hat-trick in the second encounter. A pair of doubles in the 1998 cleansweep of Great Britain and three tries in the series win over Australia in 1999 followed.
The spearhead of Te Aroha’s 11 straight Wellington club titles, Hina inspired Wellington to national tournament success in 1997 and ’99. Meanwhile, a two-try performance against hosts England in the final secured player of the tournament honours as New Zealand took out the inaugural World Cup in 2000.
Hina was a dominant force as the Kiwi Ferns retained their world champions mantle at the 2003 tournament at home, scoring a competition-leading 82 points (including an incredible 40 from five tries and 10 goals in their win over Samoa) and earning a place in the team of the tournament.
All-time rugby league great status already assured, Hina was in irresistible form again at the 2008 World Cup and was named player of the tournament after scoring two tries and three goals as New Zealand crushed Australia 34-0 in the final at Suncorp Stadium.
Hina switched codes and won a World Cup with the Black Ferns in 2010 – at 33 years of age, the only debutant in the team – but was back in the Kiwi Ferns’ jersey only weeks later for an international rugby league swansong against Great Britain.
After a 10-year hiatus from the game – during which time she grappled with significant health challenges – Hina returned to help Upper Central Stallions win the inaugural 2020 NZRL National Women’s Championship.
Upper central zone womens rugby league team 2020, Nationals Day 1 done ✅ bring on day 2. Stoked to once again play alongside the legend Trish Hina ?? #championship #womensrugbyleague @NZRL_Kiwis @WRugbyLeague pic.twitter.com/s6WDlU2Ppe
— HoneyHireme (@HoneyHireme) October 17, 2020
Upper central zone womens rugby league team 2020, Nationals Day 1 done ✅ bring on day 2. Stoked to once again play alongside the legend Trish Hina ?? #championship #womensrugbyleague @NZRL_Kiwis @WRugbyLeague pic.twitter.com/s6WDlU2Ppe
— HoneyHireme (@HoneyHireme) October 17, 2020
“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.
Jaime Chapman has been awarded the Trish Hina Medal for her brilliant display in #NRLAllStars! ? pic.twitter.com/Ay4s1RI4AI
— NRLW (@NRLWomens) February 12, 2022
Jaime Chapman has been awarded the Trish Hina Medal for her brilliant display in #NRLAllStars! ? pic.twitter.com/Ay4s1RI4AI
— NRLW (@NRLWomens) February 12, 2022
Clubs: Te Aroha
1997 v Australia
2001 v Australia
2006 v New Zealand Māori
2008 World Cup (Australia)
2010 v Great Britain
World Cup player of the tournament (2000, 2008)
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.
Join us in congratulating our NRLW coach Luisa Avaiki, who has been made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the New Year Honours announced today! Love the recognition for the huge contribution she has made to the great game at every level. #WeAreWarriors pic.twitter.com/ZjwMgMD92y
— Vodafone Warriors (@NZWarriors) December 31, 2018
Join us in congratulating our NRLW coach Luisa Avaiki, who has been made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the New Year Honours announced today! Love the recognition for the huge contribution she has made to the great game at every level. #WeAreWarriors pic.twitter.com/ZjwMgMD92y
— Vodafone Warriors (@NZWarriors) December 31, 2018
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.”
The Marist and Glenora women's teams will play for a new trophy, named in the honour of the legendary Nadene Conlon – one of the original Kiwi Ferns who has also opened doors for women in the men's game, managing the Warriors and Kiwis teams. More tonight on @1NewsSportNZ pic.twitter.com/6lnYi6Pgqx
— Matt Manukia (@MattManukia) May 7, 2021
The Marist and Glenora women's teams will play for a new trophy, named in the honour of the legendary Nadene Conlon – one of the original Kiwi Ferns who has also opened doors for women in the men's game, managing the Warriors and Kiwis teams. More tonight on @1NewsSportNZ pic.twitter.com/6lnYi6Pgqx
— Matt Manukia (@MattManukia) May 7, 2021
Clubs: Te Atatu, Mount Albert, Point Chevalier, Marist, Bay Roskill
Kiwi Ferns World Cup-winning co-captain (2000)
World Cup best forward (2000)
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
Sir Graham Lowe
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
The Roosters were too much for the Knights earning their first win of the season. Playmaker Raecene McGregor looked much sharper this game. Her excellent decision-making created the space that led to both the Roosters’ opening two tries. Mya Hill-Moana continues to make an impact every chance she gets on the field.
It was a tough loss to take for the Titans, as they fell short against the Eels, but that didn’t stop Georgia Hale from being her best out on the field. Hale managed to make a 100% efficiency tackle rate with her 65 meters again, demonstrating why she is among the game’s elite.
A brave Brisbane Broncos outfit dug deep to fight off the Dragons 22-18 in an enthralling top-of-the-table clash. Amber Hall once again showcased why she is one of the best forwards in the game—managing a team-high 164 running metres in her 50 minutes of action.
The Newcastle Knights suffered their third defeat against the Roosters. Despite the loss, Charlotte Scanlan was immense for the Knights, topping their tackle chart with 36 tackles and a 97.3% efficiency rate. One of Newcastle’s most consistent performers, Annetta Nuuausala, led from the front again with a try, 85 running metres, four tackle busts, three offloads and 18 tackles. Autumn-Rain Stephens-Daly made two crucial tackles in both halves. Late in the first half, a crunching tackle on one of the Rooster’s standouts, Jessica Sergis, leading to a Roosters mistake. Stephens also made another strong fifth play tackle on the Rooster’s try line to force another error close to the line.
The NRLW ladder after round 3.
Round 4 Matchups:
Titans vs Broncos – Saturday 19th March, 2:50 pm NZT
Eels vs Roosters – Sunday 20th March, 2:00 pm NZT
Knights vs Dragons – Sunday 20th March, 3:45 pm NZT
07 March 2022
Another week has passed of scintillating NRLW action, and more of our Kiwi Ferns have made their mark on the game, showing their skill on the highest level.
Kiwi Fern prospect Leianne Tufuga carried on her momentous start to 2022 by scoring her first ever try in the NRLW. Tufuga capped off a brilliant right-side shift after putting the Roosters in good field position following a barnstorming run. Raecene McGregor also had a solid game racking up 262 kicking metres while Mya Hill-Moana impacted the game off the bench with eight hit-ups for 57 metres.
Although going down to a clinical Roosters outfit, Georgia Hale again was at her consistent best, making 23 tackles to go along with 70 metres of the bench. Wider squad member, Shannon Mato also looked good, taking ten hit-ups for 83 metres and helping the Titans get on the front foot until an unfortunate concussion ended her evening.
The Broncos were at their damaging best in their 26-10 victory over the Newcastle Knights. The torrential rain at Wollongong’s Win Jubilee could not stop Amber Hall from dominating the middle. 16 hit-ups for 142 metres which included 5 line breaks and an astonishing 67 post-contact metres, Hall was at the centre of the Bronco’s success. No try this weekend for another Kiwi Fern prospect Roxy Murdoch, but she was solid in her task totalling 17 tackles and 44 metres in her 40 minutes of action.
A tough loss to take, but the Kiwi Fern contingent in Newcastle continues to grow stronger and stamp their mark on the competition. Five-eight Autumn-Rain Stephens-Daly was immense for the Knights, topping their tackle charts with 29 in the most difficult of weather conditions. Katelyn Vaha’akolo again showed her prowess as one of the most lethal attacking wingers in the world while being denied a try. Vaha’akolo posted 108 running metres and 51 from dummy-half, demonstrating her knack to create space when there isn’t. veteran Anneta Nu’uasala ran for 127 metres, and Maitua Feterika scored her first four-pointer of the campaign off the bench, including 70 metres and a line break. Kiwi Fern captain Krystal Rota also claimed a 96% tackle efficiency, being at her consistent best.
The conditions of Win Stadium also didn’t favour the dragons as the heavens opened in the second stanza. This wouldn’t stop Madi Bartlett from putting in another solid performance as she ran for 98 metres averaging ten a carry. She added on three tackle breaks and five tackles on route to a 10-0 shut out of the Parramatta Eels.
Round 3 Matchups:
Roosters vs Knights – Saturday 12th March, 2:50pm NZT
Dragons vs Broncos – Sunday 13th March, 2:00pm NZT
Eels vs Titans – Sunday 13th March, 3:45pm NZT
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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
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)
Corban Baxter (c)
Katelyn Vaha’akolo (KF #149)
Krystal Rota (KF #123)
Mya Hill-Moana (KF #154)
Nita Maynard (KF #137)
Raecene McGregor (KF #139)
Rona Peters (KF #75)
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;
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
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.
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:
(Alphabetical order by first name)
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.