15 July 2024

Kiwi Ferns #144 Madison Bartlett and #169 Annessa Biddle have inked extensions with the Canberra Raiders and Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks.

Bartlett has extended with the Raiders until the end of the 2026 season, as one of the NRLW’s most prolific wingers scoring 18 NRLW tries from 25 games since her debut in 2019.

She was Canberra’s leading try-scorer of 2023, with nine tries in seven appearances. Bartlett said she was excited about continuing to play under Darren Borthwick and have her long-term future settled with the Raiders.

“My short-term goal is doing well with the team but I think also having a consistent coach helps with going to the next level,” Bartlett said.

Meanwhile, the Sharks have extended young star Annessa Biddle on a new two-year contract to remain at the club until at least the end of 2027.

The 2023 NRLW Dally M Rookie of the Year burst onto the scene last season, scoring two tries across eight matches for the Sharks before earning her maiden New Zealand cap in October.

“Annessa was outstanding last season and, scarily, is only going to get better with more experience,” coach Tony Herman said.

“Not only is she naturally gifted, but Annessa also works extremely hard and is a pleasure to coach. She will be a pillar of our team for years to come.”

All NRLW sides have now finalised their top-24 squads for the upcoming 2024 season kicking off on 25 July featuring several past and current Kiwi Ferns, as well as Ferns-eligible wāhine. See here for the complete list of Kiwi women to keep an eye out for this season.

26 June 2024

As seen on nrl.com

Kicking off in a month’s time, the 2024 NRLW schedule continues the significant growth of the women’s game and the elite competition, featuring 45 matches played over nine rounds across 15 venues.

25 June 2024 (Updated 15 July 2024)

All 10 NRLW teams have confirmed their 24-woman squads and development players for the upcoming 2024 season, kicking off on 25 July.

A number of past and current Kiwi Ferns, as well as Ferns-eligible wāhine have been selected for the squads currently going through preseason training.

 

2024 NRLW Squads: Kiwi Wāhine

Key:

Current Kiwi Fern

Past Kiwi Fern

*Kiwi Ferns-eligible

NB: Excluding players who have since represented other nations.

 

Brisbane Broncos

Brianna Clark

*Gayle Broughton

Jasmine Fogavini

Mele Hufanga

*Stacey Waaka

*Tafito Lafaele

 

Canberra Raiders

Amelia Pasikala

Apii Nicholls

Ashleigh Quinlan

Cheyelle Robins-Reti

*Claudia Finau (development)

Madison Bartlett

*Tatiana Finau

 

Cronulla Sharks

Annessa Biddle

Brooke Anderson

*Jaydika Tafua (development)

 

Gold Coast Titans

Georgia Hale

Hailee-Jay Ormond-Maunsell

 

Newcastle Knights

Abigail Roache

*Grace Kukutai

*Isabella Waterman

Laishon Albert-Jones

Nita Maynard

Shanice Parker

 

North Queensland Cowboys

Harata Butler

 

St George Illawarra Dragons

*Alexis Tauaneai

Angelina Teakaraanga-Katoa

*Jessica Patea (development)

Raecene McGregor

*Trinity Tauaneai (development)

Tyla King (née Nathan-Wong)

 

Sydney Roosters

Amber-Paris Hall

Mya Hill-Moana

Otesa Pule

Tiana Davison

 

Wests Tigers

Leianne Tufuga

Najvada George

21 May 2024

As seen on nrl.com

The Raiders have announced the signing of recent Kiwi Fern debutante Amelia Pasikala for the 2024 NRLW season. Pasikala has signed a two-year-deal through to 2025 after making seven appearances for the Roosters last year, after which the 20-year-old capped off a big debut season by representing New Zealand in the Pacific Championships.

This brings the number of Kiwi Ferns-eligible wāhine at the Canberra Raiders to a total of seven as Pasikala and Matua join Cheyelle Robins-Reti, Apii Nicholls, Ashleigh Quinlan, Madison Bartlett, and Mackenzie Wiki.

In Sydney, the St. George Illawarra Dragons have locked in Kiwi playmaker Tyla King on a new deal which will see the 29-year-old remain at the club until at least the end of the 2025 season.

Read more on nrl.com

23 April 2024

As seen on nrl.com

The Canberra Raiders have continued to build for the 2024 NRLW season with the re-signing of Cheyelle Robins-Reti until 2025.

Robins-Reti made her NRLW debut in the club’s inaugural season in 2023 and produced some fine performances.

The centre featured in all nine games for the Raiders and was voted the club’s Rookie of the Year award before making her Kiwi Ferns debut in October.

One of a handful of Kiwi dual-coders, she will return to the Raiders camp following a second season in the Super Rugby Aupiki competition playing for 2023 champions Matatū.

She is joined by fellow Kiwis Apii Nicholls, Ashleigh Quinlan, Madison Bartlett, and Mackenzie Wiki for the 2024 season.

Read more here nrl.com

The 2023 semi-finalist Brisbane Broncos have extended the contracts of a number of Kiwi Wāhine until 2025, including breakout powerhouse Mele Hufanga, Gayle Broughton, Annetta-Claudia Nu’uausala and Tafito Lafaele.

Lafaele is a dual-code athlete currently playing for the Auckland Blues women in the 2024 Super Rugby Aupiki competition, before she returns to Brisbane for the NRLW season later this year.

Māori All Star and former Black Fern 7s veteran Broughton has been recovering from a back surgery and is confident she’ll be available for the start of the 2024 NRL Telstra Women’s Premiership.

Recently-debuted Kiwi Fern Jasmine Fogavini will also feature in the Broncos squad for the 2024 season, as well as recent Black Ferns 7s convert Stacey Waaka.

As seen on nrl.com

Launched by the Rugby League Players Association in March, the Mana Group is a player advisory body aimed to represent the over 45 per cent of Māori and Pasifika players and leaders within the game.

 

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20 March 2024

New Zealand Rugby League is excited to announce that Kiwi Fern #103 Charlotte Scanlan, has been selected for the High Performance Sport New Zealand Te Hāpaitanga initiative.

Te Hāpaitanga is a holistic coach development initiative enabling more women to pursue and maintain careers in high-performance coaching in New Zealand.

The 18-month initiative provides a range of opportunities for a number of future female high-performance coaches to test and develop their coaching capability, and to develop new skills to navigate a complex and challenging career in high-performance sport.

Scanlan was one of only ten coaches from multiple codes selected to take part in the fourth cohort of this acclaimed HPSNZ programme.

Hailing from Manawatu, Scanlan’s successful playing career saw her most recently play for the Newcastle Knights in the 2022 NRLW competition. She then donned the Black and White jersey for the Kiwi Ferns in the RLWC later that year, for what would be her final campaign.

Following her retirement at the end of the World Cup, in 2023 Scanlan began making the transition from player to coach and began her new career path by taking every opportunity to deepen her coaching knowledge and experience.

Scanlan shared, “I love team environments and I knew I couldn’t just stop playing and not go into anything.

“I really want to see more females move into coaching roles… we tend to take the admin side because we are good organisers, but being a good organiser also makes you a really good coach.”

In 2023 Scanlan was part of the coaching staff for the Auckland Rugby League U16 Girls Gold Coast tour where the team went undefeated. She was then Assistant Coach for the champion Pt. Chevalier Pirates Fox Reserve Grade team, as well as the runner-up Akarana Falcons women’s premiership team.

Scanlan currently works for the One New Zealand Warriors as a Community Co-Ordinator delivering programmes such as the Tupu Māia girls health and wellbeing programme, and League for Libraries for primary and intermediate-aged children.

New Zealand Rugby League CEO Greg Peters says, “Congratulations Charlotte, what an amazing achievement in your coaching career to be selected for this esteemed initiative.

“Continue paving the way for women in rugby league, especially those aspiring to become involved in coaching such as you have. Well done Charlotte.”

Scanlan’s coaching calendar for 2024 is already jam-packed. She has been assisting with the Warriors SG Ball Cup team and is set to join the coaching staff for the Auckland Rugby League Georgia Hale Cup team to compete in Queensland this season.

Scanlan will then take the reins for the Akarana Falcons in the NZRL Sky Sport Women’s Premiership as Head Coach later this year.

Read more about the Te Hāpaitanga programme here.

As seen on nrl.com

The Titans have now locked in skipper Georgia Hale on a new deal which will see the New Zealand captain remain at the Gold Coast until the end of the 2026 season.

Committed to bringing the first premiership to the Gold Coast after going down to the Knights in the dying stages of last year’s grand final, the 28-year-old forward is set to go one better in 2024.

South Auckland is renowned for being a vibrant and lively area rich in culture, home to a large Pasifika and Māori community. However, like any community has its challenges, South Auckland has long battled with obesity and other associated health issues.

To combat this, Tongan South Auckland local Pat Hufanga established BeastMode Fitness (BMF) in 2020. BMF is a community fitness group with the purpose of encouraging exercise and healthier living. 

Founder Pat shared, “My inspiration behind starting BMF was my mother. She was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes so I started trying to look after her health

I looked at it from the bigger picture and started trying to help the community out, especially our Pacific Islanders. Lots of our community are diagnosed with diabetes, high blood pressure, and other health problems.”

Pat is backed by family, friends, and his support team including administrator Lucky Tu’uholoaki and his sister, Kiwi Ferns, and Brisbane Broncos star centre Mele Hufanga.

Originally a dual-code athlete, Mele fully committed to rugby league in 2022 when she was selected for the Kiwi Ferns Rugby League World Cup squad. She earned a signing with the Brisbane Broncos for 2023 where she shined on the NRLW stage, so much so that she was awarded Dally M Centre of the Year.

Following her second Kiwi Ferns campaign in the 2023 Pacific Championships, Mele has been spending the off-season supporting her brother by helping coach the current Season Five of the BMF programme.

BMF operates a ‘six-week challenge’ programme, where members aim to lose as much weight as possible by the end of six weeks. Coaches Pat and Mele run group exercise classes six days of the week and sometimes twice daily, while members are encouraged to make healthy diet improvements.

“My brother’s goal for the future of BMF is to open his own gym so that our community, ‘aiga, family, and whānau can come into a space and feel safe. I 100% support him.”

Mele Hufanga

 

“BMF started in 2020, we started up at a park with a group of 10 people. Now it’s Season Five and we’ve got over 200 people.” shared Pat.

Although based in South Auckland, the mostly Pasifika and Māori BMF members come from all areas of the city and when visiting a training session, it was clear why the programme had grown so quickly in four years.

The Manukau hall quickly filled with music, smiling faces, and positive vibes. As the members of all different ages joined in the boot camp-style exercises, the room was loud with words and yells of of encouragement. 

“Everyone comes from different walks of life and now shares their journeys with each other,” Pat said.

Mele shared, “Even though this is a programme with a lot of people from different backgrounds and different places, they’ve all come together. It’s not just a community it’s also a family.

“My rugby league background has helped me a lot…I just want to be that role model for them. If I can do what I do on the field, then I can always help however I can for BMF as well.

Find out more about BeastMode Fitness and their work in the South Auckland community here.

 

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A number of Kiwi wāhine are set to take the field in the upcoming 2024 NRL Telstra Women’s Premiership. New signings, re-signings and club movements have taken place over the off-season, see who your favourite team has locked in for the season so far.

 

Brisbane Broncos

The 2023 semi-finalist Broncos welcome back a number of Kiwi Wāhine for the 2024 season including breakout powerhouse Mele Hufanga, alongside Gayle Broughton, Annetta-Claudia Nu’uausala, Jasmine Fogavini, and Tafito Lafaele.

Lafaele is a dual-code athlete joining the Auckland Blues women for the 2024 Super Rugby Aupiki competition, before she returns to Brisbane for the NRLW season later this year.

 

Cronulla Sharks

Dally M Rookie of the Year Annessa Biddle and fellow Kiwi Fern Brooke Anderson have re-signed with the Cronulla Sharks for the 2024 and 2025 seasons.

The Sharks have also landed Black Ferns forward Pia Tapsell for the 2024 and 2025 seasons.

The 25-year-old joins the Cronulla club as the latest cross-code convert after six Test appearances for the Black Ferns in 2019.

Returning to action this year after suffering an ACL injury, Tapsell will play for the Perth-based Western Force in the Super W during the first part of this year before switching codes ahead of the NRLW season kick off in July.

“Pia is the utmost professional, having been a full-time athlete for five years,” Sharks coach Tony Herman said.

“We think she’s a great addition to our squad and we’re excited to see what she’ll bring.”

 

Newcastle Knights

The two-time premiers will look to make it a three-peat in 2024 with a number of Kiwis bolstering their squad. Shanice Parker, Abigail Roache, Laishon Albert-Jones, and Nita Maynard are all set to lace up for the Knights again this season.

 

Gold Coast Titans

Kiwi Ferns captain and 2023 IRL Golden Boot winner Georgia Hale returns to the Titans for 2024. She will be joined by Hailee-Jay Ormond-Maunsell and dual-coder Niall Williams. Williams will feature for the Auckland Blues women in the 2024 Super Rugby Aupiki competition, before she returns to the Gold Coast for the NRLW season later this year.

 

Sydney Roosters

A number of Kiwi forwards return to the Roosters squad for 2024, with the formidable Amber Hall looking to make a comeback after an early injury ruled her out of the 2023 season.

She will be joined by fellow props Mya Hill-Moana and rugby union convert Tiana Davison, with Otesa Pule in the second row.

 

St George Illawarra Dragons

Dragons and Kiwi Ferns captain Raecene McGregor re-joins the club for 2024 & 2025, alongside recent Kiwi Fern debutante Angelina Teakaaranga-Katoa.

Young up-and-comer Alexis Tauaneai has signed on until 2026, with her younger sister Trinity Tauaneai also signed with the club as a development player.

 

Wests Tigers

Kiwi Ferns duo Leianne Tufuga and Najvada George return to the Western Sydney side for 2024, following impressive campaigns in the 2023 Pacific Championships.

 

Canberra Raiders

Following their impressive maiden season in 2023, the Canberra side has yet to fill majority of their squad for the 2024 season.

So far Canberra has re-signed veteran Kiwi Ferns Apii Nicholls and Madison Bartlett, alongside centre Mackenzie Wiki daughter of Hall of Famer Ruben Wiki.

 

North Queensland Cowboys

Former Fern and Māori All Stars forward Harata Butler has signed with the Cowboys for the 2024 and 2025 NRL Telstra Women’s Premiership seasons.

Butler appeared eight times for the Sharks in her maiden NRLW campaign last year averaging 63 metres in the front row.

Butler is joined by Māori All Stars teammate Tiana Raftstrand-Smith.

Stay tuned for more signings news ahead of the commencement of the NRLW 2024 season.

New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) is thrilled to announce an exciting partnership with Dynasty Sport, marking the renowned sportswear brand as the official apparel provider for the next five years.

This partnership marks a significant milestone for both entities as they unite to elevate the presence and performance of New Zealand Rugby League on a global scale.

As the official apparel provider, Dynasty Sport brings its expertise in crafting high-performance, cutting-edge sportswear to outfit NZRL teams and supporters alike.

 

“We are thrilled to welcome Dynasty Sport to the NZRL whanau,” said Greg Peters, CEO of NZRL. “This partnership reflects a shared commitment to excellence, innovation, and the enduring legacy of New Zealand Rugby League.

 

“It’s evident that New Zealand Rugby League and Dynasty Sport share a number of core values. Dynasty Sport has a deep passion for sport spanning across both grassroots and professional teams; we felt very aligned on our relentless commitment to excellence on and off the field.”

 

“We’re excited to have all New Zealand’s Rugby League brands under Dynasty Sport, and together, we look forward to creating unforgettable moments both on and off the field.”

 

Tyler Rakich, co-founder and Director of Dynasty Sport, is equally excited about the new partnership.

“We are extremely passionate about rugby league, and as a Kiwi-owned and operated business, we feel privileged to have our logo on our national team’s jerseys, he said.

“Fans can look forward to a full range of beautifully designed supporters’ apparel in 2024. There will be something for everyone and we can’t wait to see fans wearing it with pride!”

Peters also acknowledged the contribution of the incumbent partner BLK.

“We’re grateful to BLK, who have supported the Kiwis and Kiwi Ferns over the last four years.

As we embark on this new chapter with Dynasty Sport, we thank BLK for their partnership and wish them continued success in their future endeavours.”

 

 

About Dynasty Sport

 

We’re sportspeople too. Some of us play, some of us used to, some of us coach and all of us love to watch our favourite teams and athletes compete every week.

​Headquartered in Auckland, with locations across NZ & Australia, Dynasty Sport operates across a global footprint. We are proud to supply high quality on and off-field sports apparel to professional and grassroots sporting organisations, schools, and businesses around the world.

We have a focus on sustainability too. Ecotek, our fabric made from ethically sourced recycled plastic bottles, is used in our ranges, helping fans and organisations make the sustainable choice whenever they can.

Dynasty Sport are leaders in rugby league, with a great reputation amongst fans and organisations for their impressive ranging and designs, high-performance technology and sustainability focus. Most recently, the One NZ Warriors range has been enormously popular. The Cowboys, Titans, Sea Eagles, Tonga Rugby League, Toa Samoa and dozens of grassroots clubs across NZ and Australia also proudly wear Dynasty Sport.

For more information on Dynasty Sport visit www.dynastysport.co.nz

 

 

As seen on https://www.cowboys.com.au

Kiwi Ferns coach Ricky Henry has today been announced as North Queensland Toyota Cowboys NRLW Head Coach, agreeing to a three-year contract running through the 2026 season.

Henry has spent the previous four years as Head Coach of the Kiwi Ferns, overseeing a successful transitional period, culminating with a drought-breaking victory over the Jillaroos in the 2023 Pacific Championships.

Henry was set for a second stint as Warriors’ NSW Cup Head Coach in 2024 before accepting the NRLW role with the Cowboys.

Henry will arrive in North Queensland in the coming weeks to settle into the role prior to pre-season beginning in June.

“We were thrilled with the caliber of coaches who applied for the role and we were flattered by their interest,” Cowboys General Manager of Football Micheal Luck said.

“We are delighted to have secured Ricky, who has a long and decorated history in our game. He has experience in all levels of the junior pathways systems and has now shown he is in the top echelon of coaches at the elite women’s level.

“We are excited for the contributions he will make to women’s rugby league in North Queensland, not only at NRL level, but in continuing to grow pathways in our region.”

Cowboys Head of NRLW and Women’s Elite Pathways Anite Creenaune said Henry’s commitment to success shone through in the interview process.

“Ricky has an extensive background in coaching and has an exceptional understanding of the technical side of rugby league. In the interview process he produced a number of ideas around how we can improve as a team here at the Cowboys,” she said.

“He also displayed a deep understanding around the individual players on our roster and the language he used were in-line with the values we live by here at the Cowboys.

“Ricky is very clear in the goals he has for our team and has an extreme amount of confidence in bringing success to North Queensland.”

Henry said he was eager to begin work in North Queensland.

“The Cowboys have a talented squad with a lot of potential and great leaders. I’m looking forward to the challenge of getting the best out of every single player, which will help this squad realise its potential,” he said.

“I know the squad is highly motivated and willing to work hard which are strong foundations to being successful.

“The Cowboys are a club is on the rise. It has world class facilities, fantastic people, commercial support and a community that is passionate about the Cowboys all of which made this job immensely attractive.”

As seen on NRL.com

Kiwi Ferns legend Honey Hireme-Smiler will be part of the Sky Sport commentary team that breaks new ground with unique bilingual commentary on this week’s All Stars games in Townsville.

One of the greatest players to ever pull on a Kiwi Ferns jumper, Hireme-Smiler played 32 Tests and went to four World Cups, and now she finds herself on the other side of the microphone.

“I’m thrilled to see Sky creating innovative ways to foster use and acceptance of reo Māori. This will be a new and unique opportunity for the commentary team, and we are so ready to deliver an awesome immersive experience for New Zealanders,” said Hireme-Smiler.

Sky Sport’s collaboration with the NRL for 2024 kicks off with the two showpiece All Stars games in Townsville this weekend.

Sky Sport has been steadily increasing the use of te reo Māori, but bilingual commentary is another first for the company, highlighting Sky’s dedication to foster cultural diversity and support the normalisation of te reo Māori on air.

Coverage on Sky Sport 1 will be available through Sky, streaming on Sky Sport Now and free to view on Sky Open with an alternative Australian Fox Sport commentary available on Sky Sport 4 or by using the alternative commentary via the yellow button.

The Harvey Norman All Stars will be presented by veteran Māori broadcaster, Te Arahi Maipi (Tainui) with bilingual commentary provided by Dale Husband (Ngāti Maru), Te Aorere Pēwhairangi (Ngāti Porou) and Honey Hireme-Smiler (Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Haua, Tainui)

Pre and post-match panel discussions will be led Maipi who will be joined by Warriors captain, Tohu Harris (Ngāti Kahungunu) and Hireme-Smiler.

The success of incorporating te reo Māori into sport coverage was proven during last year’s Harvey Norman All Stars game, reaching more than 100,000 viewers were covered by Te Aorere Pēwhairangi on social media.

As seen on NRL.com

A couple of big-name NRLW playmakers face missing out on a spot in the Māori women’s team for next month’s Harvey Norman NRL All Stars, as coach Keith Hanley grapples with several tough decisions at the selection table.

The veteran mentor says the expansion of the NRL Telstra Women’s Premiership from six to 10 teams last season, along with the continued growth of Māori age-group tournaments in New Zealand, have been big factors in his overall player pool growing from around 60 to 150 during his four-year stint in charge of the side.

Ahead of this year’s event in Townsville on February 16, the Māori are also boosted by the availability of frontline stars Raecene McGregor, Corban Baxter, Botille Vette-Welsh and Kennedy Cherrington, who all missed the 2023 game.

That creates a logjam in the halves, with McGregor now competing for a spot against incumbents Zahara Temara and Ashleigh Quinlan.

At fullback the loss of last year’s Trish Hina Medal winner Gayle Broughton, who is recovering from back surgery, will be somewhat softened by having Baxter and Vette-Welsh back in the mix, with Hanley still to decide if or how he fits the latter two into his 17.

“We have got some real quality and depth this year and that part has been mind-blowing,” Hanley told NRL.com.

“The quality of player is rising all the time and it’s been really eye opening for me after coaching All Stars for the last three years.

“We have a notable loss with Gayle which is unfortunate, but we are lucky to have Corban and Bo.

“Corban has had to play her last two games for us (in 2022 and 2021) at centre, which is probably not her best position, so with Gayle out that gives Corban an opportunity to run out the back and do what she does for the Roosters.”

Meanwhile Hanley is also keeping an open mind about blooding some younger players who are yet to appear at NRLW level or earn a cap for the Māori side, with the concept proving a valuable springboard for female players in the past.

Last year interchange hooker Capri Paekau and front-rower Harata Butler went on to debut in the NRLW with the Eels and Sharks respectively after helping their side down the Indigenous 16-12 in Rotorua, while Kahu Cassidy and Aaliyah Paki got their first opportunity to play on such a big stage.

“We have got a couple of new faces in mind, but they are pretty young and with the quality coming back in to our team it might make it hard to fit them in,” Hanley said.

“Within our wider group we have Taleenza Nelson who is at Cronulla and is a strong outside back, along with Tiana-Lee Thorne from the Wests Tigers (both are on development deals for 2024) who is a back that is incredibly fast,” Hanley said.

“The game comes at a good time for players to lift their profile and get their names out there and this is the only elite women’s game between now and Origin [in May].”

See the ultimate celebration of culture and showcase of pride at NRL Harvey Norman All Stars. Grab your tickets here.

James Fisher-HarrisGeorgia Hale and Jérémy Bourson have each created Golden Boot history after being chosen as the respective 2023 men’s, women’s and wheelchair winners.

Fisher-Harris is the first prop to win the prestigious award since its inception in 1984 and will add the IRL Golden Boot to the Pacific Cup medal he received after leading the Kiwis to a record 30-0 defeat of the Kangaroos and his third consecutive NRL premiership ring with Penrith.

The New Zealand captain was presented with the 2023 IRL Golden Boot by 2000 winner and two-times World Cup-winning Kangaroos captain Brad Fittler at an event in Sydney on Wednesday.

Hale, who is the first forward to win the women’s award, and Bourson – France’s first Golden Boot recipient in any discipline of the game – are both based in the Northern Hemisphere and were unable to attend.

The IRL Golden Boot is awarded each year to the best player in sanctioned rugby league international matches.

Fisher-Harris was chosen by a panel comprising of Golden Cap recipients Adam BlairJames GrahamDarren LockyerAdrian Morley and Ruben Wiki, who are among just nine players to have played more than 50 internationals for their country.

Previous Golden Boot winners Stacey JonesShaun JohnsonRoger Tuivasa-Sheck and Joey Manu were among the many current and former Kiwis to pay tribute to Fisher-Harris.

Michael Maguire, who had charge of Fisher-Harris in all but one of his 15 appearances for New Zealand, including the Pacific Championships triumph, and members of his coaching staff, also sent messages of congratulations.

“I can’t think of a better bloke to take out such a prestigious award,” Maguire said. “It’s thoroughly deserved.

“In our time together, over the years, I have watched you grow from that young player to winning grand finals and now leading the Kiwis to an emphatic win against Australia, and creating a bit of history.

“You led right from the front, right from the time you walked into the month of the campaign that we had together. You’re an absolute champion and with the way you go about things, and there’s a lot of reasons why you’re such a success in rugby league.

“What an award to have. You have now created a little piece of history for yourself in the international space, along with such a great win.”

Kiwi Ferns coach Ricky Henry was emotional as he told Hale she had been chosen by a panel of Jillaroos great Karyn Murphy, Kiwi dual code superstar Honey Hireme-Smiler and England 2017 World Cup prop turned rugby league commentator Danika Priim.“I don’t think this award could go to a player more deserving than Georgia,” Henry said. “She is a professional on and off the field.

“Georgia does the things that other players don’t want to do on the footy field; the things that people don’t get rewarded for or recognised for.

“We know that she is a really hard worker but the biggest growth in her game has been her football IQ and that has made her the player she is today.

“This is a reward for everything you have done for rugby league, for yourself, for your family and for us in the Kiwi Ferns environment. You are a massive role model for all the young girls playing rugby league in New Zealand and Australia.”

Hale, who helped the Kiwi Ferns to a gritty 12-6 defeat of the Jillaroos, edged team-mate Mele Hufanga and rival fullbacks Tamika Upton and Apii Nicholls to become the second successive New Zealander to win the Golden Boot after Raecene McGregor.

The award caps a year in which the 28-year-old lock played both in the Women’s Super League and NRLW, helping the Gold Coast Titans to the club’s inaugural grand final and the Kiwi Ferns to their first win against the Jillaroos since 2016.

“I play rugby league to win premierships or championships or World Cups, so to receive such an accolade like this is a very proud moment and I think of how proud I am to be a Kiwi Fern and to represent the Ferns before and the Ferns to come,” Hale said.

“It’s been a special year. I started my journey in 2023 here at Leeds Rhinos, which I was so fortunate to be a part of, and then was really excited to be able to return home to the Gold Coast and have such a proud season with our Titans girls.

“Then to finish off my season representing the Kiwi Ferns, breaking a seven-year drought back with the girls from back at home, just really put the icing on the cake but I don’t think you can ever be satisfied with what you have done.

“I am just really excited to see what the next steps are for me personally in my career and also with all the teams that I am so fortunate to take the field with.

Fisher-Harris continued the Kiwis’ recent stranglehold on the Golden Boot after Tuivasa-Sheck won in 2019 and Manu received the award last year, with the trophy not awarded in 2020 and 2021 due to the impact of Covid.

He won the award from Kiwis team-mate Joseph Tapine, Kangaroos prop Payne Haas and English halfback Harry Smith, who were shortlisted by the panel from 20 international players nominated by members of the media in Australia, England, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.

The wheelchair 2023 IRL Golden Boot was chosen by 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.

Bourson and England’s Lewis King were shortlisted after two recent internationals between last year’s World Cup finalists, with France triumphing in Leeds and England winning in Marseilles.

The Frenchman received the award in Perpignan from last year’s winner, England’s Seb Bechara, whom he plays alongside at Catalans Dragons.

“It’s a great honour for me,” Bourson said. “There have only been three winners and I am the first Frenchman. It’s important to remember. A lot of people will really like seeing that and I’ll never forget this achievement.

“The next step for the French team is the World Cup, which we have already started preparing for. My singular aim is, very simply, to win the World Cup and the Golden Boot in 2026.”

IRL Chair Troy Grant congratulated Fisher-Harris, Hale and Bourson on their achievements as international player of the year.

“You only need to hear from their coaches and team-mates to know that James, Georgia and Jérémy are deserved winners of the Golden Boot and worthy of having their names alongside some of the greats of our game,” he said.

“Each played a significant role in the achievements of their team at international level this season, in which all three of last year’s World Cup winners were beaten, and they have now created personal history.

“On behalf of the IRL Board, I would like to congratulate the winners, all of the players who were nominated and the members of the judging panels whose status and achievements in the game ensure the Golden Boot remains one of the most prestigious awards in Rugby League.”  

 

IRL Golden Boot Roll of Honour

Men  

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 given1999 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 given2021 No award given2022 Joey Manu (New Zealand)2023 James Fisher-Harris (New Zealand)

     WOMEN  

2018 Isabelle Kelly (Australia)2019 Jess Sergis (Australia)2020 No award given2021 No award given2022 Raecene McGregor (New Zealand)2023 Georgia Hale (New Zealand)

WHEELCHAIR  

2019 Jack Brown (England)2020 No award given2021 No award given2022 Sebastien Bechara (England)2023 Jérémy Bourson (France)

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

Men

James Fisher-Harris (New Zealand)
Payne Haas (Australia)
Harry Smith (England)
Joseph Tapine (New Zealand)

Women

Georgia Hale (New Zealand)
Mele Hufanga (New Zealand)
Apii Nicholls (New Zealand)
Tamika Upton (Australia)

Wheelchair

Jeremy Bourson (France)
Lewis King (England)

Previous IRL Golden Boot Winners

Men  

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)

WOMEN  

2018 Isabelle Kelly (Australia)
2019 Jess Sergis (Australia)
2020 No award given
2021 No award given
2022 Raecene McGregor (New Zealand)

WHEELCHAIR  

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.

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.

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.

The winners of the 2023 IRL Golden Boot awards will be announced in early December.

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 Kiwis

James Fisher-Harris

Jahrome Hughes

Ronaldo Mulitalo

Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad

Joseph Tapine

Nominated Kiwi Ferns

Georgia Hale

Mele Hufanga

Raecene McGregor

Apii Nicholls

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.

 

Buy tickets from ticketek.co.nz

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.

Match Snapshot

  • It was New Zealand’s first win over Australia in the women’s game in seven years and ended a seven-game winless streak for them against the Jillaroos.
  • It was Australia’s first loss in 18 Tests.
  • Raecene McGregor underwent a HIA midway through the second half which she passed, returning for the final 14 minutes.
  • Kezie Apps went on report for contacting Mele Hufanga’s head with her shoulder in the 57th minute, with the tackle resulting in Hufana leaving the field for a HIA.
  • Olivia Kernick was placed on report for a Dangerous Tackle in the 61st minute.
  • The match marked Jillaroos co-captain Kezie Apps’ 15th Test and the international debut for winger Jakiya Whitfeld and hooker Emma Manzelman.

Play of the Game

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.

As seen on nrl.com

Two weeks after going to head-to-head in Townsville the Australian Jillaroos and Kiwi Ferns will meet again to round out the inaugural Women’s Pacific Championships.

It was the Jillaroos who came out on top in Week 1 with debutant Tamika Upton showing her class on the international stage to get the green and gold home 16-10 in a thrilling battle at Queensland Country Bank Stadium.

The Ferns were straight back on the training paddock last week and looked to have built on their combinations, with halfback Raecene McGregor and centres Abigail Roache and Mele Hufanga sparking a 28-10 win over Mate Ma’a Tonga on Saturday.

After losing to their arch-rivals by 50 points in last year’s World Cup Final, Ricky Henry’s side will have taken plenty of heart from the six-point loss in Townsville and will be desperate to get their first win over the Jillaroos since 2016.

Meanwhile, Brad Donald’s Jillaroos will head to Melbourne well-rested and well-prepared to face the Ferns after a weekend off.

Donald fields a similar side to the that got the job done against the Ferns a fortnight ago and the Aussies will be buoyed by the inclusion of debutant Jakiya Whitfeld, who stole the show with four tries at the Australian Prime Ministers XIII’s clash last month.

Kiwi Ferns: Co-captain Shanice Parker is set to play her third different position in as many weeks after being named on the wing, following stints at centre and fullback against the Jillaroos and Mate Ma’a Tonga respectively. Her move is triggered by the return of Raiders flyer Apii Nicholls at fullback, with Cheyelle Robins-Reti the player to make way. The forward pack is unchanged from last week’s win over Tonga, while on the bench Ash Quinlan replaces Capri Paekau and Jasmine Fogavini comes in for the injured Amelia Pasikala.

Jillaroos: Wests Tigers star Jakiya Whitfeld will make her Test debut in place of  Julia Robinson (personal reasons). Lauren Brown is the new hooker with Keeley Davis going to the reserves. Cowboys hooker Emma Manzelmann makes her international debut off the bench while Yasmin Clydsdale has also been added to the interchange with Caitlan Johnston out due to injury.

Kiwis v Kangaroos – Saturday 28th October 8:00pm AAMI Park Melbourne

Available to watch on Sky Sport

Read the full article on nrl.com

24 October 2023A new Kiwi Ferns line-up has been confirmed for Saturday’s Jillaroos clash, and if there’s one word on everyone’s mind, it’s ‘redemption’.

Kiwi Ferns wing, Shanice Parker is no stranger to coming up against the Jillaroos. Although not making it to the grand final due to injury, she was in last year’s squad who suffered a defeat to Australia in the 2021 Women’s Rugby League World Cup.

It’s that determination to rewrite history that is fueling this new team on, together with a desire to make Wairoa’s Amelia Pasikala proud, following Saturday’s leg injury that cut short her debut tour in the black and white jersey.

“We definitely want to unleash the beast like Ama would on the field. Once she got injured, the girls were saying ‘this is for Ama’ so we are doing this one for her as well,” says Shanice.

Shanice says the team has only continued to get better with each week and game, with Saturday’s match in Melbourne the clincher.

“We’ve had a steady rise and we’ve really connected as a team these past two weeks, so hopefully we can finish on a high against the Jillaroos,” says Shanice.

Head coach Ricky Henry says it has been his toughest selection process yet.

“Those named have consistently proven themselves on-field over the past two weeks. Their naming today is a reward for showing up and giving every training and game their absolute all,” he says.

With the loss of Amelia Pasikala, Henry has been forced to rethink the Kiwi Ferns bench and cover.

Veteran Apii Nicholls returns to fullback, while forward Laishon Albert-Jones is named among inter-change.

Shanice Parker of the Newcastle Knights returns to the wing, alongside Wests Tigers’ Leianne Tufuga.

Mele Hufanga remains at center, following her naming as player of the match against Tonga at Eden Park. Abigail Roache maintains her center position, off the back of her hat-trick on Saturday.

The Kiwi Ferns narrowly lost 16-10 to the Jillaroos in their first encounter with the team on October 14.

Jillaroos v Kiwi Ferns kick-off Saturday 28 October 6pm at AAMI Stadium, Melbourne.2023 Kiwi Ferns Pacific Championship Team List: 

1. Apii Nicholls Canberra Raiders
2. Leianne Tufuga Wests Tigers
3. Mele Hufanga Brisbane Broncos
4. Abigail Roache Newcastle Knights
5. Shanice Parker Newcastle Knights
6. Tyla Nathan-Wong St George Illawarra Dragons
7. Raecene McGregor St George Illawarra Dragons
8. Mya Hill-Moana Sydney Roosters
9. Brooke Anderson Cronulla Sharks
10. Angelina Teakaraanga-Katoa St George Illawarra Dragons
11. Annessa Biddle Cronulla Sharks
12. Otesa Pule Sydney Roosters
13. Georgia Hale Gold Coast Titans
Interchange
14. Ashleigh Quinlan Canberra Raiders
15. Najvada George Wests Tigers
16. Jasmine Fogavini Brisbane Broncos
17. Tiana Davison Newcastle Knights
18. Laishon Albert-Jones Newcastle Knights

A hat-trick from centre Abigail Roache led the Kiwi Ferns to a 28-10 victory over a Tonga side who played the final half hour a player down following a send off.

Interchange forward Ilaisaane Taufa was marched by referee Wyatt Raymond following a hip-drop style tackle, which saw Roosters and Kiwi Ferns forward Amelia Pasikala taken from the field at Eden Park with a suspected broken leg.

While New Zealand were up 16-6 at the time and looking in control, the incident ended Tonga’s faint hopes of getting up for an upset victory, after they had trailed just 10-6 at half-time.

From there the Kiwi Ferns ran away with it, running in another three tries to claim a comfortable win, although Tonga will take heart from a drastically improved performance compared to past showings.

After Roache dotted down twice in the opening 11 minutes, it was looking like being a cake walk for the home side, before a spate of errors and penalties allowed Tonga back into the game.

It was one of those errors on 26 minutes – with Shanice Parker clean missing a loose ball when she attempted to kick it clear of the in-goal area – that gifted Tiana Penitani a try, which after Cassey Tohi-Hiku’s conversion reduced the gap to four at the break.

But New Zealand made a commanding start to the second period, with Pasikala scoring a try just after the restart of play, before her injury minutes later saw proceedings stopped for several minutes.

Another for Roache, followed by Annessa Biddle’s second try in as many games, and a Mele Hufanga try out wide stretched the gap to 18, with only Penitani’s try in the middle of it halting the Kiwi Ferns’ momentum.

If not for poor goalkicking – with Raecene McGregor converting just two of her side’s six tries – the final scoreline would have looked even better for Ricky Henry’s side.

Match Snapshot

  • The Kiwi Ferns made nine line breaks and broke 46 tackles in the win.
  • New Zealand centre Abigail Roache scored three tries and ran for 172 metres.
  • Kiwi Ferns and Roosters forward Amelia Pasikala suffered a serious lower leg injury on 41 minutes following a hip-drop style tackle which saw Ilaisaane Taufa sent off.
  • Tonga trailed by just four at the break despite only completing 60 percent of their first half sets.
  • Former Jillaroos forward Vanessa Foliaki topped the tackle count for Tonga with 33.

Play of the Game

After a torrid run with injuries, this was arguably Abigail Roache’s best performance in top-flight rugby league. Her unique mix of pace and power was on full display in this try, in which she made light work of the would-be Tongan defenders.

What’s Next

The Kiwi Ferns now prepare to face the Jillaroos in Melbourne, having lost to them by six points when they met earlier this month. Tonga don’t have another game scheduled in 2023, but will now look to build on what was a mostly positive match from their point of view, with Tiana Penitani and co no doubt having their eyes set on bringing a few more Tongan eligible players into the red jersey going forward.

17 October 2023

Debuting for the Kiwi Ferns on home soil is a pinch-me moment for the newest stars of the game named in this week’s line-up.

A new-look team has been named to take on Mate Ma’a Tonga Women in Saturday’s triple header at Eden Park as part of the Pacific Championships.

Taranaki’s Tiana Davison is among the new faces named in the team.

“It’s very surreal and to do it at home in front of family and friends is even more surreal. I think there will be a few tears shed,” she says.

Tiana, who made the switch from rugby union to league in 2022, and helped the Newcastle Knights win the grand final of the 2023 NRLW grand final, once had her sights set on making the Black Ferns.

This Saturday she will don the black and white jersey in front of friends and family, who will travel from her small hometown of Waitara to watch her take the field for the first time as a Kiwi Fern.

“Following my time with the Knights this year, I knew if I worked hard and kept my head down my time would come and thankfully for me it did come,” says the 22 year-old.

Tiana says her goal is to show the next generation in her hometown that there is a pathway into elite sport if you put your mind to it.

Making her first appearance in the Pacific Championships alongside Tiana is Abigail Roache, also of the Newcastle Knights.

“My family all managed to come to the NRLW grand final, so it’s going to be really special to play in front of them at home. I’m hoping my grandparents will make it,” says Abigail.

Off the back of a narrow 16-10 loss to the Australian Jillaroos on Saturday in Townsville, head coach Ricky Henry has made some changes to the previous line-up.

“It’s been a really tough selection process where we are leaving out some top players but it shows our depth as we build towards the 2026 World Cup,” says Ricky.

Hot off the back of an NRLW season with the Canberra Raiders also making her debut is Cheyelle Robins-Reti. Having been cleared to play, following an eye injury late in the NRLW season, Cheyelle will be stepping on to the wing.

Brisbane Broncos centre Mele Hufanga caught the attention of many with her try against the Jillaroos in the Kiwi Ferns’ first match of the Pacific Championships. Leading from the front, Mele says she is so proud of how far the debutants have come in the space of a short time.

“These young guns are really talented and they really showed up on Saturday against the Jillaroos.”

Asked what she’s expecting this weekend, Mele says she expects the Tongan players to come for her.

“I’m just focusing on doing better and being better,” she says.

Mate Ma’a Tonga Women v Kiwi Ferns kick-off Saturday 21 October 3.45pm (NZT).

2023 Kiwi Ferns Pacific Championship Team List: 

1. Shanice Parker Newcastle Knights
2. Cheyelle Robins-Reti Canberra Raiders
3. Mele Hufanga Brisbane Broncos
4. Abigail Roache Newcastle Knights
5. Leianne Tufuga Wests Tigers
6. Tyla Nathan-Wong St George Illawarra Dragons
7. Raecene McGregor St George Illawarra Dragons
8. Mya Hill-Moana Sydney Roosters
9. Brooke Anderson Cronulla Sharks
10. Angelina Teakaraanga-Katoa St George Illawarra Dragons
11. Otesa Pule Sydney Roosters
12. Annessa Biddle Cronulla Sharks
13. Georgia Hale Gold Coast Titans
Interchange
14. Capri Paekau Parramatta Eels
15. Najvada George Wests Tigers
16. Amelia Pasikala Sydney Roosters
17. Tiana Davison Newcastle Knights
18. Jasmine Fogavini Brisbane Broncos

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: 

1. Apii Nicholls Canberra Raiders
2. Annessa Biddle Cronulla Sharks
3. Shanice Parker Newcastle Knights
4. Mele Hufanga Brisbane Broncos
5. Leianne Tufuga Wests Tigers
6. Ashleigh Quinlan Canberra Raiders
7. Raecene McGregor St George Illawarra Dragons
8. Mya Hill-Moana Sydney Roosters
9. Brooke Anderson Cronulla Sharks
10. Angelina Teakaraanga-Katoa St George Illawarra Dragons
11. Otesa Pule Sydney Roosters
12. Laishon Albert-Jones Newcastle Knights
13. Georgia Hale Gold Coast Titans
Interchange
14. Tyla Nathan-Wong St George Illawarra Dragons
15. Najvada George Wests Tigers
16. Jasmine Fogavini Brisbane Broncos
17. Amelia Pasikala Sydney Roosters
18. Abigail Roache New Castle Knights

As seen on 1news.co.nz

Even Tyla Nathan-Wong admits she’s still coming to grips wearing the Kiwi Ferns jersey.

But it could soon become a regular occurrence, named in the New Zealand women’s squad for the upcoming Pacific Championship against Australia and Tonga.

“Obviously I’ve always been a big supporter and follower of Rugby League in general especially NRL and NRLW since it started from a far,” says Nathan-Wong.

“But never did I think I’d be pulling on the Kiwi Ferns jersey obviously you think far out how cool would that be one day if I ever could.”

“To think in my first year of ever playing league in the NRLW and be able to potentially pull on this jersey for what’s my fifth sport at an international level I’ll be pulling the black jersey on for.”

And it’s that wealth of experience that’s made her adjustment to the NRLW so easy.

While her side St George Illawarra Dragons haven’t fared as well as she would have hoped, Nathan-Wong still managed to form a strong halves partnership with fellow Kiwi Fern Raecene McGregor.

“She might be new to rugby league but as a professional athlete Tyla’s done it all really so she’ll call on a lot of experience to help her play well against the Australians and Tongans,” says Kiwi Ferns coach Ricky Henry.

The decision to switch codes, a “now or never” moment for the sevens Olympic gold medallist.

“In general playing contact sport your window is limited your body can only handle so much.

“But then being female too there’s that time where you do want to settle down and start a family and unfortunately out of the two you’re the one who becomes pregnant and has to hold the baby which is incredible in of itself.

“That’s why I knew, I just felt I was at a point in my career where I achieved everything I wanted to,” says Nathan-Wong.

Whānau was ultimately the determining factor for the 29-year-old especially considering her grandfather, David Wong, was the first Chinese-New Zealander to play for Auckland’s provincial rugby league team.

“He’s that proud person who will tell the supermarket check out person that I’m his granddaughter and to watch me on TV.”

No doubt grandad or gung gung as he’s affectionately called in the family, will be watching next weekend when the Kiwi Ferns kick the Pacific Champions off against the Jillaroos in Townsville.

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:  

Abigail Roache  Newcastle Knights 
Amelia Pasikala*  Sydney Roosters 
Angelina Teakaraanga-Katoa*  St George Illawarra Dragons 
Annessa Biddle*  Cronulla Sharks 
Apii Nicholls  Canberra Raiders 
Ashleigh Quinlan*  Canberra Raiders 
Brooke Anderson*  Cronulla Sharks 
Capri Paekau*  Parramatta Eels 
Cheyelle Robins-Reti*  Canberra Raiders 
Georgia Hale  Gold Coast Titans 
Jasmine Fogavini*  Brisbane Broncos 
Laishon Albert Jones  Newcastle Knights 
Leianne Tufuga*  Wests Tigers 
Mele Hufanga  Brisbane Broncos 
Mya Hill-Moana  Sydney Roosters 
Najvada George*  Wests Tigers 
Otesa Pule  Sydney Roosters 
Raecene McGregor  St George Illawarra Dragons 
Shanice Parker  Newcastle Knights 
Tiana Davison*  Newcastle Knights 
Tyla Nathan-Wong*  St George Illawarra Dragons 

 

* 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

Newcastle Knights:

#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

Penrith Panthers:

#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.

 

Brisbane Broncos:

#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.

 

2023 NRL DALLY M AWARDS, KIWI WINNERS

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)

 

2023 NRLW DALLY M AWARDS, KIWI WINNERS

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.”

As seen on nrl.com

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.

 

2023 NRL Dally M Awards, Kiwi nominees

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)

 

2023 NRLW Dally M Awards, Kiwi nominees

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)

Rookie of the Year – Annessa Biddle (Cronulla Sharks)

Try of the Year – Leianne Tufuga (Wests Tigers)

 

Read more on nrl.com

As seen 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.

16 August 2023

Tickets for the rugby league triple-header at Eden Park are on sale now | https://bit.ly/BuyRLTickets

Tamaki Makaurau Auckland’s Eden Park will host a blockbuster rugby league triple-header between New Zealand, Samoa and Tonga on Saturday, October 21st, as part of the newly announced Pacific Championships in partnership with the NRL.

The Kiwis will face Samoa, igniting a new Pacific rivalry hot off last year’s World Cup momentum; the Kiwi Ferns will line up against Tonga, and an NZ Kiwi A team will assemble for the first time in 17 years.

Thanks to the current depth of the New Zealand talent pool, the NZ Kiwis A team will consist of current and future Kiwi-committed NRL stars who will take on a Tonga A team as the opening match of the rugby league triple-header.

“How special to bring the best players in the world back home to play in front of their communities. Without the support from Tātaki Auckland Unlimited this series wouldn’t have happened,” says NZRL CEO Greg Peters.

“We’re excited to work with Samoa to bring their rugby league heroes back home and unite fans across New Zealand and the Pacific.

“No other code can produce such a celebration of culture and passion; the atmosphere will be unmissable.”

The 2023 Pacific Championships is a two-tiered competition with six men’s teams and seven women’s teams taking part in the tournament across two pools.

Waikato’s FMG Stadium will host the Pacific Cup grand final on November 4th.

“I firmly believe the Tamaki Makaurau Auckland triple-header and Waikato final will be the biggest international rugby league events on home soil since the 2017 World Cup,” adds NZRL CEO Greg Peters.

Hamilton City Council’s General Manager of Venues, Tourism and Major Events, Sean Murray says, “We’re working hard to deliver an exceptional Pacific Championship Final at FMG Stadium Waikato. The team looks forward to passionate fans and the exposure this game will bring to our city and region.”

 

Full schedule below:

Week One – October 14-15

  • Australia v Samoa (men) and Australia v New Zealand (women) at Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville
  • PNG v Cook Islands (men) and Samoa v Fiji (women) at Santos Stadium, Port Moresby

Week Two – October 21-22

  • New Zealand v Samoa (men), New Zealand v Tonga (women), and NZ Kiwis A v Tonga A (men) at Eden Park, Auckland
  • Fiji v Cook Islands (men) and PNG v Cook Islands (women) at Santos Stadium, Port Moresby

Week Three – October 28-29

  • Australia v New Zealand (men and women) at AAMI Park, Melbourne
  • PNG v Fiji (men) at Santos Stadium, Port Moresby

Week Four – November 4-5

  • The Final of the men’s Pacific Cup tournament on November 4 in Hamilton, New Zealand
  • The Final of the men’s Pacific Bowl tournament on November 5 at Santos Stadium, Port Moresby

The Pacific Championships will be staged in 2023 and 2024, after the NRL and NRLW Premiership seasons, and will include men’s and women’s teams from Australia, New Zealand, Samoa, Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Cook Islands.

Tickets for the rugby league triple-header at Eden Park are on sale now | https://bit.ly/BuyRLTickets

 

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.”

 

As seen on nrl.com

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

The 2023 NRLW season is set to introduce a wave of talented Kiwi rookies eager to make their mark in the competition. Fans can expect thrilling performances and the emergence of future Kiwi Ferns stars as these up-and-comers embark on their NRLW journey.

 

Mele Hufanga (Broncos)

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.

 

Niall Williams-Guthrie (Titans)

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.

 

Tyla Nathan-Wong (Dragons)

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.

 

Alexis Tauaneai (Dragons)

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.

 

Abigail Roache (Knights)

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.

 

Mackenzie Wiki (Raiders)

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.

 

Laishon Albert-Jones (Knights)

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 (Sharks)

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 – https://www.titans.com.au/news/

The Gold Coast Titans are proud to announce Georgia Hale has been appointed the club’s NRLW captain for 2023.

The respected International forward has played in all five seasons of the women’s competition, starring in 19 games and has also been an important part of the Kiwi Ferns since 2015, playing 12 Tests for New Zealand.

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.”

24 May 2023

Black Ferns Sevens player Tyla Nathan-Wong is the latest New Zealand rugby star to swap codes and move across the Tasman.

New Zealand Rugby (NZR) has agreed to release Nathan-Wong from her contract at her own request to pursue an opportunity to sign for the St George Illawarra Dragons in the NRLW.

The Dragons confirmed the signing in a tweet on Wednesday: “Olympic gold medalist and rugby sevens gun Tyla Nathan-Wong is now a Dragon.”

Nathan-Wong joins fellow Sevens teammate Niall Guthrie (née Williams) and five-cap Black Fern Cheyelle Robins-Reti as new signings in the women’s rugby league competition.

Nathan-Wong has been involved in the Black Ferns Sevens programme since her debut in 2012 at the age of 18. She has been a pivotal player for the Black Ferns Sevens during this time, achieving a number of milestones on the world stage. Notably she has won two Sevens Rugby World Cups, Olympic silver and gold medals, Commonwealth Games bronze and gold medals, alongside seven Sevens World Series titles.

The 28-year-old said league has always been in her blood and the opportunity to play in the NRLW was a dream.

“I come from a big league family, so that’s where my love for league has always been,” Nathan-Wong said.

“That was my very first sport as a kid at like six years old. I was playing alongside the boys and my cousins and dad were the coaches. I’ve always had this massive love for league and followed the NRL. When the NRLW first started a few years back I was like, ‘man, that is so cool’. Obviously I was in the thick of it with the sevens programme then and been like, ‘how cool would it be to one day jump across’. Post-Tokyo Olympics that actually sprung up again and I thought this could actually be a viable option for me.

“We forecast ahead and looked at what the season would look like and there was this big break at the end of 2023. That’s the perfect opportunity to finally allow this other dream of mine to finally come to fruition and really jump in head first into it and that’s what I’ve done.”

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 seasonjoining 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.

25th January 2023

The first ever NRL Harvey Norman All Stars in New Zealand will feature Premiership and representative stars alongside some of the best up-and-coming talent in the men’s and women’s games, as the NRL today announced the teams for the showcase at Rotorua International Stadium on Saturday 11 February.

The home crowd will see Māori superstars including Joseph Manu, James Fisher-Harris, Joseph Tapine and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, up against visiting Indigenous All Stars including Latrell Mitchell, Josh Addo-Carr, Nicho Hynes and Selwyn Cobbo.

The Harvey Norman Women’s All Stars will feature Māori stars including Kennedy Cherrington, Zahara Temara and Olivia Kernick, taking on an Indigenous line-up that includes the likes of Shaylee Bent, Caitlan Johnston and Jaime Chapman.

The women’s and men’s matches will follow a curtain-raiser between the Māori and Indigenous All Stars Touch Football teams.

Tickets are available from NZD$40 for adults and NZD$85 for families via nrl.com/tickets.

 

 

Maori All Stars (Men)

Jesse Arthars

Daejarn Asi

Nelson Asofa-Solomona

Zach Dockar-Clay

James Fisher-Harris

Corey Harawira-Naera

Morgan Harper

Royce Hunt

Joseph Manu

Zane Musgrove

Briton Nikora

Hayze Perham

Adam Pompey

Jordan Rapana

Jordan Riki

Joseph Tapine

Starford Toa

Jared Waerea-Hargreaves

Dylan Walker

Dallin Watene-Zelezniak

Coach: Ben Gardiner

Indigenous All Stars (Men)

Josh Addo-Carr

Bailey Butler

Selwyn Cobbo

Tyrell Fuimaono

J’maine Hopgood

Nicho Hynes

Ryan James

Josh Kerr

Ezra Mam

Latrell Mitchell

Shaquai Mitchell

Kierran Moseley

Brent Naden

Tyrone Peachey

Tyrell Sloan

Chris Smith

Will Smith

Jamayne Taunoa-Brown

Cody Walker

Jack Wighton

Coach: Ronald Griffiths

 

 

 

Maori All Stars (Women)

Brooke Anderson

Destiny Brill

Gayle Broughton

Harata Butler

Kahu Cassidy

Kennedy Cherrington

Laikha Clarke

Zali Fay

Mya Hill-Moana

Olivia Kernick

Shannon Mato

Capri Paekau

Aaliyah Paki

Shanice Parker

Ashleigh Quinlan

Tiana Raftstrand-Smith

Jasmin Strange

Zahara Temara

Kailey Thompson

Amy Turner

Coach: Keith Hanley

 

 

Indigenous All Stars (Women)

Essay Banu

Shaylee Bent

Jaime Chapman

Bree Chester

Kirra Dibb

Quincy Dodd

Taliah Fuimaono

Tallisha Harden

Caitlan Johnston

Keilee Joseph

Bobbi Law

Mia Middleton

Sareka Mooka

Jasmine Peters

Kaitlyn Phillips

Shaniah Power

Jada Taylor

Tahlulah Tillett

Coach: Ben Jeffries

 

All Stars matches will be broadcast live on the Nine Network, Fox League, Kayo and Sky Sport NZ.

19 January 2023

Adam Blair knows from personal experience the significance of wearing the Māori jersey and wants to see a full house for the NRL Harvey Norman All Stars: Māori v Indigenous clash in Rotorua in February.

The former Kiwi and NZ Māori player and fellow former Kiwi league star, Isaac Luke, were recently announced as assistant coaches, alongside head coach Benny Gardiner, for the Māori All Stars.

Blair who hails from Te Tai Tokerau, played for 14 years in the NRL and has worn both the Kiwi and Māori jerseys says he is looking forward to returning to Rotorua, this time as assistant coach. Both he and Luke played for the Kiwis in the one-off test against Tonga in Rotorua in 2009.

“First and foremost, I’m really privileged and honoured to be named as an assistant coach. From afar, I have always wanted to be a part of it, once I had finished up playing. I’ve played a couple of times for the Māori All Stars and I really loved my time back then.

“But for me now [as an assistant coach], it is actually the most nervous I have been in a long time because it has become a reality to coach, and to coach Māori at this level is what I have always wanted to do.”

Blair is encouraging Rotorua locals to get behind the event and come support all the teams taking part, especially the Indigenous All Stars.

“It’s a great opportunity to bring this game home and display our people, our culture and what it means to us. I know the Indigenous All Stars are really excited to come over as well and experience our culture.”

New Zealand Māori Rugby League chairman John Devonshire says the Harvey Norman NRL All-Stars will “kick 2023 off in a positive light”.

The exciting clash of cultures between New Zealand Māori and the Australian Indigenous men’s and women’s teams is happening on Saturday, 11 February 2023, at the Rotorua International Stadium.

It will be the first time the event will take place outside of Australia, and Devonshire says Rotorua was the perfect location.

“You could ask any league player or supporter from Rotorua the significance of having a game like this in Rotorua. It’s a great opportunity and a game of this magnitude is good for the city.

Devonshire, whose whakapapa is Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa says the recent appointments of Blair and Luke showed that New Zealand Māori Rugby League was looking to the future.

“There are no more passionate Māori warriors than these two and they will soak it up and they will learn. The other beauty of Benny’s appointment is that they will learn from Benny and, in terms of a succession plan, they are it.”

Coaches for the Māori women’s indigenous team are Keith Hanley (Ngāpuhi) assisted by John Strange (Ngāpuhi), who was with the Sydney Roosters NRLW, and manager Stephaine Spooner (Ngāti Kahungunu).

Prior to the kick-off of the main event between the Aotearoa New Zealand Māori versus Australian Indigenous All Stars, fans will be treated to a mixed touch game between the Māori All Stars and Australian Indigenous All Stars as well as a league clash between the New Zealand Māori Women and the Australian Indigenous Women’s All Stars.

Details can be found here.

Gates open at 1.15pm and the main game kicks-off at 5.45pm. Tickets are on sale now at Ticketmaster click here.

14th December 2022 

 

Off the back of impressive international seasons and Golden Boot accolades, Joseph Manu [Kiwi #815] and Raecene McGregor [Kiwi Fern #140] have both been awarded Player of the Year for 2022. 

 

Breakout performances at debut World Cup campaigns see Dylan Brown and Brianna Clark take home the Kiwis and Kiwi Ferns Rookie of the Year awards, while an outstanding 2022 season sees Ronaldo Mulitalo [Kiwi #824] earn Kiwis Young Player of the Year. 

 

Manu ended the 2022 season solidifying his status as one of the best players in rugby league. He impressed at fullback for the Kiwis, playing out of his usual Dally M centre position, earning MVP of three out of six Kiwis’ internationals for the year. The Tokoroa star ran a world record 401 metres in the Kiwis’ mid-season Test against Tonga and ran more than 300 metres in each of his five World Cup appearances, scoring three tries.  

 

Kiwis’ Head Coach Michael Maguire says, “Joey is a special player and has made his mark as one of the best in the world. 

 

“In a year that’s seen him take home a Dally M, a Golden Boot and now the Player of the Year for his country, he’s well on his way to becoming one of the great Kiwi players.” 

 

Raecene McGregor [Kiwi Fern #140] has earned herself Kiwi Ferns Player of the Year after a spectacular 2022 season. The premier half claimed the 2022 Dally M award and the prestigious Golden Boot to cement her place as one of the best in the world. McGregor led the Kiwi Ferns to a World Cup final and scored three tries with seven try-assists and six line-breaks throughout her international season. 

 

Kiwi Ferns’ Head Coach Ricky Henry says, “Rae is one of those rare players, a leader and a playmaker who’s the best in her position. 

 

“Having her in our campaigns gave the girls a lot of confidence. Her ability to manage a game effectively and make players around her play well are special talents. She’s had a fantastic year and I can’t think of anyone more deserving.”  

 

Dylan Brown [Kiwi #826] has been named the Kiwis Rookie of the Year after an outstanding international season in the Black and White. In June, he debuted for the Kiwis in front of a sold-out Mt Smart Stadium, where he produced two try-assists, 94 metres, and 27 tackles in the 26-6 victory against Tonga. The 22-year-old went on to feature in four matches at the RLWC, scoring his first Test try against Lebanon and dotting down again in a standout individual performance in the valiant semi-final loss to Australia. 

 

Head Coach Michael Maguire says, “Dylan has had an outstanding year full of career milestones, and he’s only just getting started.  

 

“He is an integral member of our Kiwi spine alongside last year’s Player of the Year, Jahrome Hughes. As they spend more time together in the Kiwi jersey, they’re well on their way to becoming one of the strongest pairings in Test football.”  

 

Brianna Clark [Kiwi Fern #164] has taken home Kiwi Ferns Rookie of the Year after a breakout Rugby League World Cup campaign for the Kiwi Ferns.  

 

Clark was a standout, kicking seven goals across the opening two pool wins against France and Cook Islands despite starting on the bench. She came into the front row for the group-stage classic against Australia and scored a try in the semi-final defeat of England taking the Ferns to the World Cup final. 

 

Head Coach Ricky Henry says, “Bri was instrumental for us; she stood out in every game she played. 

 

“She led from the front, put her body on the line and brought energy and momentum to every play. She’s a special player and we’re lucky to have her in our squad.” 

 

Ronaldo Mulitalo [Kiwi #824] has been awarded Kiwis Junior Player of the Year, an accolade that looks at both NRL and international performance. Mulitalo flourished out wide for a burgeoning Cronulla combination in 2022, producing 30 line-breaks and scoring 17 tries in 24 games (equal-third in the NRL) as the club powered to a top-four finish. 

 

The Ellerslie Eagles junior had a stellar Test debut performance as the Kiwis prevailed 26-6 against Tonga in June. He scored on debut, made two line-breaks and ran for 147 metres. Mulitalo, widely regarded as arguably New Zealand’s No.1 winger then shone on the world cup stage, scoring tries against Ireland and Fiji, before producing a brilliant display in the Kiwis’ gallant semi-final exit, capping off an impressive year for the 22-year-old Kiwi. 

 

Head Coach Michael Maguire says, “We have an exciting group of young Kiwi players and Ronnie is a part of that special group. 

 

He’s a very proud Kiwi, and you could see the passion with which he played when he wore the Black and White jersey. If he keeps on the path he’s going, he can become one of the great wingers of our game.”  

 

New Zealand Rugby League would also like to congratulate Roko Nailolo on taking home the Kiwis Physical Disability Player of the Year.  

 

Roko was sensational at the Physical Disability Rugby League World Cup, scoring a hattrick in 12 minutes against Australia and leading the team to a World Cup final against England. He was an integral playmaker in every game and arguably the best in the competition. 

 

 

 

2022 NZRL AWARD WINNERS  

 

Kiwis Player of the Year – Joseph Manu 

Kiwi Ferns Player of the Year – Raecene McGregor 

Kiwis Physical Disability Player of the Year – Roko Nailolo 

 

Kiwis Rookie of the Year – Dylan Brown 

Kiwi Ferns Rookie of the Year – Brianna Clark  

Kiwis Young Player of the Year – Ronaldo Mulitalo  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Match Snapshot

  • The Lionesses completed 15 of 17 sets in the first half at 88 per cent. The Ferns were 14 of 21 at 66 per cent.
  • The Ferns made 177 more running metres than the Lionesses in the first half (873 to 696).
  • New Zealand topped all attacking stats in the first half – with two more line breaks and 104 more kick metres.
  • New Zealand finished the match with 15 errors, while England made nine.
  • Rugby Union convert Mele Hufanga has scored three tries for New Zealand in her first three international appearances.
  • England and New Zealand met in the semi-finals five years ago at Cronulla’s Shark Park. It was the Ferns who prevailed 52-4.
  • 7139 fans descended on LNER Community Stadium in York to watch the semi-final on Tuesday.
  • Finishing her 80-minute performance with 185 run metres, 13 tackle breaks and a line break, Mele Hufanga was named player-of-the-match.

Play of the Game

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.

What They Said

“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

1 | Apii Nicholls (Fullback)

2 | Katelyn Vahaakolo (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)

16 | Charlotte Scanlan (Interchange)

17 | Christyl Stowers (18th Woman)

3 | Autumn-Rain Stephens Daly (19th Woman)

As seen on NRL.com

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.

Match Snapshot

  • The opening minutes of the match saw the Ferns hold out the defending premiers for three consecutive sets.
  • Jillaroos halfback Ali Brigginshaw knocked the ball over the line in the 16th minute in what would have been the opening try of the match.
  •  The first half saw two powerhouse forwards go head-to-head, with Jilaroos’ Simaima Taufa and New Zealand’s Georgia Hale both topping tackles and run metres at the break.
  • Despite Australia leading in possession, New Zealand’s completion rate at half time was at 88 per cent compared to the Jillaroos 60.
  • Sydney Roosters stars Isabelle Kelly and Sam Bremner were immense for their side, both running over 160 metres with the ball.
  • Simaima Taufa and Yasmin Clydesdale made 83 tackles between them for Australia.
  • Errors proved costly for the Jillaroos, finishing the match with 16 while New Zealand had seven.
  • New Zealand prop Amber Hall was awarded player-of-the-match. The star forward finished the match with 164 run metres and 11 tackle breaks.
  • When the two teams went head-to-head in the 2017 World Cup final it was Australia who came out on top, 23-16.
  • 3,370 fans turned up to watch the Trans-Tasman clash at LNER Community Stadium in York.

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)

As seen on NRL.com

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.

Match Snapshot

  • Cook Islands lost co-captain Kimiora Breayley-Nati to a head knock inside the opening two minutes of the game.
  • Maleyna Hunapo spent 10 minutes in the sin bin after committing a professional foul following a New Zealand break.
  • Raecene McGregor sold the defence two dummies on her way to the first try 10 minutes into the game.
  • Four-pointers for Krystal Rota, and Amber Hall, one of which was converted, saw the Kiwi Ferns lead 14-0 at half-time.
  • McGregor weaved through for her second before Mele Hufanga marked her Test debut with a four-pointer.
  • Mackenzie Wiki’s try in the corner 14 minutes from time gave Cook Islands their first ever points against the Kiwi Ferns.
  • Hufanga collected her double nine minutes from time, before Broncos NRLW prop Annetta Nu’uausala crashed over for her side’s seventh try in the final minute.

Play of the Game

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.

Whey They Said

“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.  

What’s Next

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)

4 | Page McGregor (Centre)

5 | Madison Bartlett (Wing)

6 | Laishon Albert-Jones (Five Eighth)

7 | Raecene McGregor (Halfback)

8 | Mya Hill-Moana (Prop)

9 | Krystal Rota (Hooker)

10 | Annetta Claudia-Nu’uausala (Prop)

18 | Otesa Pule (Second Row)

12 | Amber-Paris Hall (Second Row)

16 | Charlotte Scanlan (Loose Forward)

14 | Nita Maynard (Interchange)

23 | Brianna Clark (Interchange)

20 | Crystal Tamarua (Interchange)

17 | Christyl Stowers (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.”

Tune in LIVE on Spark Sport at 6.00am NZT (November 7) and delayed on Three at 9.30am.

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:

1 | Apii Nicholls (Fullback)

24 | Mele Hufanga (Wing)

21 | Shanice Parker (Centre)

4 | Page McGregor (Centre)

5 | Madison Bartlett (Wing)

6 | Laishon Albert-Jones (Five Eighth)

7 | Raecene McGregor (Halfback)

8 | Mya Hill-Moana (Prop)

9 | Krystal Rota (Hooker)

10 | Annetta Claudia-Nu’uausala (Prop)

18 | Otesa Pule (Second Row)

12 | Amber-Paris Hall (Second Row)

16 | Charlotte Scanlan (Loose Forward)

14 | Nita Maynard (Interchange)

23 | Brianna Clark (Interchange)

20 | Crystal Tamarua (Interchange)

17 | Christyl Stowers (Interchange)

19 | Hailee-Jay Ormond-Maunsell (18th Woman)

22 | Karli Hansen (19th Woman)

As seen on NRL.com 

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.

Match Snapshot

  • Off the bench, Brianna Clark ran for 113 metres for New Zealand, while lock Georgia Hale was typically busy with 31 tackles and 139 metres with ball in hand.
  • France lost lock Leila Bessahli to a failed HIA 19 minutes into the match and could now miss the rest of group play under tournament head injury protocols.
  • Kiwi Ferns fullback Apii Nicholls was strong in her first Test since 2019, carrying the ball for 177 metres and scoring a try.
  • Madison Bartlett scored first after a left-side shift from the Kiwi Ferns found space on the edge.
  • Nicholls was next to score after Raecene McGregor bounced a kick off the upright, before Amber Hall powered through for New Zealand’s third.
  • Roxy Murdoch-Masila scored in the shadows of half-time, followed by a Katelyn Vaha’akolo try a minute into the second half which gave the Kiwi Ferns a 24-0 lead.
  • The next one was an all-McGregor affair, as Raecene kicked for younger sister Page who dotted down.
  • Vahaakolo and Murdoch-Masila both collected personal doubles, before Knights centre Shanice Parker scored an electric 95-metre try to stretch the final scoreline out.
  • New Zealand made 13 errors and completed just 63 percent of their sets.

What They Said

“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. 

What’s Next

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)

  • Mt Albert Lions – Rocky Nook Ave, Mt Albert
  • Mangere East Hawks – 10 Hain Ave, Mangere East

Kiwi Ferns vs Jillaroos – 11th November 8:30 am (Doors open at 8 am)

  • Mt Albert Lions – Rocky Nook Ave, Mt Albert
  • Mangere East Hawks – 10 Hain Ave, Mangere East

 

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:

1 | Apii Nicholls (Fullback)

2 | Katelyn Vahaakolo (Wing)

21 | Shanice Parker (Centre)

4 | Page McGregor (Centre)

5 | Madison Bartlett (Wing)

3 | Autumn-Rain Stephens Daly (Five Eighth)

7 | Raecene McGregor (Halfback)

8 | Mya Hill-Moana (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)

16 | Charlotte Scanlan (Interchange)

18 | Otesa Pule (Interchange)

23 | Brianna Clark (Interchange)

20 | Crystal Tamarua (18th Woman)

24 | Mele Hufanga (19th Woman)

As seen on NRL.com

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.

‘It means everything to me’

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.”

Team values in action

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.”

Performance benefits

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.

October 28, 2022

As seen on NRL.com

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.

We encourage everyone to come and support our men and women representing Aotearoa!

 

Confirmed Watch Parties:

Kiwis vs Ireland – 29th October 7:30 am (Doors open at 7 am)

  • Mt Albert Lions – Rocky Nook Ave, Mt Albert
  • Mangere East Hawks – 10 Hain Ave, Mangere East

Kiwi Ferns vs France – 3rd November 6:30 am (Doors open at 6 am)

  • Mt Albert Lions – Rocky Nook Ave, Mt Albert
  • Mangere East Hawks – 10 Hain Ave, Mangere East

Kiwi Ferns vs Jillaroos – 11th November 8:30 am (Doors open at 8 am)

  • Mt Albert Lions – Rocky Nook Ave, Mt Albert
  • Mangere East Hawks – 10 Hain Ave, Mangere East

 

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.”

Roosters prop Mya Hill-Moana offloads in an NRLW semifinal against the Broncos. Photo: Getty Images. 

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

 

 

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.

 

29 September 2022

as seen on stuff.co.nz

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.

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:

Men:

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

Women:

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.

Match Snapshot

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

Play of the Game

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

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

 

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

 

YouTube player

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Clubs: Otahuhu

Provinces: Auckland

 

New Zealand Representative:

 

1995  in Australia

1998  v Great Britain

1999  v Australia (home and away)

2000  World Cup (England)

2002  v New Zealand Māori

2003  World Cup (NZ)

2004  in Australia

 

OTHER ACHIEVEMENTS

 

World Cup team of the tournament (2003)

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

YouTube player

 

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.

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

Clubs: Te Aroha

Provinces: Wellington

 

New Zealand Representative:

 

1997  v Australia

1998  v Great Britain

1999  v Australia (home and away)

2000  World Cup (England)

2001  v Australia

2002  v New Zealand Māori

2003  World Cup (NZ)

2004  in Australia

2006  v New Zealand Māori

2008  World Cup (Australia)

2010  v Great Britain

 

OTHER ACHIEVEMENTS

 

World Cup player of the tournament (2000, 2008)

World Cup team of the tournament (2003)

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

Clubs: Richmond

Provinces: Auckland

 

New Zealand Representative:

 

1995  in Australia

1997  v Australia

1998  v Great Britain

1999  v Australia (home and away)

2000  World Cup (England)

2001  v Australia

2002  v New Zealand Māori

2003  World Cup (NZ)

2004  in Australia

2008  World Cup (Australia)

 

OTHER ACHIEVEMENTS

 

Player of the series v Great Britain (1998)

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

Captain of World Cup team of the tournament (2003)

World Cup player of the tournament (2003)

Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (2019)

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

Provinces: Auckland

 

New Zealand Representative:

 

1995  in Australia

1997  v Australia

1998  v Great Britain

1999  v Australia (home and away)

2000  World Cup (England)

2002  v New Zealand Māori

2003  World Cup (NZ)

2004  in Australia

2006  v New Zealand Māori

 

OTHER ACHIEVEMENTS

 

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

World Cup best forward (2000)

World Cup team of the tournament (2003)

June 24, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2022 NZRL LEGENDS OF LEAGUE INDUCTEES

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

Kiwi Ferns
Luisa Avaiki
Nadene Conlon
Trish Hina
Leah Witehira

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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