A number of Kiwis, Kiwi Ferns, and fellow New Zealanders are set to take the field in the NRL and NRLW Grand Finals this Sunday October 1st. The games will be played at Sydney’s Accor Stadium, featuring defending champions the Newcastle Knights women and two-time consecutive NRL Premiers, the Penrith Panthers, looking to achieve a three-peat.
NRLW Grand Final – Newcastle Knights v Gold Coast Titans, Sunday 1st October, 5:55 pm NZST
#3 Shanice Parker (Kiwi Fern #163)
#4 Abigail Roache (Kiwi Fern #168)
#11 Laishon Albert-Jones (Kiwi Fern #161)
#14 Nita Maynard (Kiwi Fern #137)
The Newcastle Knights look to defend their 2022 title and are touted as favourites to win, having only lost once during the regular season. Kiwi Ferns bolster the Newcastle side across the pitch, with Roache and Parker in the centres, Albert-Jones inside Parker at second row, and Maynard to come off the bench as a substitute hooker. The Knights secured their spot in the Grand Final after a thrilling Preliminary Final which saw them narrowly outlast the Brisbane Broncos.
Gold Coast Titans:
#4 Niall Williams-Guthrie
#13 Georgia Hale, Captain (Kiwi Fern #122)
The Gold Coast Titans women enter their first Grand Final as underdogs after finishing the 2022 competition in last place. In an outstanding turnaround, the Queensland side finished fourth on the table and then went on to beat the formidable Sydney Roosters outfit in the Preliminary Finals. Kiwi Fern veteran Georgia Hale will lead the team onto the park as they aim to win their first NRLW Premiership. Niall Williams-Guthrie will take her place in the centres after only her first season of rugby league, having made the code-switch from New Zealand rugby sevens.
NRL Grand Final – Penrith Panthers v Brisbane Broncos, Sunday 1st October, 9:30 pm NZST
#8 Moses Leota (Kiwi #827)
#10 James Fisher-Harris (Kiwi #801)
#11 Scott Sorensen (Kiwi #831)
Moses Leota and James Fisher-Harris line up as the starting props in Penrith’s daunting forward pack, while Scott Sorensen will appear on the left edge at second-row. The Panthers will look to complete the first three-peat since the Eels 1981-1983 Premierships, but were beaten by the Broncos once during the regular season. Penrith enter their fourth consecutive Grand Final, following a dominant 38-4 win over the Melbourne Storm in their Preliminary Final.
#2 Jesse Arthars
#12 Jordan Riki
Young Jesse Arthars and Jordan Riki will lace up for the Brisbane Broncos after consistently exceptional seasons. Both have been in the Broncos squad since the club’s infamous last-place season in 2020. The fiery Brisbane side has since become a force to be reckoned with, due to their powerful forward pack and explosive backs. They enter the Grand Final looking to win their first Premiership since 2006.
As seen on nrl.com
Cronulla centre Annessa Biddle has claimed the 2023 Dally M NRLW Rookie of the Year Award after a superb debut season for the Sharks.
Spotted by Sharks recruiters playing for the Otara Scorpions in the Auckland rugby league competition, Biddle began her NRLW career on the Sharks’ edge before coach Tony Herman shifted the 21-year-old to right centre due to her strength and speed.
Biddle took her game to new heights on Cronulla’s right side and went on to score two tries, lay two assists and make 26 tackle breaks in her six games at centre.
“What a season it’s been for me and I’m just so honoured and privileged to receive this award especially with the amount of outstanding rookies there were,” Biddle said.
The Kiwi rookie also finished second in the competition for post-contact metres (620), only 83 metres behind star Titans prop Shannon Mato at the end of the regular season.
Biddle was also voted by the players as the Rugby League Players’ Association NRLW Rookie of the Year earlier in the week.
The other finalists for Dally M rookie of the year were China Polata from the Cowboys and Rilee Jorgensen from the Titans.
The 2023 Dally M Awards at Sydney’s Royal Randwick racecourse saw several Kiwi men and women take home some of the most prestigious awards at the NRL level.
The NRL and NRLW Dally M Teams of the Year recognises the best player in each position across all regular season rounds. Judges regularly vote on the best player in each position throughout the year, with a further vote conducted at the end of the regular season.
Significant changes to the Dally M voting process for both the NRL and NRLW competitions were introduced for the 2023 season. This season, two independent judges each gave out votes on a 3,2,1 basis for every game, meaning players could earn a maximum of six votes per game compared to three in previous years. The decision to add a second judge to assess each game in 2023 will increase the final total of points to players, but also the level of fairness in further removing potential variances arising from a single judge voting on a game.
First-class wingers Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Jamayne Isaako were named Wingers of the Year, with Jamayne also the NRL’s top point scorer this season. Watene-Zelezniak achieved the New Zealand Warriors club record for most tries in a season, while fellow teammate Shaun Johnson rightfully earned Halfback of the Year. Johnson had an outstanding comeback season that helped his side reach the NRL Preliminary Final for the first time in 12 years. He was only beaten by 1 point to narrowly miss out on the prestigious Dally M Medal.
Having only made their NRLW debuts at the beginning of the season, Mele Hufanga and Annessa Biddle took home the Centre and Rookie of the Year awards after consistently outstanding performances week in and week out. Hufanga starred for the semi-finalist Brisbane Broncos after debuting for the Kiwi Ferns at the 2022 Rugby League World Cup. The 21-year-old Biddle also finished second in the competition for post-contact metres (620). “What a season it’s been for me and I’m just so honoured and privileged to receive this award especially with the amount of outstanding rookies there were,” Biddle said.
Winger of the Year – Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (New Zealand Warriors, Kiwi #794), Jamayne Isaako (Redcliffe Dolphins, Kiwi #808)
Halfback of the Year – Shaun Johnson (New Zealand Warriors, Kiwi #774)
Centre of the Year – Mele Hufanga (Brisbane Broncos, Kiwi Fern #166)
Rookie of the Year – Annessa Biddle (Cronulla Sharks)
For the full Team of the Year lists see here: NRL, NRLW
As seen on Sydney Morning Herald smh.com
Niall Williams-Guthrie remembers the intensity and the excitement of the 2004 NRL grand final.
She’d flown over from New Zealand to watch her 19-year-old brother, Sonny Bill Williams, play for the premiership in front of 80,000 people in just his first year in the NRL.
Nineteen years later, Williams-Guthrie is poised to experience those emotions all over again – but this time she’ll be on the field, rather than in the stands, when she runs out for the Titans in Sunday’s NRLW grand final.
“That was unreal, that was crazy [2004 final]. I remember sitting in the stands watching with all of our family, there was like 50 of us … it was a cool moment for our family,” Williams-Guthrie said.
“We said we wanted to bring gold to the Gold [Coast]. We’ve never shied away that that was our end goal, but we knew we had to tick all the boxes to get there.
“To be able to put ourselves in the position where we are only one game away from doing that is just credit to the girls and our management.”
Williams-Guthrie is playing her first season in rugby league at the age of 35, after switching from rugby sevens where she won an Olympic silver and Commonwealth Games gold and bronze for New Zealand.
“Sometimes people talk to me like I’m a seasoned veteran because I’ve played sports for so long, but I’m pretty much 9-10 games deep in my league career,” she said.
And when she needs a bit of extra advice, her brother isn’t afraid to give some feedback.
“I get voice messages from him [Sonny], the whole debrief, after every game,” she said.
The Titans have been the surprise package of the NRLW season. Karyn Murphy’s team is made up of a mix of veterans like Stephanie Hancock (41) and Karina Brown (34), and a handful of teenagers fresh out of the Titans junior pathways such as Rilee Jorgensen and Destiny Mino-Sinapati.
One thing that Williams-Guthrie has that a lot of the younger players don’t is big game experience.
“One more set, that’s all we got. The next tackle, that’s all we got right now, right here and then,” she tells them.
“You can’t go too far ahead of yourself, or you don’t stay in the moment, and you’re thinking about the grand final, but you’re missing the tackle here.
“Whether it’s a good moment or a bad moment, you learn from it and you move on to the next one, and that’s what I’ve been drilling into some of the young girls.”
Just as she flew over to support Williams 2004, her family is flying across the ditch this weekend to cheer her on.
“The club helped me to get my daughters and Tama [husband] over for the grand final, so we just had to have that faith that we were going to be in the grand final,” she said. “They’re flying in the day before, and it’s been two and a half months since I last saw them, so it’s going to be a big reunion.”
The National Rugby League (NRL) has announced the nominees for the 2023 NRL Dally M Team of the Year as well as several individual Dally M awards for the NRL Telstra Premiership.
The Dally M Awards recognise the game’s most outstanding performers from both the NRL Telstra Premiership and NRL Telstra Women’s Premiership each year, with this year’s awards to be presented on Wednesday, September 27 in Sydney.
Significant changes to the Dally M voting process for both the NRL and NRLW competitions were introduced for the 2023 season.
This season, two independent judges each gave out votes on a 3,2,1 basis for every game, meaning players were able to earn a maximum of six votes per game compared to three in previous years.
The decision to add in a second judge to assess each game in 2023 will increase the final total of points to players, but also the level of fairness in further removing potential variances that arise from a single judge voting on a game.
Any player suspended for a total of two NRL regular season games becomes ineligible to claim any Dally M award, while a one-game suspension brings with it a deduction of six points this year (compared to a deduction of three points in past seasons). Players who become ineligible for awards due to suspension are still able to pick up points in subsequent games so as not to distort the voting process throughout the regular season.
However, players who are suspended for two games will be ineligible to collect any awards, deeming Kiwi players such as Jeremy Marshall-King, Jahrome Hughes, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Marata Niukore, and Annetta-Claudia Nuuausala not available.
The NRL Dally M Team of the Year recognises the best player in each position across all rounds of the regular season. Judges vote on the best player in each position at regular intervals throughout the year with a further vote conducted at the end of the regular season.
The player who polls the highest number of votes in each position is included in the Team of the Year, while players who finish in the top three of the overall Dally M Medal leaderboard receive their respective position in the Team of the Year if available.
Winger of the Year (two winners) – Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (New Zealand Warriors), Jamayne Isaako (Redcliffe Dolphins), Ronaldo Mulitalo (Cronulla Sharks)
Halfback of the Year – Shaun Johnson (New Zealand Warriors)
Prop of the Year (two winners) – James Fisher-Harris (Panthers), Nelson Asofa-Solomona (Melbourne Storm)
Second Row of the Year (two winners) – Briton Nikora (Cronulla Sharks)
Lock of the Year – Tohu Harris (New Zealand Warriors)
Captain of the Year – Tohu Harris (New Zealand Warriors)
Rookie of the Year – William Warbrick (Melbourne Storm)
YOUI Tackle of the Year – Joseph Tapine (Canberra Raiders)
Centre of the Year (two winners) – Annessa Biddle (Cronulla Sharks), Mele Hufanga (Brisbane Broncos), Shanice Parker (Newcastle Knights)
Five-Eighth of the Year – Gayle Broughton (Brisbane Broncos)
Halfback of the Year – Raecene McGregor (St George Illawarra Dragons)
Second Row of the Year (two winners) – Otesa Pule (Sydney Roosters)
Lock of the Year – Georgia Hale (Gold Coast Titans)
Captain of the Year – Georgia Hale (Gold Coast Titans)
Try of the Year – Leianne Tufuga (Wests Tigers)
Read more on nrl.com
As seen on dragons.com
Alexis was recognised for her excellent campaign at the club’s NRLW Awards in Wollongong, earning honours of the Coach’s Award.
Young Tauaneai proved to be a workhorse middle forward early on in her rookie season averaging 148 run metres per game and making 213 tackles at 96 per cent efficiency in her seven starts before unfortunately succumbing to a season-ending knee injury.
“I got a chance to meet her this year, it took some convincing to tell her how good she was but she’s been a star on our team,” Coach Jamie Soward said of the hard-working lock.
“When I watch her play I see a leader every single week. I’ve asked her to do different things, get different stuff in her game and she’s been able to do that. She’s quickly becoming a person everyone loves to play with.”
In a season which saw 15 players make their NRLW debuts for the Red V, 18-year-old Tauaneai proved a valuable contributor to Soward’s new-look squad.
Read the full article on dragons.com
As seen on sharks.com
In her debut season at an NRL level Annessa Biddle caught the eye and earnt the respect of her coaches, teammates and many across the women’s game, with the strong running Kiwi centre/winger winning both the NRLW Players Player and the NRLW Rookie of the Year awards.
The first Sharks captain, Tiana Penitani edged out Biddle and star five eighth Emma Tonegato in taking out the major NRLW award.
The Sharks NRLW awards were presented at the Porter Gallen Medal Night, held at Doltone House in Sylvania.
Porter-Gallen Medal Night Award Winners
NRLW Players Player
NRLW Rookie of the Year
Read the full article on sharks.com
Sharks captain Tiana Penitani reckons rookie Annessa Biddle is a centre in a back rower’s body.
“She could play in the middle easily. We’re really grateful to have someone like her in our side,” Penitani said.
Biddle believes Penitani is the role model to show her the way to a successful NRLW career.
The New Zealander comes of age next week when she turns 21 – but her display in the 16-8 win over St George Illawarra on Thursday night at PointsBet Stadium might mean she’s already there.
Biddle topped her Sharks teammates with 202 metres off 15 runs, having averaged more than 153 per game this year.
“Are you serious? That far?” Biddle told NRL.com in the dressing rooms post-game.
Considering all five members of the Sharks back-five ran for 110 metres or more against the Dragons, it’s no mean feat to come out on top.
She’s played all but one game for the Sharks this year – missing Round Seven due to a one-week suspension for a dangerous tackle.
Biddle was plucked by Sharks recruiters from the Otara Scorpions in the local Auckland rugby league competition to make her debut in the NRLW in 2023.
She opened her Sharks career playing on the wing outside Penitani but was then moved by coach Tony Herman to right centre due to her strength and speed.
“So coming from a winger to centre I just look at Tiana and all that she does – her work rate, her communication.”
“I kind of aspire to do the same but then I was put on the other side so I’m trying my best to learn what I did from her into practice. She is amazing.”
“A lot of people say I could go into the forwards but I like being in the outside backs and doing the hard yards and finding ways to split the line.”
She is managing fine in that department too with 23 tackle-breaks and four line-breaks in seven games. Defensively against the Dragons she was the only Sharks outside back to reach double figures in tackles making 18 and missing just one.
“I just love gathering knowledge as much as I can – from my teammates, players from different teams, my coaches and managers. I’m so eager to learn,” Biddle said.
“I’m Auckland born-and-bred but made my way over here this year and I’m loving it. We have a great culture here. We are close on and off the field.”
“But I’m still a Kiwi girl.”
That means she has her eyes on a black-and-white Ferns jersey one day.
It could be as soon as later next month when the Jillaroos play a two-Test series against New Zealand in Townsville and then Melbourne.
“Whatever happens, happens. If it’s not my year this year then I’ll try hard again next year. My aim is to get to the Kiwi team,” she said.
Apii Nicholls knew something might’ve been wrong when her dreams turned to nightmares and took over her reality two years ago.
A quiet achiever on the field who kept out of the limelight and off social media, Nicholls stayed silent for months until after more than a year and a half of struggle, she started to speak up about what she was experiencing.
Nicholls, a police officer in New Zealand for almost six years, is also a mother of two who uses rugby league as an outlet to release any negativity in her life that can sometimes come with her day job.
The worst of it came when the Raiders fullback was forced to deal with a traumatic experience that saw her unsuccessfully try and save another person’s life.
“You think you’re the strongest person and I thought mentally I could handle anything,” Nicholls shared.
“I’ve had to do things like taser people and I don’t like it but if it means you have to protect others then it’s something you can live with, so I had become used to it.”
“But with this particular incident I really became affected mentally and I couldn’t get what happened out of my head.”
“I thought I was fine but from the next day I started seeing visuals in my dream of the person involved and I’d go to bed and re-live over and over what I had witnessed.”
“I saw the person’s face in my sleep constantly and for the first couple of months I wasn’t sleeping at all. I couldn’t watch a movie with a similar moment in it.”
“You don’t really know you need help at the time when there’s a trauma. It was hard and affects people differently.”
“It took me over 18 months to come out of that. I’m glad I got help when I did especially now with my son born after, I wanted to get myself right.”
Post-traumatic stress disorder affects people all around the world at various stages of their life and Nicholls isn’t afraid to concede it got the better of her before she sought professional advice.
Nicholls, who spent two seasons at the Warriors at the beginning of the NRLW, opted not to travel to Australia and continue her career when the COVID-19 pandemic closed borders.
Her employers were supportive of her relocating for the 2020 season but were worried around when she may have been able to return with strict restrictions in place.
It allowed her to have a two-year break and reassess her time in rugby league – a sporting journey that started in Rarotonga in the Cook Islands before she moved to New Zealand.
“Contact sport wasn’t big for women growing up in Rarotonga,” Nicholls said.
“I played netball and had dreams of becoming a Silver Fern. My biggest sports were netball, touch, soccer and volleyball. Only the men were playing rugby at the time.”
“But when I moved to New Zealand that’s when I believe they started to implement rugby sevens and put a women’s team together.”
The two-year break for Nicholls, an 11-Test veteran for the Kiwi Ferns, also enabled her to have a second child – son Felix – as the world went into lockdown.0
A little sibling for older brother Siona, who Nicholls had when she was a teenager, the pair have been the inspirations behind her return to the NRLW in the last 12 months.
Siona has followed his mum around for more than a decade as she represented her country while Felix travelled to England last year with the NZRL supporting Nicholls and motherhood during the World Cup.
“I wasn’t sure if I was going to come back after having Felix,” Nicholls said.
“I thought that I’d have my family and that was it but I really love playing.”
“It helps me, it’s like a release. It helps me mentally and physically come out of any struggles that I go through at work or home.”
“My older boy loves watching me play and he’s the real reason I’ve come back because he begged me for two years to do it.”
“I enjoy seeing him happy. I’m showing him this is a pathway if he wants to take it or he can do whatever he puts his mind to.”
For now Siona watches his mum from back home in New Zealand as she plays a big role for the Canberra Raiders in the NRLW this season.
Felix is alongside her in the nation’s capital and has ‘Nana’, Nicholls’ mother, and 27 other Raiders players as his babysitters during the week to give further support.
“Initially I wanted to go back to the Titans because I wanted to give back to them after they gave me an opportunity to return to NRLW after having Felix.”
“Obviously it did not turn out that way this year but I will forever be thankful for them.”
“Borth (Raiders coach Darrin Borthwick) contacted me and I really loved how genuine he was.”
“I didn’t have to ask much, he had it all planned with what he could help my family with and all the things a mother would need. I really appreciate the person he is and how much thought he put into having me in his team.”
It’s been a remarkable opening month for the Green Machine, who are making a big impression in the nation’s capital with the likes of Nicholls, Zahara Temara and Simaima Taufa, who have plenty of international experience, firing on all cylinders.
“It’s a very supportive and awesome group of girls,” Nicholls said.
“We’ve come together really naturally and are clicking on the field with every game we play.”
“There’s a lot we want to work on and having talented girls who are always keen to learn, we can only get better. Our start has been really good and we’re really driven to do well.”
Read more on www.nrl.com/news
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 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.”
18 May 2023
In game one of the Harvey Norman Women’s Championship, Ahi kā Aotearoa suffered their first defeat to the First Nation Gems 14-8.
The game started with a cultural salute as the First Nation Gems welcomed Ahi Kā onto the field with an indigenous welcome for their inaugural year.
The game started in a classic arm wrestle match as both teams battled in the first half for possession and territory of the field. The First Nation Gems capitalised off their first opportunity as they forced an error in Ahi Kā’s half, using this to get the first try of the game.
First Nation Gems quickly followed up with another try as they utilised the quick ruck speed they generated to catch the Ahi Kā Aotearoa team off guard to go right through the middle.
Ahi Kā found their groove as they strung together solid runs to gain excellent field position right before halftime. A lovely cut-out ball to Marewa Samson, who delivered some beautiful quick hands to put Kyla Lynch-Brown in for a try, leaving the halftime score 10-4.
Ahi Kā started the second half off firing as they managed to regather the kick restart. Great scrambling defence from the First Nation Gems robbed the NZ side of a try to even the score. Quick play of the balls and fast ruck speed would be the catalyst for the next First Nation Gems try, as the score would be 18-4 with five minutes to go.
Vice-captain Monica Samita would scoot out at dummy half to crash over the line to give Ahi Kā a fighting chance in the game with three minutes to go. With the one minute left and NZ desperately trying to create opportunities, a shift on the final tackle put Marewa Samson in space, who would offload to Kyla Lynch-Brown, who managed to run 30 metres before she got run down by some great scrambling defence from the First Nation Gems to close the game out 14-8.
The Harvey Norman Women’s Championship in the Gold Coast kicks off today as Ahi Kā Aoteroa takes on the First Nation Gems at Pizzey Park at 2.30 pm (NZT).
Coach Frank Fuimaono has named a strong team to kick-start the competition announcing 2022 NZ Clubs representative Summer Van Gelder as captain for the 2023 campaign.
Along with the Ahi Kā Aotearoa squad, several NZ girls are also competing today, as Alexis Tauaenai and Tatiana Finau, who were both a part of the 2022 NZ Clubs team, are playing for the NSW City squad. Keep an eye out for them throughout this week’s tournament.
Today’s game is streamed live on NRL.com
Ahi Kā Aotearoa vs First Nation Gems
Pizzey Park, Gold Coast
11 May 2023
New Zealand Rugby League is pleased to announce that the following players have been selected to represent the inaugural Ahi Kā Aotearoa in the Harvey Norman Women’s Championship in the Gold Coast from 18 May – 21 May.
The Ahi Kā Aotearoa squad comprises players selected from last year’s inaugural National Girls’ Youth Tournament, who participated in the ‘RISE’ Talent Development Programme delivered in partnership with the NRL earlier in the year.
An experienced management team accompanies the players to the Gold Coast, with former Kiwi Fern players Ake Pereira and Kath Keremete on board as an Assistant Coach and Trainer. Head Trainer Shannon Maclachlan was involved in the most recent Kiwi Ferns’ World Cup campaign, and team manager Mel Tukapua has previously managed NZ16s and NZ18s teams.
NZRL congratulates the following players:
Ahi Kā Aotearoa schedule
Ahi Kā Aotearoa vs First Nation’s Gems – 2.30pm NZT
Ahi Kā Aotearoa vs Qld Ruby’s – 1.30pm NZT
Ahi Kā Aotearoa vs NSW Country Women – 2.30pm NZT
Follow NZRL’s social channels to keep up with their journey throughout the competition.
As seen on www.stuff.co.nz
When sisters Raecene and Page McGregor played against each other in round three of the NRLW last year, they put family ties to one side. Winning was all that mattered.
This year, the Kiwi Ferns representatives finally get to combine forces, after Raecene signed with the Dragons for the 2023 season, joining sister Page at the club with which she debuted back in 2018.
“I spoke about it with my old coach from the Roosters, Strangey [John Strange] about moving over to the Dragons, just wanting to play with my sister. It was a big chat there, it wasn’t something that I took lightly,” Raecene said.
No-one is more excited about Raecene’s switch than Page, who is 18 months younger than Raecene and preparing for her second year in the NRLW.
“We haven’t gotten to play week-in, week-out together since we were little. We played soccer together, we played touch [football] together, and then we went our separate ways. I went rugby and she went to league, and now that I’ve come back across [to league] I’m super stoked that she’s decided to put the Red V on for the season.”
Raecene, the 2022 Dally M Medal winner and 2022 World Cup Golden Boot recipient, is a massive signing for the Dragons who have a squad full of up-and-coming players in 2023.
“That’s why I’m just glad to have her on board, because I’ve always looked up to her,” Page said. “Having her in the same team now, I’m going to be drawing from her.
“Her knowledge, starting from 2018 to where she is now, she’s only getting better and stronger [mentally] so it’s going to help me and the rest of us young girls. We’re definitely going to be looking up to Rae, and I just can’t wait to start training.”
27 April 2023
New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) is proud to announce that its inaugural Ahi kā Aotearoa under-19s girls team will compete in the Australian Harvey Norman Women’s National Championship in May.
NZRL will select 20 players to represent Ahi kā Aotearoa off the back of the successful ‘RISE’ Talent Development Programme delivered in partnership with the NRL earlier in the year. The RISE programme better prepares young players for the rigours of high-performance environments such as the NRLW, targeting female players aged 17-19.
The formation of Ahi kā Aotearoa follows a successful year of female participation in the rangatahi age group here in NZ, which saw the introduction of the first National 16 & 18 Girls 9s Tournament, National Secondary Schools Girls Tournament, National Youth Tournament and the first National Representative fixtures for 16s & 18s Girls age groups.
The Harvey Norman Women’s National Championship is an elite pathways tournament allowing players across Australia and now New Zealand to showcase their skills in the representative arena.
The tournament consists of 12 teams split into three pools across a four-day draw held in Pizzey Park, Burleigh, from May 18. Ahi kā Aotearoa will be one of three teams alongside NSW and Queensland that feature under-19s talent only, with the remaining nine sides set to be a mix of 19s and open players.
GM of High-Performance and Football at NZRL Motu Tony says, “This is a really exciting opportunity for our young NZ wāhine to showcase their skills across the Tasman, which will hopefully lead to the NRLW and the Kiwi Ferns.
“Thank you to the NRL for extending this invitation, this is an important aspect in the development of female rugby league in New Zealand. I look forward to seeing our game (female) maintain its tremendous growth.”
A tournament draw and squad lists will be released in early May. Entry to the event is free across all four days.
15 March 2023
The New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) is proud to announce the ‘RISE’ Talent Development Programme, in partnership with the NRL, will now be delivered in New Zealand to young aspiring wāhine players.
The NRL’s RISE programme, which has been highly successful across Australia, aims to better prepare young players for the rigours of high-performance environments such as the NRLW, targeting female players aged 17-19 years of age.
The programme enhances skills, teaches the fundamentals of strength & conditioning, and emphasises the importance of player wellbeing.
The NRL extended the invitation following a successful year of female participation in the rangatahi age group here in New Zealand.
2022 saw the introduction of the first National 16 & 18 Girls 9s Tournament, National Secondary Schools Girls Tournament, National Youth Tournament and the first National Representative fixtures for 16s & 18s Girls age groups.
With the NRLW growing from six to 10 teams in 2023, female players have more opportunities to be recognised and establish themselves as elite athletes.
The RISE programme is the next step for young aspiring Kiwi players to become NRLW players and future Kiwi Ferns.
GM of High-Performance for NZRL Motu Tony says, “Thank you to the NRL for inviting our New Zealand players to participate in such a successful programme.
“It’s exciting that our young wāhine will get to experience the benefits of RISE, which will aid their growth and development into future elite athletes.
“Our women’s game has experienced incredible momentum over the past couple of years, and we look forward to seeing this continue as more development opportunities are made available to our rangatahi across Aotearoa.”
August 19, 2022
When the Parramatta Eels and Sydney Roosters open the NRLW season this Saturday, experienced referee Rochelle Tamarua will fulfil a lifelong dream as she takes the touchline. Auckland-born and raised – Tamarua has been one of the game’s elite officials in New Zealand for the past decade, and she intends to use this opportunity as a stepping stone to further her career.
The Cook Island native first picked up the whistle at age ten, refereeing local touch games and competitions. In 2012 whilst attending Auckland Girls Grammar, she took up rugby league and fell in love with the game finding herself adjudicating Holden Cup touchlines only three years later.
Her rise through the refereeing ranks saw her officiate at the NRL 9’s in 2015 and International Test matches between the Kiwi Ferns and Jillaroos (2015 – 2017) while also being the first female to referee in the Fox Premiership.
“I was finding my feet and gaining momentum.” Rochelle added, “The early years shaped and prepared me for this moment. It was such an experience being on the team in the 20s and International Test windows, but I always had the NRL and NRLW on my mind.”
During this window, Tamarua found herself in a position where she had to give up the whistle for a year.
“I had a lot of momentum going into 2017, but the pressures of life forced me to make a decision. I owned a restaurant and was courier driving throughout the week, coupled with the frequent refereeing appointments in Sydney and weekend games. Unfortunately, I had to put the whistle down for some time.”
“When I picked up refereeing again in 2018, the landscape I had known shifted. I had to start again, from touchlines to refereeing junior grades, but I knew what I wanted and kept pushing towards that.”
Rochelle was dedicated to positioning herself firmly in the NRLW scene and worked her way back up to the top level. Returning to the Fox premiership after her hiatus, it wasn’t until this year that her career took off exponentially.
Starting the 2022 calendar year refereeing the NZRL Women’s Premiership and National 20’s Competition. NZRL then flew her to Australia to officiate the NRL National Women’s Championship in Australia, which ran from the 9th to the 12th of June, of which she refereed the final. The following month she returned to Australia, this time in Queensland, as she officiated in the National Schoolboy Championship and the 15As finale.
At the conclusion of the Schoolboy Championship, the NRLW came knocking and for Rochelle, it was the culmination of all the hard work she had put in to get back to this point.
“It was a hard road to get back here, but when I saw the squad list for the NRLW officials, I felt it was all worth it. I told myself I would make it to this point, and after seven years of challenges and disappointments, it feels like a full circle moment.”
Rochelle added, “I wouldn’t be here if it were not for the support systems around me. Organisations like Auckland Rugby League (ARL), New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL), Auckland Rugby League Referees Association (ARLRA) and the many family and friends I had allowed me to achieve my dream.
“I hope this inspires young Māori and Pasifika girls to chase their sporting dreams – whether it is playing or adjudicating.”
NZRL Referees Manager Alan Caddy said, “New Zealand Rugby League are extremely proud of Rochelle’s inclusion into this year’s NRLW Match Official Squad.
“Rochelle has dedicated herself to years of hard work and persistence with help from organisations such as the ARLRA, NRL, NSWRL and NZRL.
“Rochelle will no doubt look to make the best of this opportunity, and her recent success shows there is a pathway for future referees in New Zealand.”
CEO of ARL Rebecca Russell also added, “ARL are extremely proud of Rochelle’s continued achievements in rugby league. Her efforts and continual hard work have been well rewarded with this opportunity. As she steps into this next challenge, we look forward to seeing Rochelle continue her journey as a pathfinder for female and New Zealand referees.”
Catch Rochelle, and all the NRLW action live on Sky Sport 4!
April 14 2022
New Zealand Rugby League is proud to announce an NRLW Merit team for 2022 after a stellar rugby league season.
Kiwi Fern talent such as Madison Bartlett, Raecene McGregor, Mya Hill-Moana and Leianne Tufuga were all on display, showcasing our wāhine on the biggest stage. This NRLW campaign saw plenty New Zealand talent shine as household names in their respective rugby league clubs.
These players were selected on their form throughout the NRLW season.
18-year-old Titan Hailee-Jay Maunsell is named out the back as Leianne Tufuga, and the top try scorer in the competition’s history, Madi Bartlett, complete the back three. Dragons Page McGregor joins the explosive Katelyn Vaha’akolo, while in the halves, Raecene McGregor is partnered with the exciting young talent of Autumn-Rain Stephens-Daly.
Young bulldozer Mya Hill-Moana is partnered in the middle by the class experience of Annetta-Claudi Nu’uausala and Georgia Hale while wrecking ball Amber Hall and Knights Charlotte Scanlan see themselves on the edges. Parramatta playmaker and experienced Kiwi Fern Nita Maynard slots into the team as the hooker.
NRLW NEW ZEALAND MERIT TEAM