As seen on nrl.com

The Titans have picked up former Kiwi Ferns front-rower Ngatokotoru Arakua. Arakua, who has previously played for the Broncos, Dragons and Knights, sat out the 2022 and 2023 NRL Telstra Women’s Premiership seasons but has been a strong performer in Queensland’s BMD Premiership in recent times.

The Raiders also 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.

Joining her at the Canberra club is former Kiwi Ferns wider squad member Kerihitina Matua whose contract was extended for the 2024 season.

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

This Saturday 27 April the Grand Finals for the UNE Harold Matthews Cup and Westpac Lisa Fiaola Cup will take place at CommBank Stadium in Sydney. A number of young talented Kiwi players will be taking the field for the Under-17s Warriors and the Under-17s Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs women in their respective finals.

 

Westpac Lisa Fiaola Cup Grand Final: Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs v Wests Tigers 12:30PM

UNE Harold Matthews Cup Grand Final: New Zealand Warriors v Western Suburbs Magpies 2:00PM

Watch the action live on nswrl.tv.

 

UNE Harold Matthews Cup:

They stunned Parramatta and now the One New Zealand Warriors’ Harold Matthews Cup side has shocked minor premier Canterbury Bankstown in their semi-final to reach the under-17 competition’s grand final, the first time the club has had a team in a premiership decider since 2014.

The TJ Ashford-coached Warriors held on for a gritty 12-10 victory over the Bulldogs at Henson Park today to add yet another chapter to their fairytale debut campaign in the renowned pathways competition. Tries by Kairus Booth and Lennox Tuiloma secured the victory for the Warriors, as well as a successful conversion and penalty from Booth.

South Island Scorpion Booth featured in the 2023 Aotearoa Whaanui boys team while Tuiloma played in the National Secondary Schools boys team after winning the NZRL NZSS Boys Premiership with St. Thomas of Canterbury College.

Click here to see the Warriors Harold Matthews Cup team list.

 

Westpac Lisa Fiaola Cup:

The semi-final game between Canterbury-Bankstown and Newcastle ended with the Bulldogs extending their undefeated streak to nine matches, coming away with a 22-4 win in which Auckland’s Evelyn Roberts and Seriah Palepale crossed for a try each. The duo played alongside each other in the 2023 National Secondary Schools girls team.

The Bulldogs side is further bolstered by several young Kiwi wāhine who made the move over the ditch including Lahnayah Daniel, Mary-Jane Taito, Paige Tauaneai, Trinity Tauaneai, Josinah Filisi Tauiliili, and Giovanna Suani. At the 2023 National Girls Youth Tournament Taito was the 16s Tournament MVP and captain of the champion Counties Manukau team.

 

Best of luck to all our rangatahi hitting the field this weekend, live stream the Grand Final games on nswrl.tv.

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

As seen on cowboys.com

The 10 Test match Kiwi David Faiumu will join Kiwi Ferns head coach Ricky Henry as an assistant coach for the 2024 NRLW season. Faiumu spent the previous two years working under Henry as an assistant coach for the Kiwi Ferns, including for their historic 12-6 victory over Australia in last year’s Pacific Championships.

An International in his own right, Faiumu made 10 appearances for the Kiwis, including the 2005 Tri-Nations grand final triumph over Australia.

David Faiumu appeared in the first grand final in North Queensland Toyota Cowboys history as a player in 2005, he’ll now be attempting to guide the Cowboys to premiership glory as a coach.

Faiumu, Cowboys NRL player No.162, appeared in 76 NRL games for the Cowboys between 2004-2008 before relocating to England where he compiled a glittering 162-game stint with Huddersfield in the UK Super League.

Following his playing retirement in 2014, Faiumu moved into a development role with Huddersfield before returning to Australia. He has had a long association with the CQ Capras based in Rockhampton, including three seasons as Queensland Cup Head Coach and stints in operational roles within the football department.

Aside from his role with the Cowboys, Faiumu will also join the staff at Kirwan State High School, working as a programs coordinator and in youth wellbeing.

Faiumu will be one of two assistant coaches working under Henry, joining Alicia-Kate Hawke.

“It’s fantastic to be able to bring back an ex-Cowboy, who contributed so much to the club as a player, to be part of our NRLW coaching staff,” Head of NRLW and Women’s Elite Pathways Anita Creenaune said.

“David’s experience as a player, coaching resume and importantly, knowledge of our club and what we stand for, made him a clear top candidate to complete our coaching staff.

“All our coaching staff, including David, have made enormous sacrifices, uprooting their lives and in some cases leaving their family behind to be a part of our club and help guide our NRLW players. We believe we have assembled a staff who will give us the best opportunity to perform on the field and also to guide our players in their off-field lives.”

Read more on cowboys.com

As seen on nrl.com

The Roosters have landed US Rugby 7s representative Liz Tafuna for the upcoming 2024 season.

Spotted by recruits at the NRL’s Talent Combine in Las Vegas earlier this year, the 21-year-old is in line to become the first American to play in the NRLW after signing with the Roosters.

Born in New Zealand, Tafuna began playing rugby union after her family moved to Utah and has represented the US in sevens and the 15-aside version of the code.

Relocating to Australia for the NRLW pre-season commencing in June, coach John Strange said expects Tafuna to have a big impact on the 2024 competition.

“Liz stood out to me with her speed, footwork, ball skills and toughness and I believe that she has the physical attributes to play our game at the highest level,” Strange said.

“Most importantly, Liz has demonstrated a huge desire to test herself in the NRLW and I have no doubt that with hard work, she can have a great impact on this year’s NRLW competition.”

She will join a number of fellow Kiwi wāhine including Amber-Paris Hall, Mya Hill-Moana, Otesa Pule, and Tiana Davison at the Sydney Roosters.

Read more on nrl.com

Off the back of Ahi Kā Aotearoa’s recent campaign in the Harvey Norman Women’s National Championships, Sharnyze Pihema was named the joint Player of the Tournament and recipient of the Tahnee Norris Medal.

Teammate Monica Samita was named alongside her in the Tournament Team. Their selection was hard-earned with the Championships being an elite pathway tournament, where players from across Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, and Papua New Guinea showcase their skills in the representative arena.

The Ahi Kā Aotearoa squad was selected from the successful ‘RISE’ Talent Development Programme. In partnership with the NRL, the RISE programme was delivered earlier this year across multiple sessions around the country. RISE aims to better prepare young players for the rigours of high-performance environments such as the NRLW, targeting female players aged 17-21.

Pihema shared, “Coming through the RISE programme, I feel it was beneficial not only for me but the other ladies as well… it showed us how much the game is growing and how important it is to keep the programme up for generations to come.

“Hopefully over the next few years, the programmes in New Zealand will continue to develop further than where they are now.”

Pihema co-captained the young Ahi Kā side in their successful 2024 campaign, which saw them win two matches despite being an under-21 squad playing against open women’s representative teams.

The 19-year-old hails from Manurewa in South Auckland with roots tying her to Ngā Puhi, Ngāti Kahungunu, and Samoa.

Reflecting on the moment she was awarded the MVP title Pihema said, “It was a massive shock to me, I didn’t expect my name to be called for MVP as there were many players that I thought were more worthy of the award. I was honoured and privileged to be that player”.

In humble fashion, the lock did not mention her formidable ball-running, reliable defence, and overall outstanding physicality and athleticism which earned her the MVP title.

Pihema got her first taste of rugby league in intermediate before becoming a Manurewa Marlins junior. Throughout her younger years, she participated in the New Zealand Māori Rugby League Rangatahi Kōtiro tournaments, represented the Auckland Vulcans in the National Youth Tournament, and featured in the New Zealand Secondary Schools team.

“It was tough to move up grades as the competition was getting harder each time, but I now understand that if I didn’t continue to move up, I wouldn’t be where I am now.

“My mother has supported me and my footy dreams since the day I picked up a rugby ball. No matter how difficult life was, she always managed to make time for my games and trainings.”

The young athlete’s years of dedication and training saw her earn selection for the NSWRL Manly Sea Eagles under-18s Tarsha Gale Cup team, in 2023.

“Playing in the Tarsha Gale competition was a good opportunity for me to see what the level of footy is like going forward.

“My advice to young girls wanting to pursue league would be to always take every opportunity you get. If you’re asked to go to a training with the top side, go. If you’ve been invited to a program to develop your skills, go. If your mate asks you to go run some extras before or after training, go.”

Her teammate 20-year-old Monica Samita also impressed on the Championship stage to rightfully earn her place in the Tournament Team. The skilful hooker is no stranger to elite-level football, as a returnee to the team from their inaugural campaign in 2023.

Samita shared, “I had a lot of expectations to help my teammates by helping with preparation for this competition and sharing my experience, but I also learnt a lot from my teammates.

“This year I enjoyed the team culture we had, getting to meet new people and run alongside them doing what we love.”

Not only was Otahuhu Leopards junior one of the most experienced in the squad, but also one of the most accomplished. In 2022 Samita was part of the winning Akarana Falcons team at the National Youth Tournament, then the New Zealand Resident Clubs team. She made her international debut for the Tonga National Women’s team later that year as one of the youngest in the squad.

Most recently, in 2023 Samita was selected for the first-ever Ahi Kā team before joining the runner-up Akarana Falcons Sky Sport Women’s Premiership side. In November, she earned her second international Test cap with the Tonga Women’s team in the Pacific Championships Eden Park triple-header.

“Over the years I’ve learnt a lot of lessons and taken a lot of losses, to become a better player and improve my performance as an athlete. I’m very grateful for the opportunities that I’ve been given, but there is still a lot of improvement to do for me to become the player that I aspire to be.”

Samita credited her remarkable football success to hard work, and the support of her family and coaches, sharing, “‘Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.’ This is something I always fall back on and have always been reminded of when I’ve felt like giving up and quitting.

“My parents have always supported me, especially my dad who has shown dedication and made countless sacrifices throughout the years. My previous coaches have all supported me…without their experience and knowledge I wouldn’t be half the player I am today.”

The achievements of the Ahi Kā Aotearoa team, Pihema, and Samita, are testament to the high calibre of local talent that has been fostered through the growing grassroots and domestic representative pathways.

Samita shared, “Look at the likes of Mele Hufanga, Krystal Rota, Mya Hill-Moana and so many more New Zealand women who have gone through the same pathways as us to get to where they are [in the NRLW].

“My ultimate football goal is to one day become an NRLW player for the Warriors, and to be able to put on the Black and White jersey one day.”

Her captain Pihema said, “My biggest footy goal is to make the NRLW but with that comes my mother. I want my mother to be able to be there the day I debut in my first game.”

There is no shortage of young New Zealand girls who, like Samita and Pihema, have dreams of playing in the NRLW and donning the Black and White jersey. Dreams of playing in the NRLW are much closer to home now, with the Warriors confirming an NRLW team for the 2025 season.

Sharnyze Pihema and Monica Samita are just a small reflection of the highly talented upcoming generation of female rugby league footballers in New Zealand, who we will undoubtedly see playing in the NRLW and Kiwi Ferns one day.

As seen on warriors.kiwi

In a major boost for New Zealand rugby league, the One New Zealand Warriors will return to the NRLW in 2025 after a five-year absence.

The Australian Rugby League Commission today announced their inclusion as one of two clubs to be added to an expanded 12-team competition in 2025.

While the draw is yet to be confirmed, the likely structure will include an eight-week preseason, an 11-round regular season and a two-week finals series.

“It’s obviously extremely exciting, not just for our club but for women’s rugby league in New Zealand,” said One New Zealand Warriors CEO Cameron George.

“Our fans have eagerly awaited the return of their side to the NRLW stage. We saw that excitement pre-Covid and now, after plenty of work, we’re finally ready to go again.”

Work behind the scenes on both the logistics and resourcing necessary to successfully re-enter the competition has been going on since the club officially returned to Go Media Stadium after the 2022 season.

Though major appointments like a head coach and marquee players were yet to be made, George said the green light from the NRL meant the club could now make moves.

“We were a big part of the competition before and we’ve been working hard to get back in ever since.”

George said the Warriors’ legacy in the NRLW serves as a testament to their commitment to women’s rugby league and a desire to reclaim their position at the forefront of the sport.

The Warriors appointed leading New Zealand rugby league administrator Nadene Conlon as the club’s NRLW academy manager more than a year ago to create a development and pathways programme ahead of a planned return to the competition.

“There has been a lot of work going on behind the scenes to make this possible,” said the former Kiwi Ferns captain.

“Now we can push on and set about bringing a team together for our re-entry into the NRLW next year.

“We’re delighted it has come to fruition. The number of women playing the game in New Zealand has been growing so much and now the dream of representing the Warriors is becoming a reality.”

The Warriors were one of four foundation clubs alongside Brisbane, St George Illawarra and the Sydney Roosters when the NRLW was launched in 2018; they played in the competition for the first three seasons before the Covid pandemic’s impact forced them to withdraw.

Krystal Rota, a member of the Warriors’ inaugural NRLW team, shared her excitement about the club’s return.

“It’s so exciting. I remember that feeling of pulling on the Warriors jumper for the first time. It was so special, it’s every kid’s dream if you grow up playing rugby league in Aotearoa,” she said.

Rota’s journey exemplifies the significance of the NRLW in providing a pathway for local talent to shine on the international stage.

Reflecting on the impact of Covid on women’s rugby league in New Zealand, Rota felt there was now an opportunity to lure some lost talent back home.

“Covid forced so much of our local talent offshore, including myself. I went to Newcastle because there was no pathway here so I have no doubt this announcement will lure some of those ladies back.”

The Warriors’ return to the NRLW promises to reignite the passion for the sport among players and fans alike, providing an invaluable opportunity for homegrown talent to showcase their skills in the famed Warriors strip.

With further details set to be announced soon, the stage is set for the Warriors to embark on a new chapter in their NRLW journey.

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

Māori-Tongan US Rugby 7s representative Liz Tafuna is set to fulfil an NRLW dream after club bosses witnessed first hand the talent in North America during their visit to Las Vegas for the historic season opener.

Tafuna told NRL.com that she wanted to play in the NRLW and Canberra CEO Don Furner spoke to her about joining the Raiders at the NRL Combine ahead of the Round 1 Las Vegas double-header.

Tafuna is likely to become the first American to play in the NRLW after Furner revealed he had already discussed signing her with Raiders coach Darrin Borthwick.

Liz Tafuna was only introduced to league as a fill in player but after winning a place in the team of the tournament the USA rugby union representative now has her sights set on playing in the NRLW.

Tafuna, who was among the North American athletes selected to compete at the NRL’s talent combine in Las Vegas ahead of the historic season opening double-header, had never played league or union before moving to Utah.

Initially having to tell her reluctant Māori mother and Tongan father that she was playing basketball, the then 14-year-old was unable to maintain the secret for long as Tafuna’s natural talents led to representative opportunities.

Since then, Tafuna has played for the USA in both Rugby Sevens and the 15-aside code.

She was also offered a place in the Black Ferns Sevens development squad, where she trained alongside dual code stars Niall Williams-Guthrie and Tyla Nathan-Wong in 2022 and discovered her passion for league.

With New Zealand’s best rugby league players representing the Kiwi Ferns at the World Cup in England, Tafuna was approached to represent her Māori heritage in the annual Tuakana tournament in Rotorua and was an instant hit.

“Someone reached out to me through social media and said ‘I heard you’re in New Zealand’. They needed players at the last minute because a lot of their players had gone to play at the World Cup,” Tafuna told NRL.com.

“I said I’ve watched league, but I don’t know how to play it so if you guys are keen on just teaching me the basics and being patient with me, I’m down to do it because I just want to run around and have a hit-out.

“I told them that I might not know much but I do know how to run hard and I do know how to hit hard, so if you just put me on the wing, I’m sure I can do fine.

“At the end of the tournament they named me for the all-tournament team, which was really cool because it was my first time playing rugby league.”

However, Tafuna is determined it wasn’t her last and is hoping to be one of two female athletes selected at the NFL-style combine to travel to Australia to train with an elite team and try to earn an NRLW contract.

After a day of physical and skills testing run by NRL GM of Elite Pathways, Brad Donald, and Head of Elite Female Performance, Simon Buxton, four successful male and female athletes will be announced at Allegiant Stadium during the double-header.

“A lot of people say to me ‘you should try league, you should go to the NRLW’,” Tafuna said.

“I was like, ‘no, I want to finish everything that I want to do in rugby sevens and 15s because I’ve just committed so much to it, but then, when I played league, I loved it.

“I’ve been watching a lot of the games. I watched the All Stars, I was rooting for the Māori girls. I have also met a lot of players through social media too, or at the Tuakana tournament.

“I met Kenzie Wiki, who plays for Canberra, and then after being with the New Zealand 7s development girls and seeing all the players moving over, like Niall and Tyla, it made me think about it even more.

“I am just loving what the NRL is doing with the women’s game over there and it’s hard to ignore the opportunities. I don’t see a lot of other sports that are growing as fast and that really appeals to me.”

Born in New Zealand, Tafuna has a large family in United and she would regularly move between the two countries with her parents and four brothers until they decided to settle in Utah.

“I didn’t start playing rugby until I had come to the United States, and I was already in high school at that point, just because my parents never wanted me to play,” she said.

“I would say I was going to practice basketball at the park, but by the park was actually this rugby team that was in my area, so I’d go there in my basketball shoes and with a basketball in hand but then I’d go run with the footy team.

“I love running those high lines and I’ve got a little bit of a right step whack, and a little bit of speed too. I like the contact of tackling.

“I enjoyed rugby union 15s because of the contact but I love sevens more just because I like the space and a little bit of a flair that you can have there, so what I loved about league so much was that it is like a combination of the two.”

With the possibility of the first North American players in this year’s NRLW and North Queensland Cowboys captain Tallisha Harden keen to help USA qualify for the next World Cup, Tafuna believes the game in the United States is set to grow.

“There are mean athletes here, there are so many great athletes who have a thirst for it, but they just need to be coached properly,” Tafuna said.

“In the States, everyone thinks it’s here or bust. They don’t realise there are other leagues.

“If girls go over there to be a part of the NRLW and can then bring those gifts and things that they’ve learned back here to the States, it would show the opportunities that exist.

“I think that could be the start of something great too.”

Read more on nrl.com

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.

15 March 2024

New Zealand Rugby League is pleased to announce that the following players have been selected for the Ahi Kā Aotearoa travelling squad, to compete in the Harvey Norman Women’s Championship in the Gold Coast from 21 – 24 March.

Following a successful inaugural campaign in 2023, the team returns to the Championship with a squad of under-21s wāhine selected to represent New Zealand Rugby League, off the back of the successful ‘RISE’ Talent Development Programme.

In partnership with the NRL, the yearly RISE programme saw an expansion from 2023. Previously only delivered in Auckland, earlier this year the programme was delivered across multiple sessions in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch.

RISE aims to better prepare young players for the rigours of high-performance environments such as the NRLW, targeting female players aged 17-21.

The Harvey Norman Women’s National Championship is an elite pathways tournament, allowing players from across Australia and New Zealand to showcase their skills in the representative arena.

The tournament consists of teams split into three grades across a four-day draw held in Pizzey Park, Gold Coast from March 21. Ahi Kā Aotearoa will play four games, facing the New South Wales City, Northern Territory, and Western Australia representative teams in their grade.

NZRL Head of Women’s Rugby League Luisa Avaiki says, “It is exciting to have a New Zealand team in the Championships again, what an amazing opportunity for our young wāhine to showcase their talent at an elite tournament.

“This is important for the development of female rugby league in New Zealand, and will hopefully lead to opportunities for girls in the NRLW and Kiwi Ferns. I look forward to seeing our female rugby league continue growing.”

Entry to the event is free across all four days and games will be live-streamed on the NRLW YouTube channel.

 

NZRL congratulates the following players:

Amarnee Shepherd Waikato
Christabelle Onesemo Auckland
Demielle Onesemo Auckland
Ella Bussey-Timo Canterbury
Henilietta Lokotui Auckland
Kaya Whaitiri-Dee Hawkes Bay
Kyla Lynch-Brown Canterbury
Madi Odering Canterbury
Manea-Faith Waaka Canterbury
Marewa Samson Waikato
Michaela Poimatagi-Matautia Auckland
Monica Samita Auckland
Monika Fakaosilea Auckland
Paris Pickering Auckland
Pearl Tuitama Auckland
Sade Schaumkel Auckland
Shaniah Lui Auckland
Sharnyze Pihema Auckland
Tamara Ruaporo-Ngatuakana Wellington
Tiana Thomson Auckland

 

Coach George Carmont Auckland
Assistant Coach Ake Pereira Wellington
Manager Mel Tukapua Canterbury
Head Trainer Shannon Maclachlan Wanaka
Assistant Trainer Jimmy Matson Tauranga
Physio Melissa Falani Gold Coast

 

Ahi Kā Aotearoa Schedule:

Thursday 21 March: Ahi Kā Aotearoa v New South Wales City – 12:30pm NZT

Friday 22 March: Ahi Kā Aotearoa v Northern Territory – 1:30pm NZT

Saturday 23 March: Ahi Kā Aotearoa v Western Australia – 1:30pm NZT

Sunday 24 March: Ahi Kā Aotearoa v TBC – TBC

 

Follow NZRL’s social channels to keep up with their journey throughout the tournament.

As seen on broncos.com

New Zealand rugby legend, Stacey Waaka has made the promising switch in codes from Rugby Union to Rugby League where she will join the Brisbane Broncos NRLW squad.

Waaka already flaunts an impressive resume during her time representing the New Zealand international rugby team, achieving gold in two world cups, the 2020 Olympic Games, the 2018 Commonwealth Games and the 2018 Sevens World Cup.

Now the 28-year-old is looking to take her talents to Brisbane, with the eventual goal of taking out the top spot in yet another competition.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about joining the broncos family this season, because I know the success they’ve had in the past, but I’m also so thrilled about this new and exciting opportunity.” Waaka told the club.

“I know I’ll get the best support from this club during the year to help with the switch once I join the Broncos post Olympics.

“I’ve watched this team with a lot of interest from afar, especially with my good mate Gayle (Broughton) in the squad who has excelled so highly since switching codes.

“She (Broughton) alongside other former rugby teammates have all inspired me to take up this new sport but I’m really looking forward to new friendships/connections, more personal growth on and off the pitch…”

Head Coach of the Broncos NRLW squad, Scott Prince, is enthused to strengthen the depth of his squad with yet another esteemed signing.

“It’s very exciting for someone of her calibre to join the ranks of the NRLW program. Her record speaks for itself. I’m looking forward to seeing what she’ll produce on a league field,” said Prince.

“She’s the type of player that will prove that you can make the switch from Union to League.

“She’ll make an impact with high-flying strong runs. She’s an excitement machine along the edge.

“They don’t call her the smiling assassin for nothing.”

Read full story on broncos.com

As seen on nrl.com

Broncos playmaker Gayle Broughton is building up to a return to running after undergoing surgery just prior to Christmas to fix a painful back injury. Hailing from Hāwera Taranaki, Broughton is a Māori All Star and Olympic medallist having played for the Black Fern 7s from 2012-2021 before switching codes to rugby league.

The 27-year-old played the entire 2023 NRLW season with a L4–L5 disc bulge in her lower back that was pressing against nerves, which was only diagnosed at the conclusion of the campaign.

Sleepless nights, the feeling of a knife being run through her leg whenever she’d walk and a subsequently huge mental toll all contributed to what Gayle Broughton describes as a season from hell last year.

The Broncos NRLW star played through excruciating pain at times throughout 2023, with what she later discovered was a L4–L5 disc bulge in her lower back that was pressing against nerves.

Now on the slow road back to running, the 27-year-old told NRL.com about the life-changing injury, the long layoff following a lower lumber discectomy in late December and the period when she considered retiring from the game altogether.

“It’s been a real eye opener for me, having to learn how to move my body again and be OK with moving it again and learning to trust it,” Broughton said.

“It has been a long and lonely road at times. The biggest thing was how delusional I was to the [post-surgery] process itself. I’ve had ACL surgery and shoulder reconstructions and in my brain I thought it would be a recovery like that.

“But for the four weeks after surgery you basically can not move, you’re on your back and can’t do anything.

“I wouldn’t wish this injury on my worst enemy. It felt like a hot knife going down your leg every step you took. I couldn’t sleep more than two hours at most before I’d wake up in so much pain.

“Not only did it take a physical toll, but it took the most toll on me mentally because I wasn’t sleeping and wasn’t recovering properly.”

Having always struggled with minor back pain throughout her career, Broughton knew something was different when she started to feel the injury in Brisbane’s season-opener against the Roosters last year but attempted to push through it.

But with each passing week it got worse and by Round 3 the former New Zealand rugby sevens star couldn’t even manage a jog at training.

Remarkably she played on and was part of the Broncos’ eventual semi-final loss to the Knights, getting through the campaign with “mental grit and a desire not to let the team down”, but by the end of the season the full extent of the injury was starting to become clear.

What followed was three months spent mostly laid up at home before finally having surgery three days before Christmas.

“That semi-final against the Knights was a low point. I just couldn’t take it anymore and felt like I couldn’t give anything to the team,” Broughton said.

“October to December I couldn’t run, couldn’t walk, for want of a better term life was s**t’. I couldn’t do anything and it was hell.

“I thought about retirement so much, but I said ‘this can’t be the end’.

“But now I am so excited for what’s ahead. I’ve got a new back and I’m not going to take it for granted.”

Broughton is hopeful of returning to some boxing work soon ahead of getting back to running and is confident she’ll be available for the start of the 2024 NRL Telstra Women’s Premiership.

Read more on nrl.com

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.

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.”

15 Feb 2024

 

The New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) proudly announces that the ‘RISE’ Talent Development Programme, in partnership with the NRL, is back for 2024.

After its inaugural year in NZ in 2023, the ‘RISE’ Talent Development Programme 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.

This weekend, the ‘RISE’ programme expands to various cities in New Zealand. Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch will host Rise sessions for young aspiring female players to improve their skills, learn the basics of strength and conditioning, and understand the significance of player well-being.

2023, which also saw the establishment of the NZRL Ahi Kā Aotearoa squad that competed in the Harvey Norman Women’s National Championship in 2023. Players who were selected for the squad were part of the inaugural Rise programme, which serves as a pathway for young females to

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 aspiring Kiwi players to become NRLW players and future Kiwi Ferns.

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.

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

 

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.

“For me to even be a part of the Titans is massive, but hopefully be a part of a first premiership winning team, in any sport on the Gold Coast, is massive,” she 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.”

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 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
Annessa Biddle

NRLW Rookie of the Year
Annessa Biddle

Read the full article on sharks.com

As seen on nrl.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.

Read more on nrl.com

As seen on nrl.com

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 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.”

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.

18 May 2023

 

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

2.30 pm  

 

1 Summer VAN GELDER (c)
2 Kyla LYNCH-BROWN
3 Manea WAAKA
4 Amarnee SHEPHERD
5 Marewa SAMSON
6 Ronise MATINI
7 Tamara RUAPORO
8 Genesis SMITH-HURIWAI
9 Monica SAMITA (vc)
10 Nina FAAMAUSILI
11 Ilaisaane TAUFA
12 Monika FAKAOSILEA
13 Sade SCHAUMKEL
14 Sina TUITUPOU
15 Tanaia-Aroha MERTIN-HERNIMAN
16 Charlie-Kaige KAMUTEMU
17 Destinee MEXTED
18 Maia CRUTCHER
19 Ana ALLEN
20 Henilietta LOKOTUI

 

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:

 

Amarnee SHEPHERD Waikato
Ana ALLEN Northland
Charlie-Kaige KAMUHEMU Auckland
Destinee MEXTED Northland
Genesis SMITH-HURIWAI Bay of Plenty
Henilietta LOKOTUI Auckland
Ilaisaane TAUFA Auckland
Kyla LYNCH-BROWN Canterbury
Maia CRUTCHER Northland
Manea WAAKA Canterbury
Marewa SAMSON Waikato
Monica SAMITI Auckland
Monika FAKAOSILEA Auckland
Nina FAAMAUSILI Auckland
Ronise MATINI Auckland
Sade SCHAUMKEL Auckland
Sina TUITUPOU Auckland
Summer VAN GELDER Auckland
Tamara RUAPORO NGATUAKANA Wellington
Tanaia-Aroha MERTIN-HERNIMAN Northland
Head Coach Frank FUIMAONO Auckland
Assistant Coach Ake PEREIRA Wellington
Manager Mel TUKAPUA Canterbury
Head Trainer Shannon MACLACHLAN
Assistant Trainer Kath KEREMETE Northland
Physio Melissa FALANI

 

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 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.”

 

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.

Written by Matt Manukuo

 

As seen on pmn.co.nz

Mackenzie Wiki, daughter of NRL legend Ruben Wiki, has made a historic deal signing with the Canberra Raiders women’s team.

Wiki will be the first daughter of a former NRL player, to sign with the same club of their parent.

The Cook Island international made her representative debut in last years Women’s Rugby League World Cup, where she picked up two tries in her three games.

Mackenzie, 21, says rugby league is a sport she developed a love for.

“This is only my second year of footy, I always played sevens, netball and I was a swimmer. When I was younger I never had the drive to play league, I was just watching Dad because I love footy.

“Getting into it last year I just found this love for it, actually being on the field rather than watching it.

“It’s an honour to follow my Dad at the same club. His first club was Raiders and now my first club is Raiders. It’s just surreal.”​

Mackenzie follows in her father, Ruben footsteps, who debuted for the Raiders 30 years ago. He says once Mackenzie dons the green jersey, it will be an emotional milestone for their family.

“Lost for words sorry it’s an emotional one – if that did come to the fray, it would be a very special moment for our family.

“Due to watching the kids being born here, watching their dad run around and it would be amazing to see her from the grandstand. She does suit the colour, it would be amazing.”

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.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.

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.”

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.

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brandon Smith stamped himself as a player to watch in 2020 with a stunning two-try performance to lead the New Zealand Maori to a stunning 30-16 come-from-behind victory over the Indigenous All Stars on the Gold Coast.

The Kiwi Test hooker, who plays understudy to 400-game legend Cameron Smith at the Melbourne Storm, showed his time in the shadows is clearly over with a spirited effort to snatch at Cbus Super Stadium.

 

Davis-Welsh, Harden lead Indigenous Women’s All Stars to glory

Indigenous All Stars winger Nakia Davis-Welsh turned in a blinder to inspire a 10-4 win over the Maori Ferns after a triumphant return to the team she debuted for as a 16-year-old.

Maori All Stars coach David Kidwell has selected an imposing pack to lock horns with the talented Indigenous team at Cbus Super Stadium on February 22.

The Maori side shouldn’t lack go-forward with Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Adam Blair, Jesse Bromwich, Kenny Bromwich, James Tamou, Kevin Proctor, Briton Nikora, Zane Tetevano and Corey Harawira-Naera among an elite crop of big men chosen.

“We wanted to have a bit of a narrative about being powerful, fast and dynamic. I think the team reflects that,” Kidwell told NRL.com.

The backline packs plenty of punch too. The dazzling Kalyn Ponga will play his natural position of fullback after struggling to impose himself on the game at five-eighth last year in a 34-14 loss.

“I think that’s where he plays his best footy, he can sweep both sides of the field, he can inject himself where he needs to,” Kidwell said of Ponga.

“Touching on that forward pack, he can sniff around for the offload. Talking to him, he’s really excited. He doesn’t have to worry about leading the team around.”

Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Bailey Simonsson appear as the likely wingers, while Dylan Walker, Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, Brad Takairangi and Esan Marsters are centre options.

Marsters, who had off-season ankle surgery, is in doubt to play and discussions with the Cowboys medical staff about his fitness are ongoing.

Given Benji Marshall made himself unavailable for Maori selection to prepare for the upcoming NRL season with Wests Tigers, Jahrome Hughes and Kodi Nikorima will combine in the halves.

Brandon Smith and the experienced Issac Luke will share the hooking duties.

Raiders duo Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and Joseph Tapine were initially named but were withdrawn.

Kidwell, who has taken over the coaching duties from Stacey Jones, is elated to be involved with such a special fixture and believes his troops can match the Indigenous team in the entertainment stakes.

“We’re going to play a bit of an expansive style of football. I thought the Indigenous team, with the experience of having played it for nine years, really caught us off guard last year.

“It’s a different concept, it’s a different way of playing football … [But] you still have to execute and have a high completion rate, so it’s about finding that balance.”

Kidwell hasn’t settled on a captain but he said incumbent skipper Adam Blair “epitomises what the week’s about.”

He added: “I’ve got some great leaders there and we’ll talk about who’s going to captain the side. But whoever does, it’s going to be a great honour.”

Kidwell considered results from an online fan poll before settling on his final squad.

In the women’s All Stars clash the star-studded Maori side will feature Kiwi Ferns Krystal Rota, Raecene McGregor and Kiana Takairangi as well as Jillaroos Corban McGregor and Botille Vette-Welsh.

Playmaker McGregor was part of the Brisbane side which stormed to victory in the NRLW grand final last October, scoring a try in the 30-6 triumph.

After playing second fiddle to McGregor in the NRLW decider, Dragons youngster Maddison Weatherall will line up alongside the Broncos star for the Maoris.

Coached by Rusty Matua the side features 10 players with NRLW experience.

Maori Women’s All Stars: Harata Butler, Sarina Clark, Tanika-Jazz Noble-Bell, Laishon Jones, Amber Kani, Kerehitina Matua, Raecene McGregor, Corban McGregor, Capri Paekau, Krystal Rota, Christyl Stowers, Kiana Takairangi, Jonsal Tautari, Botille Vette-Welsh, Maddison Weatherall, Geneva Webber, Kathleen Wharton, Kat Wira-Kohu.

Troy Whittaker – NRL.com