Auckland, New Zealand, October 4, 2023

Kiwi Ferns head coach Ricky Henry has confirmed his squad for the 2023 Pacific Championship, which features 11 potential Kiwi Ferns debutantes. 

Following their World Cup final loss to the Jillaroos last year, Henry calls on a fresh crop of NRLW talent set to stamp their mark on the international scene after impressive 2023 seasons.  

Among the new debutantes is NRLW rookie of the year medallist Annessa Biddle, who took the NRLW by storm, earning two tries, 1366 running metres and 33 tackle breaks. After being voted the Rugby League Players’ Association NRLW Rookie of the Year, Biddle looks to continue her flying form in Black and White colours. 

Joining Biddle in the squad is Sharks teammate and hooker Brooke Anderson. Anderson is no stranger to representative rugby league, having represented the Māori All-Stars and NSW Sky Blues in 2023. 

Olympic gold medallist and dual code star Tyla Nathan-Wong gets her first Kiwi Ferns selection after an impressive debut NRLW season alongside halves partner and Golden Boot winner Raecene McGregor. Dragon’s teammate Angelina Teakaraanga-Katoa also gets her maiden call-up. 

Wests Tigers duo Leianne Tufuga and Najvada George join the squad after they combined for 2163 running metres this season, with Tufuga scoring five tries in nine appearances. 

Newcomers Jasmine Fogavini of the Brisbane Broncos and Amelia Pasikala of the Sydney Roosters help strengthen an already dominant forward pack. While Auckland and Taupō natives, Cheyelle Robins-Reti and Ashleigh Quinlan are named after stand-out seasons for the Canberra Raiders. 

Dally M Centre of the Year Mele Hufanga returns to the Kiwi Ferns after a break-out NRLW season with the Broncos. Veterans Georgia Hale, Apii Nicholls and Mya Hill-Moana also return, while 2023 NRLW champions Shanice Parker, Laishon Albert-Jones and Abigail Roache look to carry on their winning momentum. 

“We’ve listed an impressive group of players who have rightfully earned their spots, and we acknowledge them for their form in the NRLW competition,” Henry said. 

“The depth we have and the new generation of players coming through is exciting. I’m confident our newcomers will flourish alongside our World Cup campaigners and veteran leaders who set an excellent foundation for us last year. 

“The Jillaroos are world-class, and Tonga is no easy feat, but I’m confident in this playing group. I know everyone can’t wait to get out there.” 


2023 Kiwi Ferns Pacific Championship Squad:  

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


* denotes potential debut

23 October 2022

NZ Clubs flawless in their victory over NZ Schools at North Harbour’s QBE Stadium.

Both teams got into the wrestle early but a costly penalty allowed left side centre Paris Pickering to open the games account on the next set.

Clubs winger Kyla Lynch Brown then buffed the advantage as Clubs went up 10-0. Youth Tournament MVP and Counties fullback Tamisha Tulua then found herself in some space as she went under the post, Clubs owning all the ascendency in the first half.

Another set on the School’s line saw Akarana’s Tatiana Finau crash over on the right edge before Paris Pickering finished off a left hand shift to dummy the fullback and put the Clubs side up 28-0 going into the sheds.

Tulua continued where they left off scoring from within a minute of the second half and the Clubs side didn’t look back.

Lynch Brown added to her tally as well as Claudia Finau, Ronise Matini and Kimoana Niupalau as they recorded a famous 50-0 victory.


Tries: Pickering, Lynch Brown x2, Tulua x2, T Finau, C Finau, Matini, Niupala

Conversions: T Finau 7/9



23 October

QBE Stadium hosted the first-ever 16s Girls representative clash between Auckland Invitation and Aotearoa Whaanui.

The Auckland side started strong as Youth Tournament Finals MVP Josinah Filisi Tauiliili opened Auckland’s account, taking an early 4-0 lead. Moments later half Danii-Nicole Gray picked up an offload and split two defenders, barging her way over to extend Auckland’s advantage.

The Aotearoa side got a much-needed reply, fighting their way back into the game through Arlia Maccarthy, as she swept out the back into some space. This try put the sides at 8-4 heading into the sheds.

With the game in the balance, Glenora’s Tiare-Anne Leauga gave the Auckland side a eight point buffer, scoring in the right hand corner.

Aotearoa hit back with a try through substitute Bailey Rae Edwards but Auckland found the line twice, through Elizabeth Ngahe and Milahn Ieremia to put the game beyond doubt. Final score 22-8


Tries: Filisi Tauliili, Gray, Leauga, Ngahe, Ieremia

Conversions: Pasese 1/5


Tries: Maccarthy, Edwards


8 October 2022

After the return of the New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) National Secondary Schools Tournament (NSST) and the inaugural NZRL National Girls Youth Tournament, New Zealand Rugby League is proud to announce the first-ever 16’s and 18’s Girls representative fixtures. The two-week-long tournaments displayed the growth in the female game, and these fixtures will be another step in the pathway to becoming the next generation of Kiwi Fern talent.

The 16’s age group will see an Auckland Invitational team take on Aotearoa Whaanui, with the match-up displaying the best young talent from across the motu, Whilst in the 18’s, The girls will play out the Clubs vs Schools fixture that began in 2020.

The 16’s game will showcase the talent and depth in the girl’s game. The Wellington cohort of Billie Va’a, Jayda Maniapoto and Trinity Tauaneai headline an exciting and balanced Aotearoa Whaanui, which has strike all across the park.

Finals MVP Josinah Filisi Tauiliili leads her Auckland team out after an outstanding performance in the 16’s grand final. She is joined by teammate Danii-Nicole Gray and the exciting Tayla-Benet Masoe, who played at the back for the Auckland Vulcans.

Auckland Rugby League’s Head of Schools and Female Pathways, Mary Passi, commented on the fixture, “With the increase of numbers in our female game here in Auckland, it’s another great opportunity for our Auckland players to test themselves against the best talent from around Aotearoa. It’s great to see several Auckland players selected across all teams.”

The 18 Clubs vs Schools clash has a plethora of talent littered throughout the fixture. NSST MVP Sharnyze Pihema headlines the School’s squad, which possess many players from both tournaments. School’s fullback Braxton Sorensen-McGee was a standout in both tournaments, as she also led the Counties 16’s to a grand final win. Giovanna Suani and NZRL 16’s Youth Tournament MVP and top try scorer Seriah Palepale also round out a strong Schools squad.

The NZ Clubs outfit can also show off star power throughout their 19. Youth Tournament MVP Tamisha Tulua was outstanding out the back for Counties, and the edge back row of Tatiana and Claudia Finau caused havoc on their way to the 18’s title. Locking up the middle is Upper Central’s Alexis Tauaneai, who was a problem for every team in the competition, using her strength, footwork and distribution ability to be dangerous every time she touched the ball.

Head of Women’s Rugby League, Luisa Avaiki, said, “New Zealand Rugby League intends to enhance female participation and opportunities in our youth grades. It has been such a pleasure to see the success of the inaugural NZRL Girls National Youth Tournament. “

“To have teams from all across the motu attend and represent their zones and districts has been an exciting start to the growth and potential of the youth girls space.”

“The talent on display throughout the week was extraordinary and impressive. It maintains how vital these pathways are for any aspiring young girl who wants to reach higher levels of representation.  It is an exciting time for the female game.”

Congratulations to all players and staff selected!

Get down to North Harbour Stadium on October 23, or watch all the action live on Sky Sport!

Auckland Invitational 16 Girls versus Aotearoa Whaanui 16 Girls; Sunday 23 October, 12 pm. North Harbour Stadium


New Zealand Schools Girls versus New Zealand Clubs Girls; Sunday 23 October, 2 pm. North Harbour Stadium





  1. Billie Va’a (Wellington Orcas)
  2. Manaia Blake (Mid Central Vipers)
  3. Arlia Maccarthy (Northern Swords)
  4. Kayshana Rapana-Phillips (South Island Scorpions)
  5. Jayda Maniapoto (Wellington Orcas)
  6. Miria Faulkner – Luke (Northern Swords)
  7. Lialanie Muamua (South Island Scorpions)
  8. Molly Byford (Upper Central Stallions)
  9. Riana Le’afa-Paki (Wellington Orcas)
  10. Te Ngaroahiahi Rimoni (Wellington Orcas)
  11. Luca-Bella Ngatuere-Ongley (Wellington Orcas)
  12. Te Raukura Leafe (Wellington Orcas)
  13. Trinity Tauaneai (Wellington Orcas)
  14. Indiana Ronnie Russell-Lia (Wellington Orcas)
  15. Danica Talitonu (Mid Central Vipers)
  16. Tyali Raihe (Upper Central Stallions)
  17. Olive Connolly (South Island Scorpions)
  18. Bailey Rae Edwards (Northern Swords)



  1. Tayla-Benet Masoe (Auckland Vulcans)
  2. Tiare-Anne Leauga (Akarana Falcons)
  3. Elizabeth Ngahe (Auckland Vulcans)
  4. Milahn Ieremia (Akarana Falcons)
  5. Tia’ane Tavita Fesolai (Akarana Falcons)
  6. Riley Pasese (Akarana Falcons)
  7. Danii-Nicole Gray (Counties Manukau Stingrays)
  8. Josinah Filisi Tauiliili (Counties Manukau Stingrays)
  9. Mele Feaomoengalu (Akarana Falcons)
  10. Mercedez Lisone siaea (Counties Manukau Stingrays)
  11. Leaony Macdonald Tuimauga (Counties Manukau Stingrays)
  12. Maeya Talamaivao (Akarana Falcons)
  13. Ashlee Matapo (Akarana Falcons)
  14. Mary Jane Taito (Counties Manukau Stingrays)
  15. Ivana Lauitiiti (Counties Manukau Stingrays)
  16. Monica Ben (Auckland Vulcans)
  17. Fualaau Poutoa (Auckland Vulcans)
  18. Mayann Ioane (Akarana Falcons)




  1. Tamisha Tulua (Counties Manukau Stingrays)
  2. Summer Van Gelder (Akarana Falcons)
  3. Paris Pickering(Akarana Falcons)
  4. Henillietta Lokotui (Counties Manukau Stingrays)
  5. Lily Newton (Auckland Vulcans)
  6. Milahn Situa (Auckland Vulcans)
  7. Tiana Thomson (Counties Manukau Stingrays)
  8. Kimoana Niupalau (Upper Central Stallions)
  9. Monica Samita (Akarana Falcons)
  10. Tafao Fa’aeaina Asaua (Counties Manukau Stingrays)
  11. Tatiana Finau (Akarana Falcons)
  12. Claudia Finau (Akarana Falcons)
  13. Alexis Tauaneai (Upper Central Stallions)
  14. Ronise Matini (Akarana Falcons)
  15. Taleenza Nelson (Counties Manukau Stingrays)
  16. Theresa Nasilai (Auckland Vulcans)
  17. Alianna Tonu’u (Counties Manukau Stingrays)
  18. Kokako Raki (Upper Central Stallions)
  19. Kyla Lynch Brown (South Island Scorpions)




  1. Braxton Sorensen-McGee (Auckland Girls Grammar School)
  2. Violet Hiku (Manurewa High School)
  3. Giovanna Suani (Auckland Girls Grammar School)
  4. Kingslee Hohaia (Manurewa High School)
  5. Faith Tavita (Auckland Girls Grammar School)
  6. Sharnyze Pihema (Manurewa High School)
  7. Caitlyn-Jain Bushell (Auckland Girls Grammar School)
  8. Lose Kuli (Auckland Girls Grammar School)
  9. Chevy Brough (Manurewa High School)
  10. Cleo Sauaga (Auckland Girls Grammar School)
  11. Seriah Palepale (Auckland Girls Grammar School)
  12. June Westerlund (Manurewa High School)
  13. Paea Uiloa (Auckland Girls Grammar School)
  14. Jonesha Katipa-Blakelock (Manurewa High School)
  15. Latesha Mitchener (Auckland Girls Grammar School)
  16. Mia Jones (Auckland Girls Grammar School)
  17. Shanthie Lui (Southern Cross Campus)
  18. Vienna Lupe Alapae (Southern Cross Campus)
  19. Saylor Maletino (Manurewa High School)


28 September 2022

as seen as

A year or so ago Southland’s female rugby league participation was close to zero, now there are female teams spread across a raft of age groups in what’s been a remarkable spike in interest. 

The initial comments summed up the size of the job for Maima Afutu.

Afutu – the mother of Black Ferns sevens star Alena Saili – was last year appointed Southland District Rugby League’s new rangatahi and female development officer.

Some early feedback from the wider community wasn’t all that pleasant.

“When I was first given this role, around this time last year, my first thing was to go around and talk to people and hear their opinions,” Afutu says.

“The most common comment was, ‘[rugby league’s] a thug sport. It’s for thugs and bullies’. I thought, ‘well there’s my goal’, to change the mindset of how people think this game is.”

“It’s nothing like that, it’s such a fun sport. Everybody that’s been involved from our juniors up to our women’s team and the Rams are having a great time in rugby league.”

One of Afutu’s key assignments has been to grow female participation in Southland. An easy task to write, but not such an easy task to deliver.

After all, rugby league is viewed by many as a sport for blokes. Those thoughts are now starting to subside though.

At the point of taking on the assignment, apart from a scattering of girls mixed in with junior teams prominently made up of boys, there was no female rugby league participation in Southland.

Many women have had a significant presence in Southland rugby league through administration roles, not so much pulling the boots on themselves.

Much of the focus has been on keeping Southland’s four or five-team senior men’s club competition alive, and ensuring its flagship senior men’s representative team, the Southland Rams, remained competitive.

Fast-forward the clock a year or so and the rise of female rugby league participation is one of the current success stories in Southland sport.

In fact its captured national attention within the New Zealand rugby league community.

“There has been a few comments from people saying, ‘what are you doing in the south, it’s amazing’. There’s still a lot of learning on our behalf, we still have a lot to learn. We want to keep building on the momentum we have for everyone involved in league,” Afutu says.

The initial female growth was at the youth level.

Southland District Rugby League has mustered enough teenagers to put together various Southland under-14, under-16, under-18 representative girls teams to attend South Island tournaments.

Earlier this year Southland District Rugby League dipped its toes into the introduction of senior women’s rugby league.

Three teams were formed to take part in the Murihiku All-Nations 9s tournament to be played in February.

Covid-19 restrictions scrubbed that tournament out, although the overall quest to get senior women’s rugby league operating in Southland remained.

For the first time in 17 years, Southland District Rugby League has been able to put together a senior women’s representative team.

At the weekend the group of newbie rugby league players travelled to Dunedin to take part in a South Island tournament that also involved Otago, Canterbury and Tasman.

Southland beat Otago 20-18 in the playoff for third. Although this story isn’t about results.

It’s about a group of Southlanders who challenged themselves to a completely new sport and have now become hooked.

“To be honest I’ve been hounded by the women saying, ‘what’s next?’ I’m trying to see what opportunities there are,” Afutu says.

“They’ve just said that they’ve loved this, they’ve loved every minute of it. They’ve said, ‘Maima, you’ve got me, I’m hooked’.

“I was buzzing to hear those comments. You always want them to have a great experience.”

On top of providing more participation opportunities for females, Afutu points out that rugby league now provides a genuine pathway to the elite sporting ranks.

Southland’s very own Hailee-Jay Maunsell throws up a shining example of that.

The Invercargill-born and raised Maunsell has made her way through the rugby league ranks since moving to Australia. She is now contracted to the Gold Coast Titans which plays in the National Rugby League Women’s [NRWL] competition.

The teenager was also part of the Kiwi Ferns squad for their test against Tonga in June.

“With NRLW and the popularity that it has gained, we’ve now seen two more [NRLW] female teams. That’s probably a massive incentive for females for giving it a go. In another couple of years there will be two more teams added.

“That’s telling us there’s growth in the sport,” Afutu says.

At a local level, there will be a South Island Scorpions team named for the first time this year with some Southland players expected to be included.

The South Island team will play a game against New Zealand Universities in Dunedin next month.

Afutu says it’s just another pathway and step in rugby league’s female revolution.

Southland Rams’ South Island decider

Meanwhile, Southland’s senior men’s representative rugby league team the Southland Rams will contest the 2022 South Island provincial final against Otago in Dunedin on Saturday.

A 46-20 win over Aoraki Eels and a 30-28 victory against West Coast had already banked the Rams a spot in the final before its final round-robin fixture against the Otago Whalers last Saturday.

Otago’s 56-18 victory in that game would suggest the Whalers head into the decider on Saturday as warm favorites.

Although there seems to be a genuine sense of belief bubbling away in the Rams camp for its second trip to Dunedin in as many weeks.

“We’ve got a lot of expectation on ourselves. We are expecting us to fire back up,” Rams coach Nathan Anderson says.

Anderson opted to rest about seven players from last Saturday’s game against Otago but back at full strength he felt they could give Otago a good shake.

The Rams will be without leader Dylan Lovett who broke his leg in the win over the West Coast, but Southland still has plenty of experience on offer through the likes of Daniel Low who Anderson says is having a standout season.

Prop Albert Qoro has been one of the Rams’ best this season, alongside fullback Crete Waaka.

On top of the South Island Championship the Greg Dawson Trophy played between Southland will be up for grabs. The winner will also book a ticket to Auckland to take on the North Island championship winner.

Rams team to play Otago:

Crete Waka, Brennan Sutherland, Juita Naqianivalu, Nehemiah Fa’amoe-Ioane, Korey Pennicott, Osika Kafononga, Kieran Turuwhenua (cc), Daniel Low (cc), Junior Topera, Tupou Kaufononga, Thomas Watts, Albert Qoro. Reserves: Kelepi Holi, Marama Reti. Leo Wiki-Quest, Sione Kaufononga, Calder White, Josh Wilson.

24 September 2022

FMG Stadium hosted the NZRL Women’s Championship final as the Wellington Orcas met the Auckland Orcas.

Wellington started hot out of the gates as Wellington standout Sarahcen Oliver finished off a right-side overlap to open up the Orca’s account.

A game that favoured the tough wrestle, late footwork and strength saw Oliver cross for a double as Wellington pushed the game out to 10-0.

In a half that Wellington took by storm, the Vulcans were the last to score, with Lanulangi Veainu finishing off a right side shift and swinging the momentum into Auckland’s favour. Mollie Tagaloa could not convert as Wellington took a 10-4 lead into the break.

The Vulcans came out of the second half with a point to prove, and within three minutes, former Kiwi Fern Sharliz White scored down the Orca’s left channel once again.

Auckland quickly asserted their dominance in the second half as Talei Kidd went over, finishing a lovely move down the left-hand side. Shortly after, Final MVP Cesca Luafalealo sliced through the Wellington defence putting Auckland in striking distance. On the next play, a great line from Harono Te Iringa saw her stretch the advantage to eight points.

Not going away, a move from inside their own half saw Wainuiomata’s Tyler Bentley cross the chalk after great interplay between her and Kayla Faitele. However, sloppy errors from the restart afforded the Vulcans field position, and the Auckland side punished them. Number 21 Sapphire Abraham went in from close distance, pushing the lead back to eight.

A late surge from the Orca’s side saw veteran Brooke Tauaneai clean up the ball to score, to a grandstand finish. The Vulcans showed determination, absorbing multiple sets on their line to see the game 22-18.


Tries: Veainu, White, Kidd, Luafalealo, Abraham.

Conversion: Tagaloa 0/3, Abraham 1/2


Tries: Oliver x2, Bentley, Tauaneai

Conversions: Ruaporo 1/4


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 12, 2022


The Sky Sport Women’s Premiership and the National 20’s Ruben Wiki Cup finals culminate this weekend at the home of rugby league, Auckland’s Mt Smart Stadium.


The action kicks off at 12pm when competition dark horse South Island take on Akarana in the National 20’s final followed by 11 time winners, Counties Manukau taking on the  Akarana Falcons in the Sky Sport Women’s Premiership final at 2pm.


Both games are free entry at Mt Smart, no vaccine pass required, and for those out of Auckland all the action is brought to you live on Sky Sport 4.




First placed Akarana go into the final as the only undefeated team in the competition which included a tough victory over opponents South Island in the first round. The Auckland based outfit will be heading into the final with a full steam of momentum off the back of a 76-0 trouncing of the Upper Central Stallions. Big performances from key players such as Elam Payne and Sebastian Su’a will be crucial if the Falcons want to lift their first National 20’s Ruben Wiki Cup trophy.


Road to the Final










South Island go into the final after a convincing victory against Counties Manukau. South Island played a composed and clinical game as they defeated the favoured Auckland side to secure their place against Akarana. A bye in the final week of the round robin also gives them a much needed rest going into what will be a tough contest. Big performances by Uriah Tuli, Ethan Faitala, Jacob Lowe and half Oliver Lawry have led to the South Island’s success, and these players will be instrumental in seeing South Island capture their first National 20’s title.


Road to the Final












Counties Manukau go into the final of the SkySport Women’s Premiership looking to secure their 12th title on the bounce as they take on Auckland rivals Akarana. The Counties women have been dominant throughout the round-robin completing an undefeated run in a tight 26-22 triumph over their grand final opponents. Key veterans Christyl Stowers and Teuila Fotu-Moala will look to lead the young group to a historic consecutive victory.


Road to the Final








Despite coming off a tough narrow loss against Counties, Akarana showed positive signs as they look extremely capable of breaking Counties streak in the Women’s Premiership. A different side from the grand finalists two years ago, Akarana have a young core that have already shown their class in this years’ tournament. A team not short of talent, Kiwi Ferns Lavinia Tauhalaliku and Kanyon Paul will be looking to stamp their mark on the game in tandem with half Laishon Albert-Jones. With both teams ready and raring to go, this will be thrilling 2022 SkySport Women’s Premiership final not to be missed.



Road to the Final









All are encouraged to get down to Mt Smart to see a Saturday filled with exciting rugby league (no vaccine pass needed) or catch all the action on SkySport 4!


April 10, 2022


The Mid Central Vipers played host to the Canterbury Bulls in the final round of the SkySport Women’s Premiership as both teams clashed at Palmerston Norths’ Central Energy Trusts Arena.

Canterbury was the first to strike as a strong kick return from Bulls standout Mikayla Werahiko put the South Island side in striking distance. Off the ensuing play fullback, Dayna Napa went over breaking through a scrambling Vipers defense to go up 4-0.

Werahiko then got herself on the scoresheet attacking a cross-field kick to go over untouched in the corner. Moments later half Cassie Siataga hung another cross-field kick up, this time to the right-hand side which took a wicked bounce, falling into the lap of winger Sailai Pau to put the Bulls up by 12.

In the 13th minute, Mid Central hit back through hooker Paris Paul whose craftiness and footwork out of dummy half saw her beat several defenders to score under the post as the Vipers brought it to 12-6.

Mid Central started the second stanza in good stead and this paid off in the 45th minute as middle Agnes Faraimo barged over close to the line to level the scores.

Canterbury though off the back off Vipers mistakes crushed any momentum as Talosaga Manu crashed over in the same vein as Faraimo to put the Bulls up by a converted try. With ten minutes left to go, number 19 Theresa McPherson went over in the corner which proved to be the dagger as Canterbury went out 22-12 winners.





Tries: Napa, Werahiko, Pau, Manu, McPherson


Conversions: Siataga (1/5)




Tries: Paul, Faraimo


Conversions: Bates (2/2)


April 3 2022


Canterbury hosted Akarana at Christchurch’s Nga Puna Wai, and Akarana got off to an early start. Ten minutes into the proceedings five-eight Roimata Amosa-Tiro sliced through to score under the posts as they took a 6-0 lead. Several minutes later Akarana doubled their try tally as a left edge shift saw left wing Roelien Du Plessis go over untouched as the lead went out to 10-0

Minutes later, Canterbury Wing Mikayla Werahiko latched onto a cross-field kick, towering over the defenders to put the South Island team back into the contest.

Akarana half-back Laishon Albert-Jones trumped any Canterbury momentum though as she crashed over from dummy-half seconds before the half-time buzzer to take a 16-6 lead into the sheds.

Canterbury came out of the blocks quickly, number 18 Sailiai Pau scoring a controversial try in the corner as they brought the score to 16-10 early in the second stanza. An error from an Akarana bomb saw Canterbury allow the Auckland outfit dangerous territory, and fullback Lavinia Tahalaliku took advantage, shedding multiple defenders to score on the left edge.

A Left side shift saw Werahiko score her second for Canterbury bringing the game within a converted try as it stood at 20-14.

Towards the back end of the match, Akarana made Canterbury pay for a penalty that didn’t reach touch. The Auckland team shifted the ball towards the right edge and Albert-Jones held the ball up for Keri Ratima to score in the right corner. Du Plessis scored her double in the final minute as Akarana exploited an overlap in the Canterbury defence. 28-14




Tries: Roimata Amosa-Tiro, Roelien Du Plessis (x2), Laishon Albert-Jones, Lavinia Tahalaliku, Keri Ratima


Conversions: Laishon Albert-Jones (2/7)




Tries: Mikayla Werahiko (x2), Sailiai Pau


Conversions: Dayna Napa (1/3)

24 March 2022


2022 sees the return of the Sky Sport Women’s Premiership after a year hiatus, being replaced in 2021 by the wider National Women’s Competition due to Covid-19 restrictions. 


The premier Women’s rugby league competition kicks off on the 26th of March. Canterbury, the winners of last year’s National Women’s Competition, go up against reigning Women’s Premiership champions Counties Manukau, who are looking to win their 12th straight premiership title in a row. Akarana takes on the Mid Central Vipers on the 27th, with both games being held at Auckland’s Trust stadium.  


Those with a My Vaccine Pass are encouraged to attend the first round of the Women’s Premiership this weekend, with all vaccine restrictions set to lift on April 4.  


Last competition saw the arrival of many Kiwi Ferns who earnt their Black and White jersey plying their trade in the 2020 Premiership. Stars such as Karli Hansen, Autumn-Rain Stephens-Daly and Katelyn Vaha’akolo used the competition as a springboard for their careers and are now playing professionally in the NRLW. 


This year, the competition has been scheduled to coincide with the NRLW season, giving players unable to relocate to Australia a chance to claim a Kiwi Fern’s opportunity. 


Teams will compete in a round-robin competition taking place over three weeks. The top two placed teams at the end of the round-robin will then face off in the final, which will be held at Mt Smart Stadium on the 16th of April. 


All games will be broadcast live on Sky Sport 4. 

01 December 2021

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

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

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

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

The 16 Women Coaches are;

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

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

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

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

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

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

11 November 2021

New Zealand Rugby League is pleased to announce that the Sky Sport Women’s Premiership will take place from the 26th March, with the final set for the 16th April ahead of the mid-year Kiwi Ferns Test and again in October as part of the wider 2022 National Competition.

This year, the Women’s Premiership and Championship were amalgamated into a singular Women’s National Competiton without the Auckland teams due to Covid-19 restrictions.

2022 will see the Sky Sport Women’s Premiership coincide with the rescheduled NRLW in March, allowing players unable to relocate to Australia the opportunity to bid for a place in the Kiwi Ferns squad.

Luisa Avaiki, Head of Women’s Rugby League at NZRL, says, “It’s really exciting for our girls to have an opportunity early in the year and then again come October, not only for Kiwi Ferns prospects but all women involved in our game.

“Having an enriched calendar, especially after this Covid riddled year, means women and girls across the country will further develop, grow and strengthen their skillsets due to the increased playing opportunities we can provide.

“Thank you to Sky Sport for their above and beyond support of our women’s game and commitment to its growth across the country,” Avaiki concludes.

2022 will also see NZRL introduce a series of inaugural tournaments for the 16s to 18s Girls age group, including the District 9s Tournament (February – April), NZRL Secondary Schools Girl’s Tournament (August) and NZRL Girl’s Youth Tournament (October).

GM of Football and High-Performance, Motu Tony, says, “It’s great to be able to showcase a women’s rugby league calendar that reflects the growth our female game continues to experience.

“Female participation has nearly tripled since 2016, and youth participation for girls has increased 14%.

“Being able to offer a District 9s competition, Youth Tournament and Secondary School Tournament for young female players is a huge milestone that will only see this space further accelerate with momentum.

“These tournaments will enable us to field NZ Girl’s representative teams and provide an opportunity for our future NRLW and Kiwi Ferns players to excel in the game.

“Next year will be the biggest year yet for our women’s game, and we have every reason to be excited.”

24 September 2021

New Zealand Rugby League is pleased to announce the 2021 National Competition will kick off this weekend, albeit in a revised format.

This year’s National Competition amalgamates both Premiership and Championship divisions into a singular competition consisting of regional pools.

The regional pool format means teams outside of Auckland can begin playing this weekend, while Auckland teams can join when Covid levels allow, without disrupting the flow of the competition.

The 2021 Men’s National Competition consists of three regional pools:

South Island Men – Southland Rams, West Coast Chargers, Otago Whalers and Canterbury Bulls

Central Men – Waikato Mana, Mid Central Vipers, Upper Central Stallions and Wellington Orcas

Northern Men – Akarana Falcons, Auckland Vulcans and Counties Manukau Stingrays

Monday, October 4, the government is set to make a decision on Auckland’s Alert Level. If Level 3 is extended, the Northland / Auckland pool will not compete in this year’s National Competition.

Saturday 30 October will see 1st Men’s Central take on 1st Men’s South Island and 2nd Men’s Central take on 2nd Men’s South Island. If the Northern pool cannot compete, this will be the Men’s National Competition final and runner up match.

If the Northern pool can compete due to a successful Alert Level change on October 4, the winner of the 1st Central v 1st South Island final will go on to play 1st place in the Northern pool on Sunday, November 7, to which the winner will be crowned National Men’s Champions.

The 2021 Sky Sport Women’s National Competition follows a similar format where both Premiership and Championship divisions have been amalgamated to form a singular competition consisting of two regional pools.

Northern Women – Akarana Falcons and Counties Manukau Stingrays

Central Women – Mid Central Vipers, Upper Central Stallions, Wellington Orcas, Canterbury Women

The Central pool will kick off next Saturday, October 2, while the Northland pool will kick off Sunday, October 17, subject to Auckland successfully moving down Alert Levels, post-October 4 announcement.

The Sky Sport Women’s National Competition Final will take place before the National Men’s Final on Sunday, November 7.

If the Northern pool cannot compete due to an extended Level 3, the Women’s National Competition Final will see 1st play 2nd of the Central pool. If Northern can partake, the final will see top of the Central pool take on top of the Northern pool, to which the winner will be crowned Women’s National Champions.

NZRL is also exploring the possibility of running the Sky Sport Women’s Premiership in Q1 of 2022 if the Northern pool cannot compete this year.

Motu Tony, GM of Football and High Performance at NZRL, says, “Despite the disruptions the pandemic has brought, for the second year in a row, it’s exciting we can present a 2021 National Competition.”

“Thank you to Sky Sport for their continuous support of our game, as well as all our Zones and Districts who have been understanding of the task at hand. Restructuring the National Competition is no easy feat, and we wouldn’t have been able to do this without everyone’s input and co-operation.”

“We look forward to seeing players take the field for their regions after disrupted seasons across the country, and fingers crossed Auckland can join down the line”, he adds.

“We encourage everyone to continue to follow health and safety protocol and thank all of our communities for their ongoing patience and understanding during these times.”

The South Island Men’s pool kicks off this weekend when the West Coast Chargers take on the Southland Rams, Saturday 25th September, 2:30 pm at Wingham Park, Greymouth.

The Central Men’s and Women’s pools kick off next Saturday, October 2, with a doubleheader at Davies Park, Huntly. Waikato Men will take on the Wellington Orcas, following the Upper Central Zone Women v Wellington Women.

Please note:

Not all National Competition games will be televised live on Sky Sport; NZRL will provide further information on where and how to watch each game when the complete draws are released early next week.

Northland has decided not to compete in this year’s 2021 National Competition, however, we look forward to seeing them return in 2022.

No crowds are permitted at any Men’s or Women’s National Competition games under Alert Level 2.

22 April 2021 – Ashley Stanley, Newsroom

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

Sport saved Christyl Stowers’ life. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

09 April 2021

Aspiring Her Game Developer 2021 is the first female-only game developers programme created and implemented by Head of Women’s Rugby League at NZRL, Luisa Avaiki.

Aspiring Her has been created to strengthen and widen the female talent pool in rugby league both on and off the field.

The development programme looks to call on current wahine in the game carrying out various roles and connect them with a wider community of aspiring women.

NZRL in liaison with Zone General Managers and Development Officers, have identified a pool of influential females and volunteers throughout the regions to work as Aspiring Her Game Developers.

These Aspiring Her Game Developers consist of female coaches, administrators, managers, leaders, match officials, trainers, and board member. Their task is to mentor and empower females in their respective regions, both on and off the field, to reach their full potential.

In its pilot year, the programme will run for 12 months and will provide support at all levels, all-female lead and facilitated. This includes regular zoom workshops, mentoring sessions as well as an annual conference, coupled with ongoing Zone and Regional support, NZRL Game Developer support and the facilitation of individualised personal development plans.

The inaugural Aspiring Her Game Development Conference is taking place in Auckland this weekend (9-11 April) which is designed for the newly identified Aspiring Her Game Developers and trainers to implement a support plan for the year.

Ultimately the programme’s objective is to see a well-established National Female Developer Network that strengthens the female game through increased opportunities that empower female participants in rugby league associated roles.

Going forward, Aspiring Her Game Developers will also look to identify other females capable of stepping into mentorship roles, further widening the influence pool and support network.

Programme Founder and Head of Women’s Rugby League at NZRL, Luisa Avaiki, says this is one of the first female led game development programmes of its kind.

“This kind of development network for our women has never been seen in rugby league. We are making exciting progress in our female space regarding growing playing numbers and new women’s competitions, so it is essential to capitalise on this by enhancing the capability and opportunities for women across the board, both in a football and administration capacity.

“The Aspiring Her Programme will look to implement a system that enables regions to strengthen and develop their people, so the momentum is felt across all levels and in all districts throughout New Zealand.

“The power of our programme comes from women inspiring women.  It’s a privilege to have such influential wahine in our game who are willing to share their skills and expertise and ultimately pave the way for generations of successful women in rugby league.”

The Counties Manukau Stingrays Women’s team kick off the inaugural Sky Sport NZRL National Women’s Tournament at Nga Puna Wai Sports Hub in Christchurch. 

After a shaky start to the match exchanging penalties between teams, Counties Manukau’s Amber Kani stepped her way through the Canterbury side to take the first points of the match. Pahu Kani quickly followed her cousin to score her own try in the corner just three minutes later. 

Platinum Marsters scored her first try on debut for Counties Manukau, the third try scored in just 11 minutes taking the lead over Canterbury 14 points to nil. 

Kerehitina Matua stormed through the opposition with her own 70-meter run to score an excellent solo try for the Stingrays but was unable to convert her own try through the windy conditions.

Stingray’s dominance on the left edge continued with a second try for Pahu Kani. 

Charlotte Butler crashed through the Canterbury defence to set up teammate Krystal Rota to score a try on the 28th minute. Butler then followed through scoring a try for herself a few minutes later to close out the first half of the match 30 – 0.

Counties Manukau started the second half with a barrage of tries. NRLW premiership winner and Kiwi Fern Maitua Feterika scored back to back tries within two minutes for the Stingrays. Canterbury were given opportunities to change the tone of the match but ill-discipline, some excellent defence from the Stingrays, and a try from Kararina Wira-Kohu shut down any momentum Canterbury were able to create. 

With only 20 minutes to go in the match, Feterika scored her hat-trick for the Stingrays after an exemplary set. Points for the Stingrays kept ticking over through the remainder of the match, tries going to Alexis Thompson, another for Feterika, Rota, and Pahu Kani scoring another two tries.

The Counties Manukau Stingrays ease their way into the second round of the competition taking the win over Canterbury with a total of 16 tries for the Stingrays. The final score was 66 – 0.

The Stingrays will face the Akarana Falcons and Canterbury take on Mid Central Vipers in round 2 next weekend. 

September 3, 2020

New Zealand Rugby League is pleased to announce the NZRL National Competitions are back for 2020 and bigger than ever before with the inclusion of the inaugural Sky Sport NZRL National Women’s Premiership.

Thanks to the support of the NZ Government and Sport NZ, the NZRL Men’s and Sky Sport Women’s Premiership competitions will kick off October 3 and proceed over four weeks with both finals expected to take place the last weekend of October. Thanks to Sky Sport, all Premiership fixtures will be televised live on Sky Sport 4.

NZRL CEO, Greg Peters said this is an exciting milestone for New Zealand’s grassroots game.

“Firstly, thank you to Sport NZ and the NZ Government, as the return of our National Competitions for 2020 would not have been possible without their significant support through COVID-19.

“Seeing the inaugural Sky Sport NZRL Women’s Premiership come to light on top of this is also a momentous achievement for our game.

“Previously, the women’s competition has been held as a tournament weekend, so having a four-week Premiership parallel to the men’s competition is an exciting milestone. This reflects the positive growth we are seeing in our women’s space, and with all fixtures being televised live on Sky Sport, this will only continue.

“Thank you to Martin Stewart and the team at Sky Sport for their ongoing and invaluable support. We look forward to seeing the best of our grassroots talent on display come October.”

Martin Stewart Sky CEO says, “Sky has a firm commitment to promoting and developing women’s sport at every level in New Zealand.  We are delighted our skilled and passionate team is able to bring the Sky Sport Women’s Premiership to rugby league fans throughout New Zealand.  We are so looking forward to seeing the athleticism and skills of our leading players live on Sky Sport and streamed on Sky Sport Now.”

The NZRL Championship competition, which is a tier below the premiership, will for the first time also feature a women’s draw. Both North Island Men’s and Women’s Championship competitions will take place between the 17th and 18th of October at Auckland’s Pulman Park with the finals expected to be played the same weekend as the Premiership finals.

The South Island Championship will take place over Labour Weekend in Timaru to which the South Island Champion will come up to Auckland to play the North Island Champion on the Premiership finals weekend.

NZRL will release further information regarding the Premiership and Championship finals fixtures in due course.

Please see below the 2020 Premiership and Championship draws (subject to change)

Amongst those sports stars recognised in the New Year’s honours list was women’s rugby league legend Luisa Avaiki.

Avaiki has been involved in rugby league for more than three decades, dating back to when she first played for the Kiwi Ferns in 1995. She’s lifted the Women’s Rugby League World Cup three times (2000, 2003, 2008), two of them as captain and she continues to inspire the next generation of wahine toa to reach such heights as she did.

She went on to hold development and welfare roles at the Melbourne Storm and is currently the Women’s Wellbeing and Development Manager at New Zealand Rugby League, also coaching the women’s Warriors team in the WNRL.

“I was shocked but grateful,” Avaiki said. “I felt honoured because I have been in the game for a long time, and you go about doing your work because you’re passionate about it.

“I’m grateful I can still be a part of this game and help give back and contribute.”

Fresh from the successful Women in League round, the Warriors are now calling for registrations for the club’s first-ever all-girls footy clinic on Wednesday, October 3.

Organised by the Harvey Norman Community Warriors during the school holidays, the free clinic at Mount Smart Stadium will feature members of the trailblazing Vodafone Warriors women’s side who will be helping to run the event.

The team made its debut in a trial against Auckland last Friday night ahead of the inaugural NRL women’s premiership.

Also featuring last week were two all-girls mini mod games with an under-13 match-up between the Richmond Rosebuds and the Howick Hornets and a primary schools encounter between Whangarei’s Glenbervie School and Auckland’s Point England School.

The clinic, open to girls aged 5-13 years old, will run from 9.00am-3.00pm featuring skills and drills, games, a tour of the Vodafone Warriors’ facilities, giveaways and interaction with Vodafone Warriors women’s team members.

CLICK HERE to register now.

Luisa Avaiki believes the inaugural NRL women’s premiership is a big “opportunity” for women playing in NZ.

All Lorina Papali’i wanted to do was be a trainer for the inaugural Warriors women’s team, but it was confirmed on Wednesday she’d cracked the squad.

The 41-year old-mother of Warriors’ second rower, Isaiah Papali’i is one of the 22 named Warriors squad for the short women’s NRL season, which will take place during the playoff rounds of the men’s NRL competition.

Papali’i had a glittering rugby league career, playing for the Kiwi Ferns from 2001 to 2010, playing in two World Cups, and also represented Samoa in two rugby union World Cups.

But she spent eight years out of the game, to be involved in cross fit and only put the boots on again when a women’s NRL competition came on the radar.

Initially, she was interested in being the trainer for the team, but was encouraged to give it a go to make the squad.

Lorina Papali'i, third from left, and some of her Warriors' team-mates at the squad announcement at Mt Smart.

“I have one life, one opportunity and feel it’s now or never,” she said.

“I was missing in action for eight years and did cross fit.

“But my goal has been hard work this year. I felt like I was hit by a bus.

“I’ve had a lot of treatment, physio, chiro, I’ve hit the pools, I’ve done hot and colds after the game and during the week.

“So there’s been a lot of rehab for me and my recovery is not as fast as the younger ones.”

She said she has been inspired to have another crack at rugby league by her son, who is this week in the Gold Coast, with the rest of the men’s team, preparing for Saturday’s game against the Dragons in Wollongong.

Lorina Papali'i in action for the Kiwi Ferns, whom she represented from 1994 to 2005.

Lorina Papali’i in action for the Kiwi Ferns, whom she represented from 1994 to 2005.

“He’s very supportive,” Lorina said.

“He’s proud and that’s what gives me the energy to get up each day, to make him proud.”

But likewise, Isaiah is just as impressed with his mother, who has been a big influence on his career.

“She’s always at my games giving me feedback. She’s still the master and I’m still trying to learn from her,” Isaiah said.

“I grew up watching her play footy. She was a really good player so watching her and my dad, I was inspired to go on this pathway after being being around the environment.”

If there’s any disappointment from Lorina about making this Warriors squad, it’s that there wasn’t this opportunity for her 20 years ago.

Lorina Papali'i's 19-year-old son Isaiah is enjoying a breakout season with the Warriors this year.

Lorina Papali’i’s 19-year-old son Isaiah is enjoying a breakout season with the Warriors this year.

“For the girls I played with in the past, it would have been amazing to have had this kind of pathway,” she said.

“I feel like I’m representing the past, the present and this team is paving the way for the future.”

The Warriors squad also includes Kiwi Ferns captain Laura Mariu and the experienced international Sarina Clark, who missed last year’s World Cup due to the birth of her third child.

Warriors coach Luisa Avaiki is delighted with the squad she has at her disposal for the inaugural competition.

“New Zealand Rugby League put out some information to the girls about making sure they’d feel good about their decisions if they’re approached.

“But to be honest, I didn’t know how hard other clubs were going until I heard they were engaging with certain players and then some of our players were going over.

“I know some of those girls well and it was never about holding onto them and saying they have to play for me, it was about what was best for them and their families.”

Warriors women’s player Krystal Rota credits family for their help with her sick daughter Nikayla.

The Warriors will warm up for the competition with a match against Auckland in a double header with the men’s team at Mt Smart Stadium on August 10.


Warriors women’s NRL squad: Raquel Anderson-Pitman, Sarina Clark, Lisa Edwards, Luisa Gago, Georgia Hale, Amber Kani, Onjeurlina Leiataua, Hilda Mariu, Laura Mariu, Va’anessa Molia-Fraser, Apii Nicholls, Tanika-Jazz Noble-Bell, Annetta-Claudia Nuuausala, Lorina Papali’i, Kahurangi Peters, Krystal Rota, Aieshaleigh Smalley, Masuisuimatamaalii (Sui) Tauasa-Pauaraisa, Crystal Tamarua, Alice Vailea, Langi Veainu, Shontelle Woodman

The Auckland Women’s representative team will face the New Zealand Warriors Women in a pair of warm-up matches ahead of the NRL Women’s Premiership kicking off in September.

On Friday, August 10, the two sides will play as the curtain-raiser to the men’s NRL clash at Mount Smart Stadium, before they meet again two weeks later on August 25, at a venue which will be announced at a later date.

Auckland Rugby League General Manager Greg Whaiapu said the games will showcase the depth of quality currently playing in Auckland’s Farrelly Photos women’s competitions.

“The majority of the Warriors’ squad for the NRL competition will be made up of players from our competitions, and it’s going to be exciting to see so many of our women take the field together when they play against Auckland,” Whaiapu said.

“Earning an Auckland jersey is always an honour, and for the ladies selected it will serve as a reward for their efforts this season.

“It’s also another chance for them to show their talents and push their claims for higher honours next year.”

The matches are the latest addition to the Auckland Rugby League’s female programme, which this year has included opening up the renowned JETS Development Camp to girls, the introduction of a new U13 girls’ grade at club level and the Auckland Vulcans contesting the National Women’s Tournament.Later this season the ARL will also co-host an end-of-season women’s nine-aside tournament for clubs and tertiary institutions, and send Auckland Vulcans Development age-grade girls sides down to the Waikato for representative matches.

Without batting an eye lid, National Women’s Tournament Grand-finalists Counties and Akarana took on the stormy conditions at Cornwall Park and it was Counties who came out on top to win their ninth successive title.

This year’s victory was extra special for Kiwi Fern veteran Laura Mariu who also celebrates her naming on the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen’s Birthday Honours announced today.

Big-hits and classy tricks were on display with Counties drawing first blood after the opening 20 minutes was spent in the middle of the field, neither team ready to give their opposition a look in. That was until Counties left winger Sarah Filimoeatu sealed herself a try putting first points on the board – the defending champions up by four as they headed into the break.

Five minutes into the second half and Counties were one man down with half Kimiora Nati being sent off for a professional foul.

Akarana took full advantage with Billy-Jean Ale leveling the scoreboard with a try beside the post, 4-4.

An off-load from Kimiora Nati sent Onjeurlina Leiataua, who picked up the MVP of the tournament award, over the line to take an 8-4 lead which was then converted by Nati to take it to 10-4.

And from there, it was full steam ahead for Counties who sealed the deal with one more try to Sarah Filimoeatu who picked up her second four pointer of the day, the final score being 14-4.

To watch the livestream, click here.


Back of the Tournament – Apii Nicholls-Pualau (Counties)

Forward of the Tournament – Karley Te Kawa (Akarana)

MVP of the Tournament – Onjeurlina Leiataua (Counties)

MVP of the Final – Chrystal Tamarua (Akarana)

Coach of the Tournament – Rod Ratu (Counties)

Trainer of the Tournament – Vili Johnson (Auckland Vulcans)

Finals Day scores:

5th & 6th play-off: Wai-Coa-Bay 8 (Lavinia McGee-Repia, Te Kowhai Boynton tries) – Wellington 0

3rd & 4th play-off: Canterbury 13 (Cassie Siataga 2 tries; Cassie Siataga goal; Cassie Siataga field goal) Auckland 12 (Tanika-Jazz Noble-Bell, Leanne Gardiner tries; Aleisha Taylor 2 goals)

Grand-Final: Counties 14 (Sarah Filimoeatu 2, Onjeurlina Leiataua tries; Kimiora Nati goal)  Akarana 4 (Billy-Jean Ale try)

Plagued by torrential rain and gail force winds, day two of the National Women’s Tournament at Cornwall Park brought plenty of spills, thrills and moments of brilliance.

In what will be a repeat of last year’s final, the Counties Manukau Stingrays will come up against the Akarana Falcons in hopes of securing their ninth successive national title.

This morning’s first game saw Akarana take on Wellington in a game many wouldn’t have predicted to have been so close. Akarana’s strong defence held Wellington down in their own half for the majority of the first half. Those efforts resulting in the first four points on the board through Akarana’s stand-off, Alice Vailea who scored by the post.

Akarana’s sheer ability to force errors at crucial times put the pressure on Wellington to get the basics right – and that they did. Wellington shifted into second gear meeting their opposition’s defensive line at speed, forcing errors from the Akarana camp only metres out from their try-line.

A risky offload by Wellington in their own half saw Akarana score after a solid carry by Billy-Jean Ale carrying two with her all the way to the try-line – score 8-0.

It wasn’t till later in the first half when Wellington decided to surge. By completing their sets and applying pressure to Akarana’s defence, Wellington’s Jayme Nuku managed to get their first points on the board converting her own try to make it 8-6 right before half time.

The second half saw Wellington give away several penalties and of course Akarana capitalised with Laishon Jones putting her hand up for a four-pointer.

Despite Wellington’s Mahalia Polson running in their second converted try of the game, Akarana held on by the skin of their teeth securing a close 14-12 victory.

Another close encounter was the Canterbury v Wai-Coa-Bay decider which would see the winner take on Counties in a semi-final, a crucial game for both teams who were desperate for a win.

It was Wai-Coa-Bay who began their tirade first with a strong set forcing a line drop-out however, a series of turnovers saw no significant field position for any team in the first half with a nil all scoreline heading into the break.

Back-to-back repeat sets for Canterbury in Wai-Coa-Bay’s half saw Cassie Siataga score a fabulous try running through a hole from a short ball. With eight minutes to go, Canterbury were up 4-0.

A beautiful set move from the scrum saw Canterbury strike again minutes later – 8-0. Wai-Coa-Bay were determined to have the last laugh although their final attempts weren’t enough to beat the Cantabrians, with Honey Hireme doing what she does best, running in a try on the final hooter – Final score 8-4.

With both Akarana and Counties winning their semi-finals convincingly, 22-0 and 50-0 respectively, many will watch on to see if Akarana will finally overcome the wrath of Counties to be crowned the 2018 National Women’s Tournament champions.

Counties v Canterbury livestream below:

Click here for photo album of day two

National Women’s Tournament – Day two 

Cornwall Park 

Sunday, 3 June 

Round three:

Akarana 14 – Wellington 12
Counties 12 – Auckland Vulcans 2
Canterbury 8 – Wai-Coa 4


Akarana 22 – Auckland 0

Counties 50 – Canterbury 0

Next games: Monday, 4 June 

Cornwall Park, Auckland 

5th & 6th playoff: Wellington v Wai-Coa-Bay – 10.30am

3rd & 4th playoff: Canterbury v Auckland – 11.30am

Final: Akarana v Counties – 1pm (livestreamed on NZRL Facebook page)


Defending champions, Counties Manukau Stingrays and the Akarana Falcons have once again marked their territory at day one of the National Women’s Tournament at Cornwall Park.

Standings after day one below:

Saturday’s action sees Counties at the top of Pool A on four points after two big wins against the Wellington Orcas (28-0) and Wai-Coa-Bay (40-0) keeping both of their oppositions scoreless in round one.

In the first game of the day, Counties served Wellington a 28-0 beating drawing inspiration from a structurally sound attacking line that scored off their first set through their fullback, Apii Nicholls-Pualau. Their forwards managed to lay a great platform for the outside backs to convert chances into points. Two more first half tries gave the defending champions a 16-0 lead at the break.

Immediately after the break Counties were able to pile on the points with two tries off their first two sets, jumping out to a 28-0 lead.

Counties’ tight defense allowed Wellington only a handful of opportunities, but mistakes cost them on almost every occasion.

However, after getting their first game jitters out of the way, Auckland’s cold winter breeze made the Wellington Orcas feel right at home in what turned out to be the closest match of the day – Wellington Orcas v Auckland Vulcans.

To view the livestream, click here. 

After an even opening period of the game, Wellington took advantage of their solid field position with a try to second-rower, Rikki Rawleigh. The Orcas left centre then took advantage of another scoring opportunity to extend their lead to 10-0.

Unfortunately for Auckland what seemed to be their best scoring chance quickly ended with what appeared to be a knee injury for their right centre, who had to be helped off the field.

After the break, a mistake from the Vulcans gifted the Orcas another chance and they capitalised, taking a commanding 14-0 lead.

Then came a shift in momentum. A surge in the final 20 minutes saw the Auckland Vulcans fight back to force a 14-all draw scoring three unanswered tries. That surge was ultimately sparked by former Kiwi Fern Lorina Papali’i and her sharp runs on attack that led to points on the board. The women’s rugby league veteran will be pleased with her performance as she returns to the field for the first time since retiring in 2010.

Wellington captain, Acacia Te Iwimate was named Mainstream Player of the Match after an outstanding game at hooker but admitted a lapse in defense cost them the win.

“We started off really well but against teams like the Vulcans, you can’t afford to go to sleep at any stage like we did. Of course, we’ve got to be happy with a draw, especially when it comes to an Auckland v Wellington battle.

“There were a couple of easy turnovers that we let slip at crucial times and they were able to counter-ruck off that and get the points so that will definitely be one of our work-ons going forward,” she said.

In Pool B, the Akarana Falcons lead with four points after beating Wai-Coa-Bay (24-0) and Canterbury (38-6) convincingly.

Akarana’s first try of the game came on the left wing for Lara Diamond-Brahne.

They then scored again off the ensuing set from kickoff, with a great slicing run from their second-rower, setting up a try for Tessa Wright.

Akarana began to pull away, with an overlap on the right side leading to a kick and chase. A great recovery from Luafalealo with a flick pass out the back to Diamond-Brahne extended their lead further with the winger running in her second try. Her impressive game saw her pick up the Mainstream Player of the Match.

Wayward passes and kicks, as well as several dropped balls didn’t work in Wai-Coa-Bay’s favour. Their strong defence helped set up numerous attacking opportunities, but all went begging as Akarana pulled on their great line speed to hold them scoreless.

A team that Akarana couldn’t keep scoreless was last year’s third place winners, Canterbury. A tight first half, one that Canterbury would be proud of, saw Akarana gain a narrow 8-6 lead.

The second half was a different story as the Falcons piled on the points. Their left side attack, which had been strong for most of the day produced a try produced another four points through left winger Tasha Tapu. Great running from the forwards in the middle opened the Canterbury defence up numerous times, and scoring chances flowed for Akarana. Final score being 38-6.

If Counties continue their winning streak, they could find themselves playing off for their ninth successive National Women’s Tournament title.

National Women’s Tournament – Day one 

Saturday, 2 June 2018 – Cornwall Park 

Round one:

Counties 28 – Wellington 0
Auckland Vulcans 16 – Canterbury 0
Akarana 24 – Wai-Coa 0

Round two:

Auckland Vulcans 14 – Wellington 14
Counties 40 – Wai-Coa 0
Akarana 38 – Canterbury 6

Photo Album from today’s games here

NZRL will keep you updated with results and ladders throughout the National Women’s Tournament on this weekend (2-4 June) at Cornwall Park.

Players will put their best foot forward in hopes of earning a spot in Kiwi Ferns wider squad of 30 which will be named at the conclusion of the tournament on Monday 4 June.

Teams this year include the Counties Manukau Stingrays, Wellington Orcas, Auckland Vulcans in Pool A and Canterbury, Akarana Falcons and Wai-Coa-Bay Stallions in Pool B.

Download the NZRL app on your iphone or android through the app store, and you’ll receive live notifications as the results come in. You can refer to LeagueNet (click here for link) for live scoring and results as they happen too.

There will also be daily wrap-up graphics on the NZRL Facebook page and the NZRL website. These wrap-ups will be accompanied by interviews with players so you don’t miss out on the action.

Thanks to passionate supporters of the women’s game, Mainstream for sponsoring $250 vouchers for the recipient of the ‘Player of the Round’ awards that will be given out after each round.

One game per day will be livestreamed on the NZRL Facebook page. These will include:

Day one 2 June, 2.30pm – Auckland Vulcans v Wellington Orcas

Day two 3 June, 1.30pm – 1st Pool A v 2nd Pool B (Semi Final 1)

Day three 4 June, 1pm – Grand Final

Will the Counties Manukau Stingrays take out their ninth successive National Women’s Tournament title or will there be another team that takes the crown this year?



National Women’s Tournament – three weeks out

The National Women’s Tournament is three weeks away and NZRL are pleased to advise there will be one game livestreamed each day of the tournament.

Livestreamed games will include:

Day one 2 June, 2.30pm – Auckland Vulcans v Wellington Orcas
Day two 3 June, 1.30pm – 1st Pool A v 2nd Pool B
Day three 4 June, 1pm – Grand Final

Teams this year include the Counties Manukau Stingrays, Wellington Orcas, Auckland Vulcans in Pool A and Canterbury, Akarana Falcons and Wai-Coa-Bay Stallions in Pool B.

The NZRL National Women’s Tournament is back in 2018. Queen’s Birthday weekend, 2-4 June will see women’s teams from throughout New Zealand battle out in hopes of being crowned the NZRL Women’s National champions.

Last year, the Counties Manukau Stingrays took out their eighth successive title in a nail biter against Akarana and it was standout fullback, Apii Nicholls-Pualau who was awarded Best Back of the Tournament earning her a spot in the Kiwi Ferns 2017 Rugby League World Cup squad. After outstanding performances on the world stage, she unsurprisingly went on to take out 2017 NZRL Women’s PLayer of the Year.

Five weeks out from this year’s National Women’s Tournament, we look forward to seeing all the talent on display that 2018 has to offer.