26 September 2023
The 2023 National Girls Youth Tournament did not disappoint, as some of the best rugby league wāhine from around the country represented their Zones and Districts over three days. Following the successful inaugural tournament in 2022, 2023 saw an expansion as the Waikato and Bay of Plenty Districts joined the fold to field their best female talent. Spectators were treated to some exhilarating football, as returning players alongside new up-and-comers left it all on the field. The Grand Finals saw Counties Manukau Stingrays successfully defend their claim to the 16s Girls title, while the Auckland Vulcans dominantly took the victory of the 18s Girls grade. The very best young women from the tournament earned selection for the NZRL Aotearoa Whaanui and Resident Clubs representative squads to play in October.
NZRL 2023 National Girls Youth Tournament Grand Finals recap:
Grand Final – Counties Manukau Stingrays v Wellington Orcas
Final score: Counties Manukau 18-4
The Counties Manukau side put points on the board first after the ball was excellently spread wide for their left winger #2 Tiare-Anne Leuaga to score. Leuaga crossed again shortly after for her second, to bring the score to a modest 8-0 at halftime. As the second half kicked off, the Wellingtonians fought hard to regain some momentum, producing some excellent defensive work followed by Kyla Pasene scoring to put them on the board. Not to be outdone, the Stingrays outfit replied with a try by winger Shafenior Lui, then successfully converted through Limilaiti Paea. To seal Counties’ second title and complete her hat trick, Leuaga scored again, bringing it to 18-4 full-time.
Grand Final – Akarana Falcons v Auckland Vulcans
Final score: Auckland Vulcans 38-0
In this battle of Tāmaki Makaurau, a formidable Vulcans side dominated 2022 champions the Akarana Falcons, who saw losses to their squad throughout the tournament due to injuries. The Vulcans lineup featured several seasoned players, including Braxton Sorensen-McGee, Seriah Palepale, and Latesha Mitchener, while Claudia Finau captained the Falcons. Winger Angelica Vahai opened up scoring for the Auckland Rugby League side, followed quickly by Gillian Fa’aumu, who put another four points on the board. The side was relentless, scoring twice more and keeping the Akarana girls scoreless, 20-0 at halftime. The second half saw courageous play by the Akarana Falcons, including multiple close scoring attempts and a line break by fullback Malita Tapu. Ultimately, the Vulcans proved too dominant, claiming the 18s Girls title and finishing the game 38-0.
2023 NZRL Aotearoa Whaanui 16s Girls Squad:
Tournament MVP: Mary-Jane Taito – Counties Manukau Stingrays
2023 NZRL New Zealand Resident Girls Clubs 18s Squad:
Tournament MVP: Claudia Finau – Akarana Falcons
For past live streams, results of all Girls Youth Day 3 games, and all tournament content, visit linktr.ee/nzrlgrassroots.