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.