Following in the footsteps of revered Kiwi Ferns fullback stalwart Sarina Fiso, Apii Nicholls has developed into a superstar of women’s rugby league since making her international debut in 2017.
A long-time Cook Islands Rugby Sevens rep, Nicholls exploded onto the rugby league scene in 2017. The Otahuhu Leopards junior won an ARL grand final with Manurewa Marlins – playing on the wing with Fiso at fullback – and featured in Counties-Manukau’s NZRL National Women’s Competition success, before getting a Kiwi Ferns call-up for the World Cup.
With Fiso unavailable for the RLWC, clubmate Nicholls took possession of the New Zealand No.1 jumper. She played four of New Zealand’s five games at the tournament, scoring a try on debut against Canada and starring in the gallant defeat to Australia in the final. The gutsy custodian was later named the Kiwi Ferns’ Player of the Year.
Nicholls was a key recruit for the Warriors’ inaugural women’s squad and has played all six of the club’s NRLW games to date, averaging 75 metres and kicking seven goals.
The 25-year-old was magnificent in the Kiwi Ferns’ 26-24 end-of-season Test loss, racking up 131 metres, a try-assist and two goals.
Switching to Papakura Sisters in 2019, Nicholls’ influence on the representative scene was no less striking. The police constable scored a try and a goal in the Kiwi Ferns’ 46-8 win over Fetu Samoa and was solid at the back in the Test loss to Australia either side of playing an integral role in New Zealand’s World Cup Nines triumph.
Nicholls joined Richmond Roses in 2020, scored two tries in three Sky Sports NZRL National Women’s Premiership matches for Akarana Falcons and was named in the Kiwi Ferns’ wider squad ahead of the clash with Fetu Samoa, but she did not play in the Test.