Wily hooker Krystal Rota has developed into one of the most prominent players in women’s rugby league and one of New Zealand’s genuine leaders in recent years.
As a promising 22-year-old Rota – the daughter of highly-regarded form Otahuhu centre Roger – made the Kiwi Ferns’ training squad for the first time but missed out on the 2008 Rugby League World Cup team.
After taking a three-year break from the game, Rota earned a breakthrough call-up for the inaugural Kiwi Ferns v Jillaroos series at the 2015 NRL Auckland Nines. Three months later she debuted off the bench in New Zealand’s Anzac Test loss to Australia.
Rota was promoted to the No.9 jersey for the corresponding Anzac Test clash in 2016, scoring a try in the Kiwi Ferns’ 26-16 victory in Newcastle. She retained her spot for the 2017 Anzac Test loss to Australia.
The dynamic dummy-half was named Auckland Women’s Player of the Year in 2017 after helping Manurewa to premiership success and overcame an eye injury suffered in the grand final to take her place in New Zealand’s RLWC squad.
Rota was a mainstay during the tournament and featured at hooker in the Ferns’ gallant defeat to the Jillaroos in the thrilling final.
A key member of the all-conquering Counties-Manukau provincial team, Rota joined Papakura Sisters in 2018. She then played all three games in the Warriors’ historic NRLW campaign.
Rota was named co-captain for the Māori All Stars’ inaugural encounter with the Indigenous All Stars during the 2019 pre-season. The 33-year-old scored the winning try and received the Trish Hina Medal as player of the match. She contributed 19 tackles and 94 running metres to the Kiwi Ferns’ mid-season win over Samoa.
Another grand final triumph with Papakura followed, while Rota was one of the Warriors’ standouts in the 2019 NRLW. She again played all three games and averaged 30 tackles and 80 metres, as well as producing two try-assists.
Rota starred in the Kiwi Ferns’ World Cup Nines success and was at hooker again for the subsequent Test loss to the Jillaroos in Wollongong.
The veteran’s leadership qualities came to the fore in 2020. After leading Māori All Stars against Indigenous All Stars for the second straight season, Rota skippered Counties Manukau to glory in the inaugural Sky Sports NZRL National Women’s Premiership. She was then named Kiwi Ferns captain for the end-of-season Test against Fetu Samoa, producing a typically strong performance at hooker in New Zealand’s 28-8 victory.