Mele Hufanga has been busy on the field this year representing Auckland in rugby union’s Farah Palmer Cup and playing local rugby league for the Ponsonby Ponies, but one thing she always knew was that she wanted to become a Kiwi Fern.
For the 28-year-old, that dream will come true on Sunday November 6, 5.00pm in York when the Kiwi Ferns take on the Cook Islands in their second match of the Rugby League World Cup.
“I started my rugby league journey on the wing and now I will debut on the wing,” Hufanga said.
“I got itchy feet watching the girls in their first game last week and I’m honestly excited and grateful for this opportunity to represent my family on the big stage.
“I still can’t describe the feeling, hopefully I can after I perform well on my debut (laughs).”
The dual athlete juggled both codes with trainings between Tuesday and Friday followed by a rugby union game on Saturday and rugby league match on Sunday until the seasons ended.
“To be honest I didn’t have a plan,” Hufanga said.
“I literally just wanted to enjoy my footy and take on any opportunity that came my way. I was lucky that Ricky (Henry) chose me for this campaign.
“I want to get this World Cup out of the way before I can start thinking ahead to next year, I don’t want to plan too far ahead as anything could happen between now and then.
“But I’m definitely sticking to rugby league next year. I’m not getting any younger and I feel like I’m at a point in my life where I need to stick to one code, I can’t be a superhero anymore and play both (laughs).
“I feel like rugby league is where I belong.”
Kiwi Ferns head coach Ricky Henry praised Hufanga for her commitment to the game so far.
“She’s been around for a few years and is an unbelievable talent,” Henry said.
“She’s got strike, she’s skilful and I didn’t know much about her personality, but she has come into this camp and really lifted the spirits of the group.
“She’s been massive not only on the field but off the field.”
The idea of suiting up for New Zealand at the World Cup grew stronger for Hufanga in June when she watched the Kiwi Ferns defeat a brave Mate Ma’a Tonga side 50-12 at Mount Smart Stadium.
“I knew Tonga weren’t going to compete at the World Cup so I thought it would be a cool opportunity for me to try and make the Kiwi Ferns squad. I told myself I wouldn’t know unless I tried,” Hufanga said.
“When I got the first call from Ricky it was an overwhelming feeling, I didn’t know how to feel.
“It’s been a crazy year for me, this is my biggest highlight and it’s the first time I’ve been in England so that’s pretty cool.”
Tune in LIVE on Spark Sport at 6.00am NZT (November 7) and delayed on Three at 9.30am.