Amongst those sports stars recognised in the New Year’s honours list was women’s rugby league legend Luisa Avaiki.

Avaiki has been involved in rugby league for more than three decades, dating back to when she first played for the Kiwi Ferns in 1995. She’s lifted the Women’s Rugby League World Cup three times (2000, 2003, 2008), two of them as captain and she continues to inspire the next generation of wahine toa to reach such heights as she did.

She went on to hold development and welfare roles at the Melbourne Storm and is currently the Women’s Wellbeing and Development Manager at New Zealand Rugby League, also coaching the women’s Warriors team in the WNRL.

“I was shocked but grateful,” Avaiki said. “I felt honoured because I have been in the game for a long time, and you go about doing your work because you’re passionate about it.

“I’m grateful I can still be a part of this game and help give back and contribute.”