30 June 2021

Rugby league has this week lost a precious taonga.

Cathy Friend QSM, the first woman to receive an NZRL Life Membership passed away on Tuesday, June 29

A loved and respected kuia and a stalwart of the game, Cathy’s time in rugby league stretched over seven decades and saw her awarded Life Membership to the Auckland Rugby League, Auckland Māori Rugby League, New Zealand Māori Rugby League and New Zealand Rugby League, becoming the first female inductee of the latter organisation.

A veteran of the Manukau and Otahuhu clubs, Friend started her rugby league career as a teenager working in administration.

She was a driving force behind NZ Maori participation in the 2000 Rugby League World Cup earning the Maori Sports Administrator of the Year.

She has also been awarded a Queen’s Service Medal for her contribution to the game, and in 2017 she became the first-ever kaumātua kuia of the ARL. As of 2019, the award for Auckland’s best female player each year carries her name.  

In more recent years, despite struggles with her health, Cathy remained a valued mentor and sounding board for people across the rugby league landscape and regularly still attended ARL events and club functions.

Much loved wife of the late Ivan Lionel Friend and dearly loved Mother and Mother-in-law of Andrew (Deceased), Carmen and Whetu, Clayton and Joanne, Tony and Gus, Jackie & Neil plus Nana ‘Bubbles’ to many moko.

Bub will be laying in state at Kokako Lodge, 235 Falls Rd, Hunua.

A service for Cathy will be held at the Otahuhu Rugby League Club on Friday 2nd July 2021 at 11am. Then burial at Mangere Lawn Cemetery to follow.”