Auckland, New Zealand, August 01, 2018 – A 22-strong squad laden with current and former Kiwi Ferns has been unveiled today to represent the Vodafone Warriors in the inaugural NRL women’s premiership next month.
With former Kiwi Fern Lorina Papali’i (41) signed, the Vodafone Warriors create rugby league history with a mother and son representing one club at the same time.
Lorina’s son Isaiah (19) has this year established himself as a first-choice second rower in his second season in the NRL.
Among the others confirmed at the club’s headquarters are Kiwi Ferns captain Laura Mariu and another legendary international Sarina Clark (nee Fiso).
Mariu, who was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen’s Birthday awards, had contemplated retirement after the 2017 World Cup but returned this season to help the Counties Manukau Stingrays to win the national final. She was also a key figure as the Manurewa Marlins beat the Richmond Roses in the Auckland women’s grand final last Sunday.
Clark missed the World Cup last year to have her third child. She returned to the field recently and signed with the Vodafone Warriors just this week.
“This is such an exciting day for our club and for rugby league in this country,” said Vodafone Warriors general manager football Brian Smith.
“We were thrilled to bring Luisa (Avaiki) on board as the first women’s coach in the NRL and today we take another step forward with the announcement of our squad comprising solely New Zealand players.
“We have a group of talented players who are just so excited about being involved in this shot at history.”
Avaiki is delighted with the 22 players the club has been able to sign.
“We have some legends of our game in the likes of Laura and Sarina who are backed up by some fantastic players,” she said.
“This is a dream for all of us to be involved in the NRL women’s premiership and we’re all working hard to make the most of what is an amazing opportunity for rugby league.”
Avaiki, appointed in last March, had an illustrious international playing career from 1995-2009. She captained the Kiwi Ferns to victory in two women’s World Cup tournaments in 2003 and 2008 and was also in the winning side in the first World Cup in 2000.
Features of the squad named:
A total of 18 players are current or former Kiwi Ferns.
The four players yet to represent the Kiwis have all been included in a wider 2018 national squad named by new Kiwi Ferns coach Kelvin Wright.
A total of 16 players are from the Manurewa Marlins and Richmond Roses squad which met in the Auckland women’s premiership final last Sunday.
Lorina Papali’i and Isaiah Papali’i become the first mother and son pair to represent a rugby league club at the same time.
Two players Laura Mariu and Apii Nicholls – the New Zealand Rugby League’s 2017 women’s player of the year – were recently sworn in as constables with the New Zealand Police.
Several of the players have been national representatives in other sports apart from rugby league:
Sarina Clark has played kabbadi and touch for New Zealand.
Georgia Hale and Krystal Rota have both played touch and tag for New Zealand.
Amber Kani has represented New Zealand Maori at the tag World Cup.
Apii Nicholls has played sevens rugby union and tag for Cook Island.
Lorina Papali’i, the NZRL’s player of the year in 2014, has played tag for New Zealand and represented Samoa Mausina at two women’s rugby union World Cup tournaments.
The Vodafone Warriors will play NRL women’s premiership matches against Brisbane, St George Illawarra and the Sydney Roosters during the NRL finals in September.
They’ll warm up for the competition with a match against Auckland when the Vodafone Warriors stage a double header in their Women in League game day at Mount Smart Stadium on Friday, August 10.
The women’s game is scheduled to kick off at 6.05pm followed by the 22nd-round NRL clash between the Vodafone Warriors and the Newcastle Knights (8.00pm).
VODAFONE WARRIORS | 2018 NRL WOMEN’S PREMIERSHIP
Born: November 2, 1991
Birthplace: Tokoroa, NZ
Club: Manurewa Marlins
Rep Honours: Kiwi Ferns (2017-2018), World Cup (2017), Counties Manukau Stingrays
Occupation: Boiler operator, Oji Fibre Solutions
Born: November 11, 1981
Birthplace: Auckland, NZ
Club: Manurewa Marlins
Rep Honours: Kiwi Ferns (2006-2016), World Cup (2008, 2013), NRL Nines (2015, 2016, 2017), New Zealand Maori (2015), New Zealand kabaddi (2013-2015), New Zealand touch (2009), Counties Manukau Stingrays
Occupation: Case manager, WINZ
Born: October 19, 1992
Birthplace: Auckland, NZ
Club: Mount Albert
Rep Honours: Akarana Falcons
Occupation: Receptionist, Crittal Armold
Pronunciation: Loo-ee-sah Nung-or (Nung as in rung)