We caught up with Janie Kaafi (Tamaruarangi/Tamakaimoana) and Anahera Rapana (Ngati Rongo) who tell us of their journey having Tūhoe wahine represented in the New Zealand Rugby League. Janie, Captain of the Waimana Womens Rugby teamed up with Alex Wickliffe - the Captain of the Rotoiti Womens team, and with their powers combined pulled a skilled team together. This collaboration led to the creation of Wai-ti, a hearty talented mix of women rugby league players from Rotoiti and Tūhoe inlcuding Umere Takao (Tamakaimoana) and Shinoa Nikora (Tamaruarangi). Wai-ti then entered into the womens league of the Waicoabay tournament and trials.
Waicoabay are the Waikato, Coastline and Bay of Plenty districts unified under the Upper central zone (UCZ). The UCZ is the regional organisation of New Zealand Rugby League that develops and promotes Rugby League throughout the Waikato, Coastline and Bay of Plenty (Wai-Coa-Bay) districts. Though New Zealand Māori Rugby League has largely been represented by men, there has been a huge increase in the number of women joining up and entering tournaments and trials as pathways and opportunities for women through Rugby League are becoming more widely recognized.
The decision to enter Wai-ti into the womens league of the Waicoabay tournament and trials turned out to be a big success as five of the Wai-ti team members including Umere and Shinoa made the representative wider squad, which Janie says is a great achievement. Looking onwards and upwards, their focus is now on training and preparing to compete in the Māori Nationals to be held in Tāmaki Makaurau in late October. So if you’re up in Manurewa over Labour weekend whānau, head on over to Mountford Park to tautoko the New Zealand Māori Rugby League tournament where these wahine are sure to represent Tūhoe proudly.