18-year-old budding league star set for international debut 

By Mare Haimona-Riki

The Māori Ferns youngest player, Capri Paekau, is hoping to make a name for herself at the international level, ahead of the Indigenous All-Stars game in Australia in a fortnight's time.

Coming from a family of die-hard 'leaguies', it was only a matter of time before the young hooker from Te Awamutu would take to the international stage. 

“I grew up with this footy whānau so I've always been a part of this culture. I used to watch my brothers train and my dad coaching the boys when I was a baby,” Paekau says, who is Ngāti Raukawa and Tainui.

Making the two-hour drive from Te Awamutu to Auckland since November last year has made a good impression on Head Coach Rusty Matua (Te Arawa). 

“Capri has ended up being a bit of a bolter, she was selected from the labour weekend Māori tournament. She was a real stand out and all of the selectors agreed, she was a unanimous decision for the training squad.”

Capri Paekau.  Photo / File

Due to an untimely injury to the team's back-up hooker, coupled with her work ethic, Matua says the 18-year-old is likely to get some valuable playing time.

“Shoutout to her father for the effort of bringing her over from Te Awamutu twice a week, it's really paid off.”  

Captaining the Hamilton Girls' High School touch team to a national championship last year, Paekau decided to take on rugby league to pay homage to her father. 

“I love playing this sport, not only because of myself but because of my dad, I like to make him proud.”

The team departs for the Gold Coast next Monday, with the all-important All-Stars game on Saturday, 22 February at Cbus Super Stadium.