Hireme-Smiler: Joining NZRL board 'a real privilege'

By Mana Wikaire-Lewis

A legendary Aotearoa women's rugby league player has joined the New Zealand Rugby League's board.

In their annual general meeting held on Saturday, June 16, former Kiwi Ferns captain Honey Hireme-Smiler (Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Hauā, Waikato-Tainui) was welcomed to the board as a director.

Hireme-Smiler has enjoyed a successful 18-year professional career that included 32 test appearances for the Kiwi Ferns, two World Cup victories, and a spot on the NRL Women's Team of the Decade (2010s).

Since retiring from the game, Hireme-Smiler has been giving back to the community as a coach in the High-Performance Sport New Zealand’s (HPSNZ) Te Hāpaitanga programme and also as both a league and union presenter and commentator for Sky Sport. 


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NZRL chairman Hugh Martyn says Hireme-Smiler's appointment to the board is an exceptional addition.

"Her passion for the women’s and disability space and her experience at a high-performance and grassroots level will see her bring valuable insight and direction to the organisation,” he says.

The board is made up of members Justin Leydesdorff, former CODE presenter Tawera Nikau, Jeni Pearce and Grant Stapleton. Others include chair Hugh Martyn, president Howie Tamati and deputy chair Natasha Tere. 

'A real privilege'

Talking to teaomāori.news earlier today, Hireme-Smiler says it's been a privilege to have been appointed to the board.

"What [the board] have been doing already has been pretty impressive, especially around changing the constitution and having an Aoteroa Māori Rugby League chairman now holding a permanent seat on that board. It just shows the collaboration, and it's been long overdue.

"I'm passionate and very much about the female game, the girls' game and the grassroots side of it as well as right through to the elite and international stage of it."

Later this week, on Thursday night, Hireme-Smiler will be seen in a different sporting arena. She will be squaring up in the boxing ring against Mai FM radio presenter Tegan Yorwarth (Te Aupōuri, Ngāti Kurī) as part of the Fight For Life boxing event, raising funds for Mike King's I AM HOPE charity.

Hireme-Smiler says taking up boxing has been a massive challenge. 

"I thought I could just go in there and rely on my athlete background and throw some hands around. But I've been challenged physically, and mentally almost every day for the past seven weeks. 

"I give full credit to the sport. I didn't realise it was going to be this tough. I've had so much personal growth in it. I'm looking forward to getting out there and hopefully doing a good job."