Wahine footy in for a big month

By Jamie Wall

Women’s rugby and league is in for a period of large exposure, starting tomorrow at Mt Smart Stadium. The Kiwi Ferns are playing Fetu Samoa in their first test match of the year, and captain Honey Hireme is excited about the challenge.

“We know that the Samoans are going to bring a big presence, so we’re prepared for that.” she said at today’s pre-match press conference at Mt Smart Stadium.

Someone else who has been giving rugby that sort of effort since age four is Black Ferns captain Kendra Cocksedge. The team leaves tomorrow to fly to San Diego to play in a tournament involving England, France, Canada and the USA. Cocksedge acknowledges that it will be a real test for the usually dominant Ferns.

“They’re all very talented teams, we’ve just to focus on what we need to do to make sure we can go over there and challenge them.” she said today at Mangere College, where the team was training.

Cocksedge became the first ever woman to win the New Zealand Rugby Player of the Year in 2018, and with it became one of the main faces of the female game. It’s something that she describes as a ‘whirlwind’.

“It’s been pretty crazy, I’m getting a lot more exposure. Had a lot more media and interviews, but the exposure around the game is growing as well. It’s been a massive year and I’ve thoroughly loved it, and for us to come out and be role models to the young one coming through is really important.”

While female participation in rugby has jumped around 15 percent over the last couple of seasons, their rival code is hoping to benefit from the amount of girls picking up an oval ball.

Hireme is a veteran of the Kiwi Ferns, Black Ferns and Black Ferns Sevens sides, but admits that the days of code-swapping female athletes like her may be at an end.

“Probably not as much now that it’s moved into that professional era. The details around contracts do tie you to one code…now that both codes have taken that big leap forward you probably are looking towards more sticking with one and giving that 100 percent.”

She says the match against Fetu Samoa is ‘huge’ for inspiring the next generation of potential Kiwi Ferns.

“We don’t often get to play at home. We know that rugby’s quite big here, but league is biting at the heels, especially in the women’s game. We want to inspire girls to take this pathway, but most importantly have a look at rugby league first because it’s a much more exciting game.”