World League 9s include women for the first time

By Regan Paranihi

The Kiwi Ferns have made their way to Sydney Australia to prepare for this weekend's Downer Rugby League World Cup 9s competition.

This is the first time the NRL 9s have incorporated a women's pool into this competition and head coach Justin Morgan says he has the best team to represent the country.

For some of these Kiwi Ferns whose WNRL season didn't quite work out, they had planned this competition could be their shot at redemption.

Krystal Rota (Te Arawa) says, "It's time for us to seize the opportunity again and go for a better result this time around."

Maddison Bartlett adds, "It's just a chance for us to showcase what we didn't get to showcase in that Grand Final."

She also says a face-off with Australia also makes for healthy competition.

"Every time we come up against Australia it's always a chance to not only prove to everyone kind of what we do have."

With the incorporation of the women's section into this weekend's competition, these players say that their presence in this game continues to grow.

"The game is evolving really quickly at the moment for the women's game so I think this is another great opportunity for women's footy," says Rota.

"We're seeing with women's sport at the moment that equal opportunity is really arising in a lot of codes and rugby league is one of the ones really at the forefront of that," adds Kiwi Ferns Head Coach Justin Morgan.

Bartlett says, "We're finally kind of on the same playing field as the men."

This will be Bartlett’s second time playing in the Kiwi Ferns squad and she says playing alongside veterans of the game has made it a lot smoother.

"I get to learn from them every time. We're really lucky that they look after us I know that it's not like that for all sports so we're really lucky that they kind of take us under their wing and make sure we're ok."

However, Rota says the cultural aspect in their team on and off the field is their key to success.

"If you have a good culture in a team it creates a good bond amongst the team and if you have a good culture and a good bond than that obviously reflects out on the field."

Twelve nations will take to the field this weekend to vie for their chance at winning the title.