Debuting for the Kiwi Ferns on home soil is a pinch-me moment for the newest stars of the game named in this week’s line-up.
A new-look team has been named to take on Mate Ma’a Tonga Women in Saturday’s triple header at Eden Park as part of the Pacific Championships.
Taranaki’s Tiana Davison is among the new faces named in the team.
“It’s very surreal and to do it at home in front of family and friends is even more surreal. I think there will be a few tears shed,” she says.
Tiana, who made the switch from rugby union to league in 2022, and helped the Newcastle Knights win the grand final of the 2023 NRLW grand final, once had her sights set on making the Black Ferns.
This Saturday she will don the black and white jersey in front of friends and family, who will travel from her small hometown of Waitara to watch her take the field for the first time as a Kiwi Fern.
“Following my time with the Knights this year, I knew if I worked hard and kept my head down my time would come and thankfully for me it did come,” says the 22 year-old.
Tiana says her goal is to show the next generation in her hometown that there is a pathway into elite sport if you put your mind to it.
Making her first appearance in the Pacific Championships alongside Tiana is Abigail Roache, also of the Newcastle Knights.
“My family all managed to come to the NRLW grand final, so it’s going to be really special to play in front of them at home. I’m hoping my grandparents will make it,” says Abigail.
Off the back of a narrow 16-10 loss to the Australian Jillaroos on Saturday in Townsville, head coach Ricky Henry has made some changes to the previous line-up.
“It’s been a really tough selection process where we are leaving out some top players but it shows our depth as we build towards the 2026 World Cup,” says Ricky.
Hot off the back of an NRLW season with the Canberra Raiders also making her debut is Cheyelle Robins-Reti. Having been cleared to play, following an eye injury late in the NRLW season, Cheyelle will be stepping on to the wing.
Brisbane Broncos centre Mele Hufanga caught the attention of many with her try against the Jillaroos in the Kiwi Ferns’ first match of the Pacific Championships. Leading from the front, Mele says she is so proud of how far the debutants have come in the space of a short time.
“These young guns are really talented and they really showed up on Saturday against the Jillaroos.”
Asked what she’s expecting this weekend, Mele says she expects the Tongan players to come for her.
“I’m just focusing on doing better and being better,” she says.
Mate Ma’a Tonga Women v Kiwi Ferns kick-off Saturday 21 October 3.45pm (NZT).
2023 Kiwi Ferns Pacific Championship Team List:
1. Shanice Parker Newcastle Knights
2. Cheyelle Robins-Reti Canberra Raiders
3. Mele Hufanga Brisbane Broncos
4. Abigail Roache Newcastle Knights
5. Leianne Tufuga Wests Tigers
6. Tyla Nathan-Wong St George Illawarra Dragons
7. Raecene McGregor St George Illawarra Dragons
8. Mya Hill-Moana Sydney Roosters
9. Brooke Anderson Cronulla Sharks
10. Angelina Teakaraanga-Katoa St George Illawarra Dragons
11. Otesa Pule Sydney Roosters
12. Annessa Biddle Cronulla Sharks
13. Georgia Hale Gold Coast Titans
14. Capri Paekau Parramatta Eels
15. Najvada George Wests Tigers
16. Amelia Pasikala Sydney Roosters
17. Tiana Davison Newcastle Knights
18. Jasmine Fogavini Brisbane Broncos