Women’s rugby continues to thrive in the Waikato region, building on a resurgence which started a few years ago.
The Waikato Women’s team returned to the Women’s Provincial Championship in 2012 after a six year hiatus, and the women’s game in the province has gone from strength to strength since.
Waikato made it through to their first national final in 2014, losing to women’s rugby powerhouse Auckland, and backed that up with a semi-final appearance in 2015 where they were again beaten by Auckland. This is a monumental rise from a region that had no women’s team just four years ago.
The Waikato women’s sevens team has also been among the top teams in the country over the past few summers – taking out several tournaments, including a Northern Region’s Sevens title in 2014, and regularly featuring in the top four at the national tournament.
With the success of the women’s teams has come national recognition, with no fewer than 11 players representing their country in 2015:
Black Ferns: Teresa Te Tamaki, Honey Hireme, Les Ketu, Stacey Waaka, Toka Natua, Sosoli Talawadua, Chelsea Alley.
NZ Women’s Sevens: Carla Hohepa, Honey Hireme, Jordon Webber, Shiray Tane, Stacey Waaka, Les Ketu, Morgan Morrow.
A key component in the development of the women’s game in Waikato has been WRU rugby development coach and Waikato Women’s head coach Rueben Samuel. He has progressed this team from the ground up to be consistent national contenders in both sevens and fifteens, in the space of just 3-4 years. He is now also assistant coach of the New Zealand Black Ferns.
The women’s game is also seeing some amazing development at secondary school level – a strong Waikato secondary school competition is run through the winter. This is dominated by Hamilton Girls’ High School who have had a remarkable couple of seasons and are now widely regarded as the best women’s rugby factory in New Zealand. They have won back-to-back national titles, with most of their results by huge margins, and these girls are starting to feed through to the Waikato team which is an encouraging sign for the future.
The next step is to start up a Waikato women’s club competition. There are currently three Waikato club teams (University, Hamilton Marist and Fraser Tech) who play in the Auckland club competition and the goal is to increase that number in the next two years to be able to run a Waikato club competition.
Anyone interested in getting involved in women’s rugby in the Waikato can contact Reuben Samuel on 021 228 5388 or email@example.com