The inaugural season of Super Rugby Aupiki reaches another milestone today with the announcement of player signings across the four teams.
105 players have signed contracts for 2022 and the first season of Super Rugby Aupiki, with only a handful of positions left across the country.
New Zealand Rugby’s Head of Professional Rugby Chris Lendrum said it can’t be underestimated how important today is.
“Firstly, I would like to congratulate all those players that have been contracted for 2022. Super Rugby Aupiki is a significant milestone in the growth of women’s rugby in our country and this group of players rightfully take their place in the history books.
“It is great to see such a talented group of players named for each of the four Super Rugby Aupiki teams, the competition not only provides players with a pathway to the Black Ferns but opportunities off the field too. The four teams will grow fan bases, commercial partnerships and engagement for rugby. It is an exciting product for women’s sport, and sport in general, and I look forward to the rugby community supporting it.”
Super Rugby Aupiki will feature almost 50 current or former Black Ferns players across the four squads. The Chiefs boast the most international experience, nudging slightly ahead of the Blues with almost 200 combined Black Ferns caps. Matatū sees the most domestic experience with almost 800 Farah Palmer Cup caps between the 26 contracted players, over 200 more than the next team.
Each squad will consist of 28 players, each club will name their final players by 1 December 2021.
A mix of youth and experience could not be truer when describing the Blues, with 13 players having worn the black jersey, they also have five teenagers in their ranks and the youngest team, with an average age of 23. Mel Puckett (Canterbury) and Kalyn Takitimu-Cook (Bay of Plenty) are two young players who have had time in the Black Ferns set up and will be looking to impress in their move north.
Blues Coach Willie Walker said, “we have got some proven internationals, especially upfront, who will provide the platform for us to develop front-foot ball. There is also a bunch of very exciting young players who will get the opportunity to develop and show-off their skills on this stage.”
“Our experienced players will have the added responsibility to help develop the young ones to what it means to play in a professional competition.”
Blues Squad: Eloise Blackwell, Sylvia Brunt, Sam Curtis, Ruahei Demant, Princess Elliot, Theresa Fitzpatrick, Tenaija Fletcher, Mele Hufanga, Aldora Itunu, Tafito Lafaele, Patricia Maliepo, Liana Mikaele-Tu'u, Ilisapeta Molia, Natahlia Moors, Krystal Murray, Aleisha-Pearl Nelson, Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate, Melanie Puckett, Maiakawanakaulani Roos, Aroha Savage, Kalyn Takitimu-Cook, Vineta Teutau, Rebecca Todd, Cristo Tofa, Luisa Togotogorua, Chryss Viliko
The Chiefs have been able to rely on a wealth of experience from inside their boundary, with 16 current or former Black Ferns in their ranks, only three players join the team from outside the region. Four current Black Ferns Sevens players will no doubt light up the backline when they link with former Coach Allan Bunting.
Speaking about his squad, Bunting said, “we are certainly blessed with the talent we have in our squad. A lot of genuine experience at the highest level balanced out with exciting younger talent and potential.
“With this group we have the opportunity to create a tightly connected, very competitive environment where we can truly make the most of what is in front of us and most importantly enjoy doing it.”
Chiefs squad: Chelsea Alley, Ariana Bayler, Kelly Brazier, Luka Connor, Georgia Daals, Victoria Edmonds, Les Elder, Stacey Fluhler, Carla Hohepa, Chyna Hohepa, Grace Houpapa-Barrett, Tanya Kalounivale, Maia Joseph, Arihana Marino-Tauhinu, Angel Mulu, Kendra Reynolds, Kennedy Simon, Awhina Tangen-Wainohu, Pia Tapsell, Santo Taumata, JayJay Taylor, Harono Te Iringa, Hazel Tubic, Ruby Tui, Renee Wickliffe, Kelsie Wills, Portia Woodman
There is a strong Manawatu presence in the Hurricanes, the side will look to capitalise on the Cyclones form from 2021 when they get underway. Experience comes in the form of Black Ferns Sevens captain Sarah Hirini, Manawatu captain Selica Winiata and Wellington veteran Jackie Patea-Fereti. Hurricanes fans will be excited to see the selection of World Cup winning first five-eighths Vic Subritzky-Nafatali whose experience and spark will control the backline.
Coach Wesley Clarke is pleased with the way his squad has come together.
“We’ve got a great mix of local talent and looking forward to seeing players build on their form from the Farah Palmer Cup.
“It’s also great to have secured a number of players that have international experience, that is going to be really valuable in bringing the team together and setting high standards around what we want to achieve.”
Hurricanes squad: Saphire Abraham, Ana Marie Afuie, Lauren Balsillie, Kat Brown, Carys Dallinger, Esther Tilo-Faiaoga, Dhys Faleafaga, Lyric Faleafaga, Teilah Ferguson, Sarah Hirini, Iritana Hohaia, Isadora Leio-Laupola, Ayesha Leti-I'iga, Marilyn Live, Joanah Ngan-Woo, Jayme Nuku, Kaipo Olsen-Baker, Jackie Patea-Fereti, Chey Robins-Reti, Layla Sae, Kahurangi Sturmey, Vic Subritzky-Nafatali, Monica Tagoai, Ngano Tavake, Janna Vaughan, Selica Winiata.
Matatū has experience in spades. With the squad made up predominantly of Canterbury players, they know a thing or two about winning, with the province having claimed four of the past five Farah Palmer Cup titles. Australian internationals Arabella McKenzie and Michaela Leonard cross the ditch for the competition, McKenzie was SuperW player of the year in 2021, while Leonard captained the Brumbies.
Matatū coach Blair Baxter said, “the inaugural Matatū squad features some familiar faces and the addition of some exciting international players, who will help to mentor emerging talent in the South Island and set our team up for the future.
“It’s going to be special to see Matatū come together and develop a unique brand of rugby in 2022, and I’m especially looking forward to seeing how this particular group of wāhine will inspire the next generation to pick up a rugby ball in years to come.”
Matatū squad: Lucy Anderson, Chelsea Bremner, Alana Bremner, Grace Brooker, Kendra Cocksedge, Natalie Delamere, Amy du Plessis, Terauoriwa Gapper, Julia Gorinski, Di Hiini, Renee Holmes, Lucy Jenkins, Rosie Kelly, Michaela Leonard, Martha Mataele, Pip Love, Arabella McKenzie, Liv McGoverne, Kilisitina Moata'ane, Greer Muir, Marcelle Parkes, Moomooga (Ashley) Palu, Georgia Ponsonby, Amy Rule, Grace Steinmetz, Steph Te Ohaere-Fox.