Talent shines at female league nines event

Hakatere Vaine Toa's Lauren Taylor with the ball in hand during an inaugural league nines event in Ashburton.

Ashburton’s newly formed Hakatere Vaine Toa rugby league side hosted the Otepoti (Dunedin) rugby league side in a best of three, nines format at the Hampstead Rugby Club grounds.

It was an inaugural event, on November 20, to promote female rugby league in the nines format and with plenty of young talent coming through organisers were keen to see it succeed.

Team manager Marie Maeva said Hakatere Vaine Toa was the first girls league squad in the district and already making huge strides on the Canterbury league scene.

The side is coached by DJ Tupaea and Mana Thompson.

Hakatere Vaine Toa’s Gemma Tapurau offloads the ball during play against the Otepoti side.

Although the scoreboard went Dunedin’s way in all three games last weekend, the young Hakatere side improved each game led by co-captains Gemma Taylor, 18, and Ripena Umaga, 14 .

Mrs Maeva was appreciative of the sponsorship received from businesses and individuals including Advanced Ashburton and Hampstead All Sports Complex which had enabled the players to be kitted out with uniforms and gear.

Supporters hoodies were also available.

Hakatere Vaine Toa players led with a haka ahead of play against an Otepoti side.

In Ashburton the teams played three fast-paced games, and, along with spectators, took part in some fun, friendly activities between games. They included tug of war battles and kicking for goal competitions.

The day ended with a Hakari (feast).

By the third game Hakatere Vainea Toa players were scoring runaway tries, Mrs Maeva said.

“They played so well.”

Hakatere Vaine Toa co-captain Ripena Umaga also took out the best offensive player in one of three tournament awards. The most valuable player and best defensive player awards went to Dunedin players.

The squad, classed as an Under 18s side although most players were Under 16, formed to play in the Pacific Series weekend tournament in Hoon Hay, Christchurch over Canterbury Anniversary Weekend, but it was cancelled due to covid.

Many of the players had a rugby background, so had made the switch to the league format easily.

The squad was due to take a break before regrouping for the next nines tournament in February, 2022.