08 September, 2023
New Zealand Army Corporal Mary Kanace’s mum was never keen on her playing rugby.
Now, however she is one of her daughter’s keenest supporters.
Mary, a member of the Burnham-based Military Police Unit was in Fiji last month to trial for the Fijiana Women’s team.
Born in New Zealand to Fijian parents she joined the Army and became a caterer in 2015, then trade changing to Military Police in 2021.
She began playing rugby at high school when some senior girls invited her to play in their team.
“When I saw the culture and the teamwork I thought, ‘this is good!’ The fitness, meeting girls of all ages but you’re all on the same level. Rugby is more than a sport. It’s hard to explain but it’s more like a whole other family. Everyone is unified and we all have different backgrounds but when we come together on the field we are just one big family really.”
Mary’s mum was against her playing while she was at high school. “She never liked me playing because I was always getting injured, or training in the rain and I’d be sick the next day. She’s always tell me off but she’s very happy I stuck with it. I’m pushing myself out of my comfort zone trialling with the Fijiana squad. Mum is so supportive of it because she knows it means so much to me.”
In Burnham she plays rugby union for the Linwood Bulls and rugby league for the Linwood Keas. A fullback and wing, she played in last year’s inaugural International Defence Rugby Competition attended by military women’s rugby teams from around the world. The NZDF team narrowly lost to France.
Mary says she is grateful for the support of her unit, and the Army in general.
“I was on exercise when I got the call saying I was in the squad. I called my OC straight away and she got me out of Australia so I could prepare appropriately.”
This month she is expecting to play one game against a Combined Pacific team, and two games against Japan in Japan. There is also one game against the Black Ferns planned.
Photo caption: Mary Kanace (right) and her cousin Jokaveti.