It’s been a long time coming, but the first Women’s Super Rugby match was finally held in Auckland recently and two New Zealand Defence Force women had their hearts in the game.
Air Force logistics specialist Corporal (CPL) Hayley Hutana and Navy Sub Lieutenant (SLT) Kate Williams, stepped out on to the pitch at Eden Park to represent the Blues.
The event was an historic, competitive contest and was the first time Women’s Blues and Chiefs Super Rugby sides were formed.
Manager of the new Blues team, Dean Watkins, hopes the game will go professional for women, giving them more time to train and grow as players.
“It was such a fantastic experience and showcase for women’s rugby at this level. And what an entertaining match with plenty of attacking flair and scoring opportunities,” says Mr Watkins.
CPL Hutana, took the field as fullback, and agrees, saying people should know more about women’s rugby.
“It’s a surreal feeling being a part of both the lead up and the game itself. It’s the first of its kind so it was pretty special to be directly involved. Being amongst a team of amazing athletes. It was pretty exciting and hopefully in the near future we will see a competition of the like,” says CPL Hutana.
SLT Williams said it was “unreal” running out onto the pitch.
“When our team ran out at the stadium the bar was set, I don’t think I’ve ever been on a field with a crowd that has made that much noise before,” says the openside flanker.
“The match is such a big opportunity because it’s putting women’s rugby in the spotlight – it’s cool for all the young girls to see it as well. It’s been a long-time coming, this match.”
Both SLT Williams and CPL Hutana play in the Defence Ferns Women’s Rugby team, which supports and promotes women’s rugby across all services in the Defence Force, and say they couldn’t have got this far without the team.
“When I first joined the Defence Force it was a big dream of lots of the women to form a rugby team. But it wasn’t until 2018, with the hard work of manager, Joe, we started to get our first games and first camps,” says SLT Williams.
Squadron Leader (SQNLDR) Joe Tasker pushed hard for women’s rugby to be recognised and says the team is more than just about rugby.
“Rugby is the vehicle for promoting wāhine toa (strong women) leaders, focussing on being a professional unit and trying to remove barriers to support women to go on to higher honours.
The team aims to create value for the NZDF and individuals alike,” says SQNLDR Tasker.
The undefeated Defence Ferns team always includes community engagement in its programmes – like assisting to feed unhomed in Auckland, giving back to the community, engaging with the Pacific and promoting women leaders.
Women from all levels of the Defence Force have really welcomed having the team.
“They absolutely love the team environment and strive to be the best team they can be. They really are a role model team within the NZDF,” he says.
The Chiefs ended up taking the game this time around, but they all hope players from the Defence Force will be part of a new tournament, featuring the Super Rugby Blues in the future.
“It defintely was a really physical match, but we expected that. I hope that we put on a spectacle for those who watched live and through social media across the world,” says CPL Hutana.
“People do love to watch women’s rugby and come to the games. The more matches there are, the more young girls get to see their future selves. It shows them a path way,” says SLT WIlliams.
Until the team hears if there will be another Women’s Super Rugby game, the Defence Ferns will be playing pre-season games against two prestigious Farah Palmer Cup teams, so watch this space.
DEFENCE FERNS UPCOMING GAMES:
Royal New Zealand Air Force Base Auckland
29 June 2021
Defence Ferns vs North Harbour
4 July 2021
Defence Ferns vs Auckland
Published in Air Force News - issue 236(external link)