Rugby codes unite to boost Warriors nines
An influx of cross-code talent has bolstered the Warriors women ahead of this weekend’s NRLW nines, while a familiar face joins their coaching ranks. *Watch the video above*
A new-look Warriors squad – packed with rugby and sevens players - will have to adapt to the short, sharp form of rugby league in Perth this weekend.
Four women will debut for the New Zealand side at the inaugural NRLW nines, a tournament featuring the Warriors, St George Illawarra Dragons, Brisbane Broncos and Sydney City Roosters.
While the Warriors will come up against many familiar faces from the NRLW competition, they will have some player in their own ranks who haven’t played league before.
Warriors coach Justin Morgan has taken a new approach to selections this year, with 50 percent of the players coming from rugby union or sevens backgrounds. He says he was looking for players keen to represent the Warriors brand.
"We’re going over there with an attitude that we want to bring the trophy back; we are going over there in serious mode,” he says.
Warriors captain Georgia Hale believes the mix will make for a perfect storm.
“We have some size and some physicality which will hopefully be our strength leading into the tournament, just knowing some of the players from the other teams,” says Hale.
“We’ve all come from different backgrounds, different codes and the combination of us all coming together, hopefully we’ll be a strong team over the weekend.”
While this first for the NRL opens opportunities for women in rugby league, it has opened other doors as well.
Kiwi Ferns captain Honey Hireme-Smiler has taken on the assistant coaching role while continuing to rehab from shoulder surgery.
“She’s really excited about standing on the sideline, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to keep her in check, because you know what ex-players are like on the sidelines in the coach’s box,” Morgan quips.
While the playing future of Hireme-Smiler remains uncertain, the expectation of the side to do well at the NRL nines is high, after she led the Kiwi Ferns to a world nines title last year.
For other veterans though, it's about a whole lot more than bragging rights.
“It’s the beginning of something really awesome… and for us as a team we need to be reminded of that legacy and the path we are trying to forge here,” says Kiwi Ferns second rower Kathleen Wharton-Keremete.
“Coming together and doing a really good job this weekend is essential to that legacy being able to carry on.”
The Warriors take on the Roosters in their first pool play match on Friday.