Representative Round: PREVIEW: New Zealand v Tonga Women's International
More than 18 months after international action in the Pacific, the game resumes.
It's been a long drought for Pacific nations when it comes to international footy, but finally after countless lockdowns, pandemic cancellations and delays, the Kiwi Ferns and Mate Ma'a Tonga women will face off in Auckland this weekend, the first top level game of rugby league played in the country since the end of 2020 when both these sides featured as part of a double header at Mt Smart.
Fast forward to June 2022 and these sides have plenty to play for. The Kiwi Ferns are off to the Women's RLWC in England in November and together with the upcoming NRLW season, this will undoubtedly be an important tune-up for many of their players aiming to push for world supremacy later this year.
For the Tongan women, it's an opportunity to flex their muscle against a more prolific opponent, and push their claims for a spot in the 2025 edition of the World Cup in France. With the growth of popularity of the men's side for Tonga in the last half-a-decade, building the women's side up will ensure a strong future for the proud Pacific nation.
In team news, the Kiwi Ferns welcome several debtuants who've made impressive NRLW impact. Amy Turner, Page McGregor, Roxy Murdoch and Laishon Albert-Jones are all among the new faces in the national side. They are captained by dummy-half Krystal Rota.
For Tonga, five NRLW players make an appearance, with names like Tegan Dymock, Seli Mailangi, China Polata, Kalosipani Hopoate and Laikha Clarke all named.
Last meeting: These two nations have met just once before - a convincing victory for New Zealand at Sunshine Coast Stadium in 2008.
Who to watch: The battle of the dummy-halves will be important in this contest, with both Rota and Mailangi key features of their respective teams during the NRLW season. While neither the Knights (Rota) or Eels (Mailangi) progressed to the finals series in the 2021 season played recently, both got valuable experience at the elite level which will help them guide their respective nations this Saturday.
My tip: The experience for the Kiwi Ferns tips the balance here. Tonga will be competitive but there is no getting past the New Zealand women on this one. Kiwi Ferns by 16.
New Zealand (W) Form Guide
Yet to play this season
New Zealand (W) Upcoming Games
Tonga (W) Form Guide
Yet to play this season