Under tough conditions the QBE Harbour Hibiscus team for the opening round of Farah Palmer Cup has been confirmed.
They play away against a strong Counties Manukau side at Navigation Homes Stadium in Pukekohe tomorrow (Saturday) and can expect a real battle across the field.
However led by 20-year-old openside flanker, Kate Williams alongside fellow loose forwards, Black Fern, Pia Tapsell at No.8 as well as Mahurangi College 18-year-old Tenaija Fletcher at blindside flanker there should be plenty of contesting for the loose ball.
Harbour also have another Black Ferm in Liv Ward-Duin in the front row and former Black Ferns 7s player Hayley Hutana will be a steadying influence at fullback in a relatively inexperienced, but very keen backline. Dutch rugby international Lynn Koelman is the reserve hooker, while Hailey Beale provides some experience in the backline reserves.
It’s been a trying time for head coach Duncan McGrory with not being able to have all of his players in one group for a good length of time.
“It’s been a disjointed few month for us as a coaching group and the players as a squad,” said McGrory.
“There has been a lot of limitations put on the girls, outside of rugby, for them to continue to be a part of the squad. As with a lot of the other FPC teams, the girls are all full-time students with part time jobs or working full time jobs. The guidelines around their return to play still put some limits on them being able to operate as they normally would outside of rugby.”
I am extremely proud of the way the girls have just taken it all in their stride and continued to work hard on their individual skills and fitness during lock down with the odd Zoom session as a squad to stay connected. Willie (Walker, assistant coach) and I are excited for the weekends game to finally get the girls on the paddock and showcase some of the talent we have coming out of the North Harbour Union.”
During the season the QBE Harbour Hibiscus are still aiming to play a match at a club venue to showcase the game and encourage growth. The targeted game is against Auckland at the Kumeu Rugby Football Club, Saturday 26 September.
Other home games will see the Hibiscus play at North Harbour Stadium in a double-header taking on Bay of Plenty and then the QBE Harbour men face Canterbury in the Mitre 10 Cup opening match and also against Waikato Sunday 11 October.
Kick off against Counties Manukau tomorrow is 2.35pm with no crowd, but televised live on Sky TV.
1 JayJay Taylor, 2 Amy Robertsaw, 3 Olivia Ward-Duin, 4 Huni Manutalaaho, 5 Clementine Varea, 6 Tenaija Fletcher, 7 Kate Williams, 8 Pia Tapsell, 9 Tamea Te Rauna, 10 Olivia Waldron, 11 Lose Mafi, 12 Zakiya Kereopa, 13 Mikayla Robinson, 14 Mollie Tagaloa, 15 Hayley Hutana, Reserves: 16 Lynn Koelman, 17 Toakase Filimoehala, 18 Danjela Haigh, 19 Brooke Ellison, 20 Hailey Beale, 21 Danielle Mellow, 22 Renee Adams.