Jackie Patea-Fereti returns to captain the Wellington Pride this year. The side starts with consecutive home matches against Hawke’s Bay and Manawatu at Jerry Collins Stadium.
While the men’s representative side have been in action for the past couple of weeks, Saturday sees the Wellington Women’s side – the Pride – get their Farah Palmer Cup campaign underway this Saturday against Hawkes Bay Tuis at Porirua Park.
The team are looking to go a couple of steps further this year, having been beaten at the semi-final stage by eventual winners Counties-Manukau last year. This season there’s a new voice at training with former Poneke, Norths, Marist St Pat’s, and Horowhenua-Kapiti coach Ross Bond having taken the reins from James Porter, and being assisted by Old Boys-University’s Gary Hilsdon and Northern United’s Matt Poutoa.
This year’s squad has several new faces, and considerable turnover from last year. Unbeaten Wellington champions Oriental-Rongotai lead the way with eight players, with Marist St Pat’s having five. In something of a testament to the calibre of players in the local competition, nine of the 10 sides have at least one representative (minnows Tawa the exception) in the squad; something that could be extended one further if prop Angel Uila’s longstanding attachment to Avalon (but played for Petone this year) is considered.
Amongst the faces missing – for various reasons – are long-serving hooker Alice Soper, prop Mo Aiatu, and backs Amanda Rasch, Lizzie Goulden, and Georgia Daals.
The side will be captained by Wainuiomata’s Jackie Patea-Fereti, and her experience along with that of fellow former Black Fern Sanita Levave will be crucial to the young side. Several are under 21, with three – MSP pair Cheyne Copeland and Jane Bryce and Norths’ Dhys Faleafaga – still at school. Copeland and Faleafaga are potentially unavailable for the first two rounds, depending on how their St Mary’s school side fare this weekend as they bid for a national championship.
On paper, the strength of the team appears to be its mobility which is perhaps an indicator of a high-tempo game plan. There’s plenty of speed out wide, headed by Ories winger Ayesha Leti-l’iga who scored 26 tries this season (tying the known Wellington Premier club record) and has scored 13 tries at this level since her debut as a 16-year-old in 2015; and in the loose where Wainuiomata’s Kiri Mei is industrious with both ball in hand and defensively at the breakdown.
Saturday’s opponents the Hawkes Bay Tuis are a somewhat unknown proposition, returning after missing last year and having won just once at this level. They did however handily beat a depleted Wellington Samoan’s side in their warmup match last weekend and will be looking to put in good performance this Saturday. They are captained by first five-eighth Amy William, while several players have previously been in their side.However with such a young side inexperience at this level is a concern, particularly in the backs where Accacia Te Iwimate and Vaine Marsters will be leaned on heavily in that regard. There’s also the question of whether the side can get enough ball to execute the game plan it seems to be set up for, and whether the set piece can deliver a quality platform. However if it all comes off, then the Pride could be a very exciting side to get along and see in action this season.
Their return increases the number of teams in the Farah Palmer Cup to 10, continuing the strides the women’s game is making – headlined obviously by the Black Ferns’ World Cup triumph last weekend.
2017 Wellington Pride squad:
Props: Raylene Lolo (Ories), Janet Taumoli (Ories), Brooke Tauaneai (Wainuiomata), Angel Uila (Petone),
Hookers: Patricia Kalolo-Apolinario (Poneke), Alicia Print (Ories)
Locks: Petra Krikalova (Petone), Sanita Levave (Norths), Holly Macdonald (OBU), Joanah Ngan-Woo (Ories)
Loose forwards: Lilian Mapu (Ories), Kiri Mei (Wainuiomata), Jackie Patea-Fereti (Captain, Wainuiomata), Rosie Stirling (HOBM), Sinead To’oala-Ryder (MSP), Saua Ualesi (Poneke), Gina Williamson (OBU)
Halfbacks: Accacia Te Iwimate (Petone), Reijeli Uluinayau (Ories)
First-five eighths: Cheyne Copeland (MSP), Kauna Lopa (Ories), Tina Vaaua-Hamlin (MSP)
Midfielders: Tawny Burgess (OBU), Dhys Faleafaga (Norths)
Outside backs: Jane Bryce (MSP), Lekah Leti (Norths), Ayesha Leti-l’iga (Ories), Tove Svanborg (Pare-Plim), Monica Tagoai (MSP)
Utility: Vaine Marsters (Norths)
2017 Wellington Pride schedule (times/venues subject to change):
2 Sept: vs Hawkes Bay, Porirua Park, 12pm
9 Sept: vs Manawatu, Petone Rec, 2pm
16 Sept: vs Waikato, Hamilton Marist RFC, 2.45pm
23 Sept: vs Auckland, Porirua Park, 12pm
30 Sept: vs Otago, Forsyth Barr Stadium, 12.30pm
7 Oct: vs Counties-Manukau, Porirua Park, 12.30pm
14 Oct: vs Canterbury, Rugby Park, 11.30am
Farah Palmer Cup Women’s NPC coverage:
Follow the Wellington Pride and the Women’s NPC Farah Palmer Cup competition on this website and at this link here
#1 Wellington v Hawke’s Bay
#2 – Tasman v Waikato
#3 – Canterbury v Otago
#4 – BoP v Auckland
#5 – Counties Manukau v North Harbour