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Wahine Toa rue costly mistakes

Kia Toa 71
Wairarapa Wahine Toa 17

Despite being well beaten by defending champions Kia Toa, Wairarapa Wahine Toa coach Brent Gare was simply happy to get the season underway for the new-look team.

Eight players debuted for Wairarapa, who generally acquitted themselves well against a side containing several Hurricanes Poua and Manawatu Cyclones, only to be let down at times by their own mistakes, leading to tries.

“It’s heartening to see, we had eight debut, and we’ve still got another couple to play their first games this weekend, and that shows you the growth in women’s rugby, and there are women out there who haven’t played since juniors or have never played before,” Gare said.

Halfback Darian Walker, hooker Brodee Walker and debutant lock Maia Svenson crossed for Wairarapa’s three tries in the tough first-up encounter.

Making this year’s Manawatu Premier Women’s Championship even more challenging is the reduction of teams from seven to four, which has strengthened the three Palmerston North-based teams.

“It makes it hugely difficult because we’ve got a higher concentration of top-class players in less teams, so you’ve got Hurricanes Poua players and Cyclones, most of who are based in Palmy, so it will be a tough season.

“We’ve talked to the players about it, and they just want to get out there and play rugby, and we recognise that we are still very much in the growth stage.”

Although there is a young look to the side, Gare has plenty of experience to call on in former Dutch international and tight forward Annemieke van Vliet, the Walker sisters, captain and talented first-five Lisa Te Moananui, Manawatu Development Squad lock Gracie Donaldson, loose forward Jinaya Blundell-Harmon and the exciting and versatile outside back Nevengka Valakvi-Jellie.

A second-tier 10-a-side competition has been organised for clubs that have lost players from last season and comprises three teams, including the Pahiatua-based Bush club, and Gare believes the loss of players from Bush could impact the Wairarapa Bush team for the Heartland Championship later in the season.

Wairarapa face another stiff challenge on Saturday away to Old Boys Marist, who thrashed Freyberg Old Boys in the opening round.

The following week, Wairarapa will host Freyberg at the Solway Showgrounds, which Gare said is in pristine condition after renovations to the ground over the off-season.

On another positive note, Wairarapa Wahine Toa will field two or three teams in the JAB competitions, most likely in the U13, U11, and U8 grades.

Chris Cogdale
Chris Cogdale
Chris “Coggie” Cogdale has extensive knowledge of sport in Wairarapa having covered it for more than 30 years, including radio for 28 years. He has been the sports guru at the Wairarapa Times-Age since 2019.

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