Coach Willie Walker has named a powerful nib Blues team for their historic women’s clash against the Waitomo Chiefs at Eden Park on Saturday.
Walker said the group are excited and humbled at the opportunity to play a double-header with the Blues- Chiefs men’s Sky Super Rugby Aotearoa contest as well as becoming the first Super clubs to meet in a fully-fledged women’s contest.
He said the squad are honoured to be trail-blazers for the nib Blues and thrilled to have the opportunity to represent the Blues club in this special occasion.
“First and foremost, we want to do well. There’s a real excitement and energy in the group this week,” said Walker.
“We know we are leading the way and hopefully put on a great show and play an important part in developing a professional Super competition in the near-future.
“We have seen what professionalism has done to the development of women in Sevens and the same will happen for us if we get the opportunity.”
The nib Blues women have a mix of proven internationals and exciting youth in the side. There are four capped Black Ferns in the pack led by captain Eloise Blackwell along with her Auckland teammates Aleisha Pearl-Nelson and Charmaine McMenamin along with Northland’s TK Ngata Aerengamate with Lisa Molia and Krystal Murray both contracted to the Ferns for 2021.
The internationals in the backline include experienced midfielder Ruahei Demant, the vice-captain, and winger Natahlia Moors.
There are some wonderfully exciting young talent on show with six teenagers in the starting line-up including the electrifying halfback-first five pairing of Luisa Togotogorua 17 and Patricia Maliepo 18, with big wraps on the attacking flare of centre Sylvia Brunt 17, who forms a potent midfield with Demant.
The nib Blues women have the luxury of a powerful front row trio of Saphire Abraham, Aldora Ituna and Christo Tofa to come off the bench, all Black Ferns or contracted Ferns players.
“There’s a good mix from all the three provincial unions that make up the Blues region. We have only had this week together but we have gelled well and we have a great culture.
“We need to focus on doing the basics well and be accurate around our core skillset. They understand that and if they do that well, there will be opportunity for their individual talent to shine. We can’t wait for this opportunity.”
The nib Blues Women take on the Waitomo Chiefs Women at 4.35pm on Saturday, sporting a new distinctive Blues jersey representing the region, its blue waters and golden coastline.
The nib Blues Women’s team is: 1 Krystal Murray (Northland), 2 TK Ngata Aerengamate (Northland), 3 Aleisha Pearl-Nelson (Auckland), 4 Eloise Blackwell (Auckland) (C), 5 Maia Roos (Auckland), 6 Lisa Molia (Auckland), 7 Kate Williams (North Harbour), 8 Charmaine McMenamin (Auckland); 9 Luisa Togotogorua (Auckland), 10 Patricia Maliepo (Auckland), 11 Princess Elliot (Auckland), 12 Ruahei Demant (Auckland) (VC), 13 Sylvia Brunt (Auckland), 14 Natahlia Moors (Auckland), 15 Hayley Hutana (North Harbour).
Reserves: 16 Saphire Abraham (Auckland), 17 Aldora Itunu (Auckland), 18 Cristo Tofa (Auckland), 19 Liana Mikaele-Tu’u (Auckland), 20 Shannon Leota (Auckland), 21 Moana Cook (Auckland), 22 Tyler Nankivell (Northland), 23 Daynah Nankivell (Auckland).
For tickets for the Blues-Chiefs double-header: www.ticketmaster.co.nz