Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Super Rugby Aupiki: A historical moment for NZ Womens Rugby

Martha Matatau. Photo: Super Rugby NZ_GettyImages
Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
Martha Matatau. Photo: Super Rugby NZ_GettyImages
Martha Mataele. Photo: Super Rugby NZ_Getty Images
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Neueli Mauafu | Reporter

As the inaugural Super Rugby Aupiki tournament came to a close a few weeks back, Martha Mataele reflected back on what a historic moment it was for women’s rugby in New Zealand. Generally a sport that is dominated by their male counterparts, 2022 saw the dawn of the new competition for women rugby stars.

For Mataele, her own experience in the inaugural event has been one to remember.

“I loved it and the environment and atmosphere was super cool. We didn’t get the results we wanted and did not achieve our goals, but being part of this competition made us full time athletes,” she says.

The competition consisted of four teams (Chiefs, Blues, Hurricanes and Matatu) who battled it out for four back to back rounds. The Waikato Chiefs took the spoils by topping the ladder and becoming the first ever champions.

For someone who had only found her love of rugby after high school, Mataele is no stranger to the women’s rugby scene. She has become a formidable representative of the Canterbury Womens team and also featured heavily for the Matatū team for the Aupiki competition. Matatū starred as the only team representing the South Island amongst three North Island teams.

Manatū team members in their first ever jersey. Photo: Manatū Facebook
Matatū team members in their first ever jersey. Photo: Matatū Facebook

Her passion for sport and keeping active was clear from a young age as she involved herself in many sports through school; touch rugby, netball and athletics just to name a few.

“I only fully committed to rugby after leaving high school. My main sport was netball and had no idea that somehow I would end up on this path,” she explained.

“Netball was the main sport, and the goal was to become a Silver Fern.”

“Looking back at it now, I never really expected my journey to reach where it is right now. I have been able to represent Canterbury through the sport, and now I am part of a historical first Women’s Super Rugby team/competition.”

With the success of the tournament, Mataele is aware that women’s rugby in New Zealand still has a long way to go. Through the advances and improvements made for women players, they still face the normal daily challenges.

“The most recent obstacle for the girls playing Super Rugby is mainly balance. There are a few girls who are full time Black Fern’s but (the) majority of us have outside work and jobs that we balance within our rugby schedule.

“We also have mums who play and also look after their family and kids at home. They too also have work and jobs outside of rugby.”

Photo: Manatū Facebook
Photo: Matatū Facebook

Despite the struggles at hand, Mataele enjoyed being part of Aupiki, and is forever grateful for where she is in life. Her sights are also set for the future as she continues her trek with rugby.

“My goals have changed over the years. I obviously want to play rugby at its highest level but I also want to maintain my balance in life.

“If it happens. it happens. If it doesn’t, then I know I have other options I can lean on too. For now, I am riding the wave and enjoying the process.”

With Super Rugby Aupiki 2022 completed, Mataele is already in full preparation for next season. Matatū may have not got the results they wanted but Mataele is looking forward to what 2023 will bring.

“We only had three games this year, so hopefully we can get more game time next year. It would be interesting to have outside teams from Australia that can play.

“It would be awesome to see a Moana Pasifika Women’s team in the future. There is already a Fijian Drua Women’s team and they are doing so well. Having these two teams gives more opportunities for female rugby players at a higher level.”

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