November 21, 2022

Waitomo Chiefs Manawa Squad Announced


The Chiefs Rugby Club today announced a dynamic Waitomo Chiefs Manawa squad to defend their Sky Super Rugby Aupiki title. The squad includes several Black Ferns who will provide experience and support to the newcomers who will make their debut in the New Year.

Waitomo Chiefs Manawa Head Coach Crystal Kaua said: “We have a great balance of youth and experience with nine players who have just won a World Cup as well as eight others who are current or past Black Ferns, which will make selection very competitive.

“The good human piece is vital in our selection. We want it to be competitive, but with love - the drive to be better, make each other better and make the team better.

“Our endgame is maximising the uniqueness of every player, creating an environment where people feel they belong and can play with freedom.”

Four players with Super Rugby experience will transfer to the Waitomo Chiefs Manawa in 2023, providing further support to the six rookies also named in the squad.

The Wellington Pride duo of Dhys Faleafaga and Amanda Rasch will make the shift to Chiefs Country from Hurricanes Poua. Rasch is a talented first five who was named in the 2016 Black Ferns training squad and was part of the 2019 Black Ferns Development. Both players had a limited 2022 season so will be keen to make an impact.

Transferring from Matatū, Chelsea Bremner is a talented lock who put in exceptional performances for the Black Ferns throughout their Rugby World Cup campaign. A further build to the squads locking talent comes with the addition of former Black Fern Charmaine Smith, who played for the Blues in the inaugural Super Rugby Aupiki season.

Co-Captain of the Black Ferns, Kennedy Simon, will lead the Waitomo Chiefs Manawa for the 2023 Super Rugby Aupiki season. The 26 year old loose forward made her Black Ferns debut in 2019 after touring Japan with the Black Ferns Sevens Development team earlier that year. Her Rugby World Cup performances have solidified her as a key player for the New Zealand side.

The Chiefs Rugby Club are excited that all six rookies have been selected from within Chiefs Country, a testament to the region's growing support and development of women's rugby.

Bay of Plenty centre Azalleyah Maaka is an exciting rookie who brings a lot of speed to the team with her previous Sevens experience. She was a part of the gold medal winning 2018 Youth Olympic Games New Zealand Sevens team and has since solidified herself in the 15s game with outstanding performances during Farah Palmer Cup (FPC).

Maaka's fellow Bay of Plenty Volcanix teammate, Te Urupounamu McGarvey, will also debut for the Waitomo Chiefs Manawa in 2023. McGarvey will add depth to the front line, becoming the third hooker in the mix alongside the experienced Luka Connor and Grace Houpapa-Barrett.

Versatile athlete, Mererangi Paul, played at first-five for Counties Manukau in FPC. She has also represented Bay of Plenty in Sevens and made her debut for the Northern Mystics in 2017 for the ANZ Netball Premiership. Paul was part of the wider Waitomo Chiefs Manawa squad in 2022 but will make her first start for the side during the 2023 season.

Also debuting in 2023 is 23 year old halfback, Violet Hapi-Wise, who made her FPC debut for Waikato in 2022 against Wellington, previously representing the region in Sevens too. The final rookies receiving their first full-time contracts in 2023 will be Tynealle Fitzgerald and Merania Paraone who made their debut last season after being called up from the training squad.

Chiefs Rugby Club Womens Programme Director, Kate Rawnsley said, “We can’t wait to welcome our wāhine toa back in the Chiefs Rugby Club environment.”

“The team we are announcing today, along with the hard mahi being put into the programme behind the scenes, is going to help with continuing the momentum we’ve seen with the success of the Rugby World Cup”

2023 Waitomo Chiefs Manawa squad:

Amanda Rasch (Wellington, 0)*
Angel Mulu (Wellington, 5)
Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu (Counties Manukau, 5)
Awhina Tangen-Wainohu (Waikato, 5)
Azalleyah Maaka (Bay of Plenty, 0)*
Carla Hohepa (Waikato, 4)
Charmaine Smith (Northland, 0)*
Chelsea Bremner (Canterbury, 0)*
Chelsea Semple (Waikato, 3)
Chyna Hohepa (Waikato, 3)
Dhys Faleafaga (Wellington, 0)*
Georgia Daals (Wellington, 4)
Grace Houpapa-Barret (Waikato, 4)
Hazel Tubic (Counties Manukau, 5)
Kelsie Wills (Bay of Plenty, 1)
Kennedy Simon (Waikato, 5)
Langi Veainu (Counties Manukau, 5)
Luka Connor (Bay of Plenty, 5)
Merania Paraone (Waikato, 1)
Mererangi Paul (Counties Manukau, 0)*
Pia Tapsell (Bay of Plenty, 5)
Renee Wickliffe (Counties Manukau, 4)
Santo Taumata (Bay of Plenty, 3)
Tanya Kalounivale (Waikato, 5)
Te Urupounamu McGarvey (Bay of Plenty, 0)*
Tynealle Fitzgerald (Bay of Plenty, 2)
Victoria Makea (Waikato, 4)
Violet Hapi-Wise (Waikato, 0)*

Brackets denote players’ provincial union and Waitomo Chiefs Manawa caps.
* denotes a player that is yet to debut for the Waitomo Chiefs Manawa
Bolded players denote a rookie, those who have signed their first full-time Sky Super Rugby Aupiki contract.

The Black Ferns Sevens players will shift their focus to the HSBC World Rugby Sevens series making them unavailable for selection for the Super Rugby Aupiki competition in 2023.

The Waitomo Chiefs Manawa squad will commence their pre-season training in January.

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Waitomo Chiefs Manawa Squad Announced