Maitua Feterika and Kimiora Nati are used to lining up as teammates – for the Kiwi Ferns at the 2017 Women’s Rugby League World Cup, in the Brisbane Broncos’ inaugural NRL women’s premiership winning side of 2018, and soon at the Dragons for the 2019 NRLW campaign.
But on Monday in Samoa they made history on opposite teams, each captaining their country of heritage in the first ever women’s rugby league 9s competition at the Pacific Games.
Feterika led Samoa onto the field for the opening game of the tournament, hand-in-hand with Nati, who captained the Cook Islands.
It was an extraordinary moment for both women, the most experienced players in the event alongside Kiwi Ferns and New Zealand Warriors centre Luisa Gago, who is also representing Samoa.
The other teams in the women’s competition are Fiji, Niue, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, while seven teams comprising mostly domestic players are contesting the men’s event (Cook Islands, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau and Tonga).
“This is my first time representing the Cook Islands in rugby league,” Nati revealed.
“It’s really good to be here with all the Pacific islanders. I’m very grateful to be part of it.”
“It’s a special moment for all the young kids back at home. Being raised with nothing they can come here and look up to the ones playing today. I guess it’s just a stepping stone for us women to set that platform to go back home and to develop the sport."
Feterika said representing her Samoan heritage was a significant milestone in her rugby league career.
“Every time I put on this jersey it’s like giving back to my parents and my village and our people," she said.
"There’s so much talent and we need to showcase that talent, especially for Samoa. We need to put that on the map.”
Nati’s Cook Islands edged Feterika’s Samoa 16-12 in a tight opening match of the day, and the Cook Islands captain admitted she was relieved to come out on top in that particular contest.
“It was awesome," she said.
"That was the one team I didn’t want to go down to because I know a lot of them, and Feterika is their go-to woman."
Cook Islands finished the day on top of their pool with a further win over debutants Solomon Islands, while Samoa also comfortably beat Solomon Islands to finish second. In the other pool, Fiji finished top with wins over PNG and Niue, while PNG edged past Niue to claim second spot.
In Tuesday’s women’s semi-finals, PNG will face Cook Islands and Fiji will play Samoa. The winners of each will progress to the gold medal match and the losers will play for bronze.
In the men’s event PNG and Samoa ended the day as the top two ranked teams, with Fiji and Tonga also in medal contention. In Tuesday’s semi-finals, PNG will play Tonga and Fiji will face off against Samoa. The winners of each will progress to the gold medal match and the losers will play for bronze.
Day two’s medal matches kick off at 2pm Samoa time (11am AEST) on Tuesday. For live scores and updates visit: https://www.facebook.com/aprlconfederation/
- Nefertiti Matatia, Pacific Games News Service