Top season for Poroporo women

BIG SEASON: Poroporo flanker Shykauda Church flies high in a line out earlier this season. She had a strong season and is likely to be part of the BOP under-18 girls’ team. File photo

Staff Reporter

THEY may have been knocked out in the semifinals of the Baywide women’s competition, but this season has been a big success for the Poroporo women’s team.

A close loss to Rangataua in the semifinals saw their season come to an end, and although the team still have a match coming up, they are already working towards next year.

Coach Geri Paul said indications were positive that there could be two women’s teams running round in Poroporo colours in 2025.

“Next year has already started. I am already in the process of finding us two pre-season games, one home and one away. I have had a meeting recently regarding a second team. It’s exciting but also means a busy off season.”

Paul doesn’t like the terms “recruit” or “poach” and wants people to play for Poroporo because of the culture and vibe the team have created and their on-field showings.

“Whether we look at recruiting or not depends largely on how many return next year and how hard they work in the off-season. In that respect, we are fortunate that most have indicated they will be coming back and players are signalling to return after missing this season.”

However, if players are keen and new to the game, they just need to contact Paul, or the Poroporo Rugby Club.

The team did have its challenges earlier in the season and it looked like a semi-final spot might slip their grasp, however, a change in approach worked wonders for the side.

“We did struggle to close out games the first five or six weeks of the competition. The change was how we approached training and the selection process. This saw us tightening up where we were leaking points.”

Although it’s never fun to end a campaign with a loss, Paul was stoked to see the growth in the side since the beginning of the season.

“The highlight of the season for me was seeing all our mamas and aunties walk onto the field with their tamariki; those memories are priceless.”

Poroporo had standouts across the team, from Fredom Marou and Amanda Wilshier in the front row, to Fern Nixon and Shykauda Church on the flanks and Kesha Church and Emma Birkett in the backs. However, two players shone throughout the season, skipper Kokako Raki and her vice-captain Ihimana Herewini.

“I am so proud of this team. I know they inspire the next generation and I hear it in our kids’ voices. Rugby may be the vehicle the players are in but the way they empower each other, carry themselves and look after those around them, that is all of them and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Paul was full of praise for their competition this year.

“I think it was great in comparison to the previous years. The two divisions worked really well. I am not really sure if there are any new teams next year but hoping the one’s currently stay in the competition, and we are really going to push for a second team.”

She is thankful to their friends, supporters and Farmlands Whakatāne and Williams and Wilshier Transport for all their help with the team throughout the campaign.

One final hit out for the team will be on August 16 when they tackle a visiting side from Canada, before pushing ahead with sevens, which will likely start in October.

However, in the meantime they will be cheering on teammates who are in the Bay of Plenty Volcanix, Bay of Plenty under-18s, EBOP women’s team and their own Mahina Paul, who is at the Olympics with the Black Ferns Sevens.

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