Broncos-bound Kiwi Ferns stars call for more NZ pathways
Two of New Zealand rugby league's highest profile women's players want the same Australian-style systems in place across the Tasman after joining the Brisbane Broncos ahead of the NRL Holden Women's Premiership in September.
Kiwi Ferns representative Maitua Feterika, who moved to Australia in 2018 for the sake of her career, has relished the opportunities in Australia to the point she admitted switching allegiances to represent the Jillaroos had crossed her mind.
Under the current system in Australia, both NSW and Queensland have state competitions before a National Championships consisting of Country and City sides make up State of Origin teams.
Along with the inaugural women's competition in September, it presents a visible pathway for athletes to consider.
"I've only been here for six months and so much is going on," Feterika told NRL.com.
"New Zealand is a bit behind with the footy. But coming to Australia there are so many opportunities and everything has fallen into place.
"It's my number one priority right now. The game is growing but over here it just keeps going. Some of the girls should look at moving here too and the opportunities available."
It's a comment that could send concerns through NZRL camp given the Kiwi Ferns had been a dominant force in women's rugby league for a decade up until Australia's recent two-year reign of success.
More than eight Kiwi Ferns players are set to join the three Australian-based NRL clubs for training this week ahead of the competition, while the Warriors are yet to provide any information on their 22-player squad.
Kiwi Ferns powerhouse Teuila Fotu-Moala has also defended her decision to join the Broncos in a tweet last week and added the player pathway in Australia was a major drawcard.
But Feterika's mindset could also cause the NRL to act swiftly on future eligibility rules around State of Origin after her selection for the Maroons in June – seven months after playing for the Kiwi Ferns and only five months into her move to Australia.
"I wasn't expecting to play for the Maroons," Feterika said.
"I didn't know what teams were going to be in. When I got named I was shocked, but it gave good insight for the girls back home that the rule allows you to do that now. It's huge for me.
"I shouldn't be saying this but growing up me and my brother were NSW supporters, every time State of Origin came on the whole lounge were Maroons supporters except me and my brothers.
"To be able to play for Queensland I realised I can't support NSW anymore. Playing for Queensland is huge, this is my state now. It's my way of giving back."
The Origin residency rule is set to come under the spotlight further as the women's game grows. Privately there are coaches and players against the current system as it has an impact on the progression of junior athletes from NSW and Queensland.
Feterika wasn't the only New Zealand player selected in the Origin fixture with Kiwi Ferns hooker Nita Maynard chosen on the bench for the Blues.
However despite their presence in State of Origin, the international eligibility rules still prevent Feterika or Maynard from representing the Jillaroos.
An NRL spokesperson confirmed a player would need to sit out of the code for five years in order to switch allegiances from New Zealand to Australia or vice versa.
Therefore, the pair remain available for Kiwi Ferns selection despite Feterika suggesting a switch was being mooted if ever she was given an ultimatum to choose.
"I've been thinking about it because I get asked by my friends," Feterika said.
"If it comes down to it I would actually play for the Jillaroos. I would grab it with two hands. I'll always be a Kiwi Fern but it wasn't working for me back home. I got dropped from the Nines and Anzac Test.
"My goal was the World Cup and then after I started to slack off. When I heard about the NRL I thought I would move over and give it a go, a huge blessing and I'm grateful for."
Nevertheless, the chance to represent the Broncos caps off a remarkable journey for the 26-year-old, who reflected on her experiences as a teenager with her brothers. She joins the powerhouse club for training this week.
"I would say to them just imagine if the women had their own NRL sides, and they were like 'it would never happen'," Feterika said.
"Now I ring them saying I've signed with the Broncos. To be put up with the men, same facility and training with each other, it's a blessing."