Warriors captain Laura Mariu sees big gain from Kiwi pain
Experienced Warriors captain Laura Mariu can see the silver lining to Australia's recent success in women's rugby league, even if it meant her own nation suffered as a result.
The Kiwi Ferns dominated in the women's code for decades up until an upset loss to the Jillaroos at the 2013 Rugby League World Cup.
Since then the Australian side have gone ahead of their New Zealand counterparts, winning the NRL Nines competitions, Anzac Test matches and more recently last year's World Cup.
Mariu, who has played in a record five World Cups for the Kiwi Ferns, believes the turn in results has fast-tracked the game's recent success.
"I don't think we would've headed down the path of the NRLW if we (Kiwi Ferns) continued to dominate," Mariu told NRL.com.
"I was in the era where we did and looking back it's almost been a blessing in disguise because with the Australian success it's brought more interest, exposure and opportunities for the women's game.
"It's all turned around, we now need more development and systems in place back home. Hopefully the exposure of the competition will create those."
Warriors management had virtually the whole Kiwi Ferns squad to target as home-grown recruits but lost at least eight players, including big-name stars Honey Hireme, Teuila Fotu-Moala, Maitua Feterika and Kimiora Nati, to Australian-based clubs.
Fotu-Moala and Feterika in particular have expressed their concerns over the development systems in place across the Tasman compared to Australian pathways, bringing the experienced Kiwi Ferns veteran to respond.
"I mean yeah of course it was a loss initially hearing they didn't want to play for us, that was disappointing," Mariu said.
"But people make decisions and you've just go to accept that. I'm still happy they're part of the NRLW competition and part of women's rugby league. That's the main thing, it's not like we've lost them to another code.
"We'll try and blow up the rivalry a little bit when it gets to that. You treat them like any other footy opposition."
The Warriors will travel to Australia at least three times over the next month, and a fourth time if they reach the NRL Holden Women's Premiership grand final on September 30.
"We prepared for that scenario of travelling each week anyway," Mariu said.
"We weren't expecting a home game. We thought we had a shot earlier in the year but the guys couldn't get it done. It is what it is, we'll find ways to work through it.
"We've got mothers and full-time workers in the side. Having to balance that is a huge commitment. Some of the girls have got time off but there's a percentage of us that can't do that.
"But we know what we've got ourselves into. I think it's a learning process that everyone is going through, from the girls to the men's side and club administration."
Despite announcing her retirement following last year's World Cup, Mariu returned to the game after graduating from police college this season.
The 37-year-old said she got "cold feet" and the opportunity to play in the inaugural NRLW season was a motivating factor to return for at least another year, while her wife, Hilda Mariu, will play on the wing in another piece of rugby league history set to take place on Saturday.