The Kiwi Ferns World Cup 9s team led by Honey Hireme.

The race is on to see who is the fastest woman in New Zealand's World Cup 9s team.

In a game where centres, wingers and fullbacks excel, the Ferns have quality in all those positions with Atawhai Tupaea, Kiana Takairangi, Madison Bartlett and Apii Nicholls.

"I've never played Nines before but I've been watching a fair bit of footage," Bartlett, pictured above in the back row second from left, told NRL.com.

"I'm excited because you have a lot more room. And I came from a touch-tag background so I feel it will be a little bit similar."

So who is the fastest in a very slick Ferns back line?

"I'd be looking out for Atawhai. She is undercover fast," the Warriors winger said.

"But I think between Ata, Apii, Kiana and myself we've got some real speed. The game seems a little more one-on-one because in 13s you kind of rely on your inside and outside players.

"But with the bigger space you'll find yourself on your own a bit more and I kind of like the anticipation of that."

For Ferns fans it's just good to see Bartlett flying again. She had reconstructions on both shoulders after numerous dislocations. It forced her out of the inaugural NRLW season in 2018.

But she returned with force in 2019, scoring a try in her Ferns debut in the mid-season Test win over Samoa.

Now she is part of the emergence of the women's Nines game. Four nations will compete at Bankwest Stadium on Friday and Saturday: New Zealand, Australia, England and PNG.

I'd be looking out for Atawhai [Tupaea]. She is undercover fast

Kiwi Ferns player Madison Bartlett

"I think everyone here will have a ruthless, relentless style to them as the game is over so quickly," she added.

"You just have to look at Sevens in rugby to see how popular the shorter game can be. I do feel the Nines need to be that inclusiveness as well for people who don't like that much contact.

"It should definitely bring in a few more touch footballers for that reason."

The Nines format features five-tackle sets, rather than the regular six, making for more ad-lib play.

"We're still working through what our Nines is going to look like," Bartlett said. "We've only had a couple of training sessions specifically on that.

"Morgs [Justin Morgan] our coach has been doing a lot of work on it so I think we'll see how we want to play over the next two sessions before Friday night's first game."

Warriors NRLW player Atawhai Tupaea.
Warriors NRLW player Atawhai Tupaea.

And that match against Australia should see the return of Honey Hireme, following the death of her mother due to cancer three weeks ago. Hireme sat out the three NRLW rounds to be by her side.

"It's always great having Honey in a team because of the strength of leadership she brings," Bartlett said.

"It's particularly good to have her back because of the tough times she's been through. I think it's still important we get around her because her pain doesn't just vanish.

"And I think she will like being around us as well, maybe take her mind off things a little bit."

 

For ticket and travel packages for the Downer Rugby League World Cup 9s Sydney 2019, head to nrl.com/tickets.