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West is best: Parramatta return couldn't be sweeter for Nita

When a coach makes an approach to a player to join a Telstra Women’s Premiership team, apparently there are three questions that always get asked.

Who else is playing for the team? Who is the coach? Where are you training?

Fortunately, when Parramatta made an approach to Kiwi Ferns international Nita Maynard to join their inaugural team, they had the right answers.

"One of the main reasons I am going to Parramatta is because a lot of my friends are playing there," Maynard said.

"I’ve played alongside Simaima Taufa for a couple of years now and my best friend Botille Vette-Welsh is also playing for Parramatta.

"The Eels have also signed a really strong pack with the likes of Kennedy Cherrington and Filomena Hanisi and as a dummy-half, you always want to play behind a good pack."

The Eels have focused on recruiting women who have a connection with Sydney's west - bringing them home to play for a club that represents the local area.

Maynard goes herself to score

While Maynard has spent the last couple of years in the east and has played with the Sydney Roosters since 2018, when she first came over to Australia in 2011 she spent a lot of time playing alongside Taufa for the Parramatta Two Blues.

"That’s how far back my connection with Maima goes and that’s how long I have felt a connection to Parramatta," she said.

"A lot of people are thrilled to see me return to the west. We have a great group with a strong mix of new talent and some experienced players. I can’t wait to see how we all gel together and I’m hoping we get into the training bubble next week."

Over the years, Maynard has demonstrated she is an undoubtedly talented athlete - in 2014 she played for the Australian Wallaroos and in 2016 she also represented Australia in sevens rugby.

Because of this long association with sport, she has had the opportunity to play alongside the likes of Vette-Welsh and Taufa and watch as these women have developed their game and their leadership skills.

"I’ve known Bo since 2014 and I have always told her to back herself and put herself forward for leadership positions," Maynard said.

"I always knew how much talent she has and it’s so good to see her finally getting the recognition she deserves.

"I always knew she had it in her to be the player that she is and she is still developing which is really exciting."

As for Taufa, when Maynard first met her, she was extremely shy. But the opportunities that Taufa has received through women’s footy, particularly when she worked for the Roosters in the wellbeing space has seen her develop as a player and a leader.

Maynard scores the winner for the Kiwi Ferns

"I remember seeing her presenting about three years ago and my first thought was ‘where did this Maima come from?’. Watching her develop into a leader and a role model for the next generation of players has been really exciting."

With two new teams entering the NRLW and many of the former New Zealand Warriors opting to play for new teams, Maynard thinks this will be the best Telstra Women's Premiership season.

"There will be more games this year so all the squads have a bit more time to settle which is important," she said.

"Because there are more spots, you are also going to see all these new names popping up that have made a conscious choice to develop their careers in rugby league."

Maynard's career hit a hurdle in April after she was involved in an off-field incident. She was fined $2800 after she pleaded guilty to failing to leave the premises when required and two charges of common assault for an incident involving two security guards at a Cronulla pub.

As she reaches the final years of her career, she is keen to make the most of her remaining time in the game to help grow the sport for the next generation of players.

"So many people with opinions about the women’s game don’t realise what it takes. You have to play like you are a full-time athlete while juggling parenting, a job or studies. You don’t just get to be a full-time athlete."

Maynard has an eight-year-old daughter who is her biggest fan and has been playing rugby league since she was four.

"Not only have I watched the elite game develop, but I have also seen the changes at a grassroots level. 

"I am so excited to see what this next generation can achieve and the opportunities that they have that weren’t available when I was growing up."

 

The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARL Commission, NRL clubs or state associations.