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The Broader Game: International stars commit to NRLW despite delay

Titans recruit Karli Hansen was so determined to play in the NRL Telstra Women's Premiership this year she quit her full-time job in New Zealand and waited patiently as four flights were cancelled.

So there is no way the rising Kiwi playmaker was ready to give up her NRLW dream this season when news filtered through the competition won't get underway until the first weekend in October. 

Hansen is one of several Kiwi internationals who arrived in Australia last month for a chance to line up with NRLW clubs after the Warriors withdrew from the women's elite competition this season.

The delayed start to the competition has cast doubt over international players' availabilities in October given they were due to fly back to New Zealand in the same week the NRLW will now start.

The New Zealand government's decision to pause travel across the ditch for at least the next eight weeks led to Warriors captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and forward Leeson Ah Mau returning home last week to beat the closure of the trans-Tasman bubble.

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However, Hansen, along with six other Kiwi players who have signed with Newcastle, have been in the country for a month and are committed to remaining in Australia and adhering to biosecurity protocols in a bid to play this year.

Former Warriors Krystal Rota and Charntay Poko remain based in New Zealand but are hopeful of joining their Knights teammates for pre-season training next month.

Dragons forward Elsie Albert has also committed to remaining in Australia for an additional five weeks after arriving from Papua New Guinea last week.

But for Hansen, who is one of three Kiwi women in the Titans squad this season, it was a no-brainer for her to stay on the Gold Coast.

"I'm all with staying … when I'm committed to something, I'm committed," Hansen told NRL.com.

"I can understand that the uncertainty of not knowing when the season was going to start and end hinders a lot of players who have relocated but in my circumstances, if I have to stay here until next year I will.

"It definitely puts you in two minds of whether to stay or go home and come back. I think it's going to be a lot harder for the girls at the Knights, there's a lot of them and they have young families.

"But I also think because the transition has been so smooth and we're being well looked after it's been really easy for us to stay.

"Obviously the Warriors not being in the competition has made it a bit difficult for girls to be scouted but the NZRL did their best to put our names forward.

"I'm just grateful and be honoured to be part of a club like the Titans."

Hansen, who made a barnstorming international debut for the Kiwi Ferns last year, made the ultimate sacrifice to move to Australia and join the Titans knowing she will return to New Zealand eventually without the financial security of a job.

"My job was 9-5 so nice and easy but they encouraged me to take a casual position because they knew I wanted to pursue league a bit more," she said.

"When Jamie Feeney called me it caught me off guard but he was so cool about it, he really sold it to me so I resigned.

"Ever since that phone call, three weeks prior to me moving over the Titans were so helpful and I know I've made the right decision.

"The flight was cancelled about four times and kept getting re-booked but all is good now."

Playing soccer until she was 16, Hansen only discovered rugby league two years ago after playing touch football and tag socially.

"I'm nervous about the season because it's going to be very challenging but worth it," she said.

"I wasn't too much into footy. I watched one game and thought it would be cool but now I'm very invested and am about to play with the players I would see on the screens.

"You really have to step up your game but with the help of all the coaches and players my confidence has probably boosted a bit more since I've been here already."

Raecene McGregor sparks the NZ Maori Ferns attack in this year's All Stars game.
Raecene McGregor sparks the NZ Maori Ferns attack in this year's All Stars game. ©Nathan Hopkins/NRL Photos

McGregor eyeing NRLW return

Injured Broncos playmaker Raecene McGregor is hopeful of returning to the NRLW this season with the five-week delay helping her chances of playing in the competition.

The two-time premiership winner underwent a shoulder reconstruction in May and was originally aiming to get back for the Kiwi Ferns at the World Cup in November.

McGregor has returned to training under lockdown restrictions in Sydney but is yet to commence any contact training and will need a clearance if she wants to join a side this season.

Knights recruit Kat Wira-Kohu is another who has taken advantage of the extended break by undergoing foot surgery last week to ensure she's fit for kick-off in October.

New Eel Bo Vette-Welsh.
New Eel Bo Vette-Welsh. ©Brett Costello/NRL Photos

Staying connected in lockdown

NRLW teams can't train together but they're finding ways to stay connected and challenge each other under lockdown restrictions.

The NRL has also encouraged players to nominate their teammates during the next month for putting in the hard work under difficult circumstances.

"It's pretty cool like coming to a team that is starting from scratch a lot of us don't really know each other at Parra yet," Eels fullback Botille Vette-Welsh said.

"So to get on group chats and stay connected everyone feels like they're part of the team.

"Lockdown is crazy especially in the area I'm in so for all girls we're staying connected in different ways and training is definitely a part of that."

Nominations open for Women in League award

Play your part for women in league

The Harvey Norman Women in League round will be celebrated next week in round 22 with a heavy focus on the teamwork needed from everyone in the game.

It might simply be by supporting the women’s game, volunteering to coach the girls as well as the boys, or ensuring you are being a role model for future generations.

So tell us, how do you play your part? Or do you know someone playing their part who deserves a public pat on the back?

To nominate a person who plays their part, click here.

 

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

 

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