Black Ferns le­gend looks to play on

Weekend Herald - - Your Sporting Weekend - Michael Burgess Photo / Brett Phibbs

Kiwi Ferns co-cap­tain Honey Hireme has been so in­spired by her ex­pe­ri­ences in the NRLW, she has shelved re­tire­ment plans — and might play be­yond her 40th birth­day.

Hireme, who will lead the Ferns in their tran­stas­man bat­tle this af­ter­noon along­side Laura Mariu, is one of the most ac­com­plished play­ers in New Zealand league his­tory.

She was a key fig­ure in the 2008 and 2013 World Cup cam­paigns, be­fore a stint in rugby. The 37-year-old planned to play the in­au­gu­ral NRLW sea­son and wind down her ca­reer but now she could do the re­verse. Hireme wants to play next year and even has an eye on the 2021 World Cup.

“Be­fore go­ing into the Women’s NRL, I thought that was just go­ing to be it for me . . . do that and wrap it all up,” Hireme told the Week­end Her­ald.

“But I came off that phys­i­cally re­ally well, and men­tally just keen for more. Now be­ing back in [the Ferns] camp, I still have that huge fire burn­ing, and I just want to keep do­ing it as long as I can, and do it well.

“I take it year by year but there is al­ready talk about the 2021 World Cup, and if I can be a part of that, then I would love to. If I can look af­ter my body and [main­tain] the de­sire, then it’s def­i­nitely on the cards for me.”

It’s a sig­nif­i­cant boost for the Ferns, as Hireme is still shin­ing in the twi­light of her ca­reer. She scored 13 tries in four matches at last year’s World Cup — in­clud­ing two in the fi­nal — and was a stand­out for the Drag­ons in their NRLW cam­paign, named the coaches’ Player of the Year.

The Hamil­ton-based Hireme has lost lit­tle of her pace or guile and re­mains one of the best bro­ken field run­ners in the sport. She’s confident the Ferns can buck the re­cent trend of Jil­la­roos dom­i­nance, with the NRLW set to be a game changer, es­pe­cially as the pre­mier­ship-win­ning Bron­cos were stacked with Ki­wis play­ers.

“The NRL com­pe­ti­tion has helped us. I’ve seen it since we’ve been in camp. The girls have been a lot bet­ter con­di­tioned — they are more match fit com­ing into this — and they have lived that semi-pro­fes­sional ath­lete life. They had never ex­pe­ri­enced that, so even if it was just for two to three months, it has made a big dif­fer­ence and lifts the level of our team.”

Ferns five-eighth Kimiora Nati epit­o­mises the quan­tum leap that is pos­si­ble. The 30-year-old has al­ways been on the fringes of the Ferns but was im­mense for the Bron­cos, with a grand fi­nal hat-trick and the Player of the Match award, as her game has gone to an­other level.

“Kimi has been around for quite a while and has al­ways been a nat­u­ral ath­lete,” said Hireme. “But there has been other play­ers in those po­si­tions and be­cause of her na­ture and she is quiet, she has never re­ally grasped that. But to train against her . . . you never know what she is do­ing, she keeps you on your toes and she is at a peak right now. I’m glad she’s on our team.”

Photo / Photosport Her­ald graphic

Kodi Niko­rima’s par­ents gave up plenty so he could play league at the top level.

Honey Hireme will cap­tain the Ferns to­day.

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