Richards flies to training
One of New Zealand’s best known and most experienced Black Ferns is playing for the Manawatu women’s side.
Anna Richards is paying her own way to fly to Palmerston North each week to play and train with the team under new coach Justin Doolan.
They kick off their first-division season against Richards’ home side, Auckland Storm, at the Sport and Rugby Institute at Massey University at 12.30pm tomorrow.
Richards, now aged 46 and a veteran of 49 tests, was apparently not wanted by Auckland and Doolan said her aim is to get back in to the Black Ferns’ side.
Ironically she is now in the same team as Selica Winiata who couldn’t displace Richards from last year’s World Cup-winning New Zealand side.
Winiata is playing at fullback and Richards at first-five.
Richards, who has a degree in law, flies to Palmerston North on Friday nights, stays and plays over the weekends, trains on Monday nights and then flies home to her job.
New Zealand prop-hooker and Hunterville shepherd Ruth McKay isn’t playing this year.
But Manawatu can call on Aotearoa sevens player Sarah Goss at centre, fast wing Mallory Townsend, five-eighth Aimee Gilbert, who had New Zealand rugby league team aspirations, and experienced halfback Kristina Sue.
There’s also former New Zealand player, No 8 Marina Canterbury, who has a knee injury and for now is the team’s assistant manager.
Doolan is also awaiting New Zealand Rugby Union approval to play four girls from Feilding High School. There are another four players from Stratford, the team from Taranaki playing alongside Kia Toa, Feilding Old Boys-Oroua and Massey University in the Manawatu competition.
Assisting the enthusiastic Doolan, a Palmerston North Boys’ High School teacher, is John Kendal, a former Wairarapa-Bush player and a referee. They coached the FOBOroua women’s team this year.
Doolan initially sought the Manawatu under-14 boys’ representative side coaching position, but when told the women’s head coaching job was vacant, he jumped at it.
He has a background in professional rugby.
After playing for the Boys’ High 1st XV, he played for the High School Old Boys’ under-21s before heading overseas to play in Ireland and England in the 1990s. There he played for Metropolitan Police, London New Zealand and the Middlesex team which toured Argentina and Chile.
In Ireland, he played for Shannon and started girls’ rugby in Tralee before playing fulltime for three years in Japan with Toshiba. Since then he’s has 12 years of coaching at Boys’ High.
Tomorrow, Manawatu have a huge job against an Auckland team which are usually made up entirely of international players. Doolan has gone for fast, fit, mobile women and left out five previous reps who had walked in to previous Manawatu teams. They were not impressed, but he’s big on fitness.
‘‘Auckland will be a big day out,’’ he said. ‘‘We’re up against it, but Southland won the Ranfurly Shield, so nothing’s impossible.’’
Manawatu women’s team. — Forwards:
1 Anne-Maree Brabender (Kia Toa), 2 Bridie Virbickas (FOB-Oroua), 3 Rachelle Richardson (Kia Toa) captain, 4 Jaymi Ngaia (FOBOroua), 5 Nicole Dickins (FOB-Oroua), 6 Sarah McLeod (Kia Toa), 7 Chantelle Long (FOBOroua), 8 Jesse Lampe (Massey University), 9 Zoe Whatarau (Kia Toa), 10 Ashleigh Gee (Stratford), 11 Amy Cockayne (FOB-Oroua), 12 Cindy Rupepera (Kia Toa), 13 Carrie Lobb (FOB-Oroua).
14 Kristina Sue (FOBOroua) vice-captain), 15 Anna Richards (Auckland), 16 Aimee Gilbert (FOB-Oroua). 17 Georgina Marshall (FOB-Oroua), 18 Lauren Burgess (Stratford), 19 Sarah Goss (FOB-Oroua).
20 Steph Downer (FOB-Oroua), 21 Alesha Brider (Stratford), 22 Chrissy Longstaff (Stratford), 23 Varnie Grieg (FOB-Oroua). 24 Selica Winata (Kia Toa), 25 Mallory Townsend (Kia Toa), 26 Hayley Hutana (FOB-Oroua).
Backs – Five eighths:
Making a break: North Harbour’s Nafi Tuitavake claps on the gas during last night’s NPC match against Hawke’s Bay at Albany.
Valuable recruit: New Zealand first five-eighth, centre, Anna Richards has found her new rugby home in Manawatu.