As the Kiwi Ferns prepare to depart New Zealand for the start of the Women’s Rugby League World Cup held in Australia, there’s a different feel within the side.
It could be the fact that families are welcome within the camp as the national team prepares towards their first game of the competition, held this week.
Shontelle Woodman (Ngāpuhi) is one of the many mothers in the team. Her daughter Arahi, age 5, is with her and will remain by Woodman's side for the entire duration of the RLWC.
Woodman says, “I think it's important, whānau is at the centre of everything we do, being able to have her in the camp. I’m very thankful to Tony (Benson) and the coaching staff, everyone treats her like their own really. It makes it easy to concentrate and get the job done.”
The job will be to win the World Cup, something the side couldn’t quite do at the last World Cup held in 2013, where Australia won their first world title, beating New Zealand 22-12.
Shontelle’s twin sister Sharnita Dudley played in that tournament. She isn’t on the New Zealand team this time around but has given advice to her twin sister.
“She just said to have fun, take it all in because it goes so fast and we’ve worked four years to get here. She just said every time you go on that field make that position yours so they don’t have a chance not to play you,” explains Shontelle.
The team will play Canada in their first game of the tournament this Thursday.