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Local players eyeing NZ provincial debut

Thursday 24 June 2021 | Written by CI News Staff | Published in Rugby Union, Sports


Local players eyeing NZ provincial debut
Daimzel Rongokea and Charlize Tumu-Makara have been selected in the Otago Spirit squad for the Farah Palmer Cup. Kayla Hodge (The Oamaru Mail)/21062327

Two Cook Islands players playing for an Otago-based club are a step closer to their dream of playing in New Zealand’s top domestic women’s rugby union competition.

Daimzel Rongokea and Charlize Tumu-Makara who joined the Waitaki Wahine club about two months ago have been selected in the Otago Spirit squad for the Farah Palmer Cup which kicks off next month.

The Farah Palmer Cup (formerly known as Women’s Provincial Championship until 2016), is the highest level domestic women’s rugby union competition in New Zealand.

Otago is one of 13 clubs competing in this annual competition named after the former Black Ferns captain, Farah Palmer.

While announcing the squad, Otago Spirit congratulated the players selected to represent the province especially “to all the newbies, as well as the veterans who have been welcomed back into the mix”.

Arorangi’s Rongokea and Tupapa’s Tumu-Makara are two of the 11 newbies in the 32-member squad.

Cook Islands Rugby Union also congratulated the two and attributed their selection to their hard work and dedication.

“They have adapted and never given up on the challenge before them and their tenacity and passion for rugby has paid off! Congratulations ladies!” the Union posted on their Facebook page.

Before taking up rugby, Rongokea and Tumu-Makara believed netball was their calling.

The pair met five years ago playing for the Cook Islands under-21 (netball) squad and had every intention of moving through the ranks with the sport.

That was until last year, when they picked up a rugby ball.

Immediately, they were hooked and played sevens at the Cook Island Games in November.

Rongokea (19), playing for Atiu, and Tumu-Makara (20), playing for Mitiaro, loved every minute of being on the field.

“I guess we just really enjoyed the comms, and the bond between the teammates, and then just carried on from there,” Rongokea said in an interview with The Oamaru Mail.

As they continued to play sevens, they also took up rugby league at the same time.

When North Otago put the call out for players to join the Waitaki Wahine, they each decided to try their hand at rugby union.

“We just took up the opportunity to see what it’s like over here on this side. It’s playing in a new environment, and getting to know new people.

“Netball was our sport – now it’s rugby.”

In April, they landed in Oamaru, and two days later made their debut for the Waitaki Wahine against Otago University.

Rongokea, a second five-eighth, uses her speed and agility to break through the line, and has scored a raft of tries for the Wahine.

Tumu-Makara, a No 8, is powerful off the back of the scrum and have been putting in the big hits.

The Farah Palmer Cup is set to begin on July 16. The Otago Spirit play their first away game against Wellington on July 18. Their first home game is being played at the University Oval on July 25 against Auckland.

All the Farah Palmer Cup games will be televised and available on Sky Sport this season.

“This is a great step forward for the female game, and is news that we are sure the families and friends of our players will be especially thrilled about,” the Otago Spirit Club said.

  • Additional reporting from Kayla Hodge of The Oamaru Mail