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Cook Islanders join Raiders for inaugural NRLW season

Tuesday 2 May 2023 | Written by Supplied | Published in


Cook Islanders join Raiders  for inaugural NRLW season
Cook Islands representative Kerehitina Matua. RAIDERS/23050118

The Canberra Raiders are pleased to announce two more international representatives joining the club for its inaugural NRLW season.

New Zealand Kiwi Ferns fullback Apii Nicholls, a Cook Islander, and Cook Islands representative Kerehitina Matua will join the Raiders this season, bringing plenty of experience to the club.

Nicholls has played three seasons of NRLW, playing the first two seasons with the Warriors in 2018 and 2019, as well as the 2022 season with the Titans.

The fullback has played in two World Cups for the Kiwi Ferns in 2017 and 2021 and was named in the Women’s Team of the Tournament following last year’s event.

Nicholls was part of the Kiwi Ferns World Cup Nines tournament win in 2019 and was also named as the NZRL Player of the Year in 2017.

The 30-year-old was recently part of the Chiefs Manawa team that played in the 2023 Super Rugby Aupiki season.

Before her rugby league career, Nicholls was a Cook Islands rugby sevens representative.

Nicholls said she is excited for her the next chapter of her rugby league career in Canberra.

“I just want to say I’m grateful to be a part of the club this year,” Nicholls said.

“I’m so nervous to meet the team but excited to give it my all and learn as much as I can.”

New Zealand Kiwi Ferns fullback and Cook Islander Apii Nicholls. 23050117

Matua played her first World Cup for the Cook Islands at the 2021 event, playing all three round matches.

The 23-year-old has also played two matches for the New Zealand Māori All Stars in 2019 and 2020.

Matua recently moved over to Australia from New Zealand to play for Mounties in the Harvey Norman NSW Women’s Premiership and will line up in this weekend’s grand final.

Matua said she’s excited for the opportunity to play NRLW and can’t wait to get started.

“To be honest it’s overwhelming for me. I’m grateful for the opportunity and appreciate Darrin for reaching out to me with a contract,” Matua said.

“I came over to Australia to find that opportunity. My goal was to at least finish a season with the Mounties and my dream was to make a NRLW team, so I’m stoked for that.”

Raiders NRLW coach Darrin Borthwick is excited to have both Nicholls and Matua join the squad. 

“Apii was one that I’ve been looking at for a little while and it was a bit of a case of thinking she was quite happy where she was at. In the end I made it a thing to reach out to her, I just spoke about our values and who we are going to be as a club and players that we are getting here. I think in the end that’s what got her over the line, is that she is coming to a good club and a good bunch of girls,” Borthwick said.

“To get Apii as a person and as a really good player, she had a good World Cup, she’s done some really good things in the NRLW space. I feel we are pretty blessed to get Apii and as many of the girls are, I can’t wait for her to get here.

“Kere has sort of been in and around it for a little while, she’s played All Stars and has been playing in the local league over in New Zealand. This year she took the jump to come over and play in the Harvey Norman Women’s Premiership for our feeder club Mounties. She’s really impressed me with the way she’s transitioned into the way we play here.

“There’s been a bit of a trial process with her as far as how she’s played and what she’s done off the field. She’s another one that has ticked all the boxes now and I was really excited to have Kere and her family down recently and present her with her contract. I’m really looking forward to Kere playing for the Raiders as well.”