Debutant Auckland Storm Head Coach, Willie Walker has named a 30-strong squad for the upcoming domestic competition as the most successful provincial women’s team look for a record 16th National Provincial Title.
With seven current Black Ferns and numerous players included in national training squads, the female player pathways within the Auckland Rugby High Performance system continue to only get stronger leading into our national competition and a Rugby World Cup year.
Walker has named his seven current Black Ferns in the Auckland Storm squad. Aleisha-Pearl Nelson, Aldora Itunu, Cristo Tofa, Eloise Blackwell, Charmaine McMenamin, Ruahei Demant and Natahlia Moors will lead the Auckland squad and will be looking to state their claim for the Black Ferns squad leading into the postponed 2022 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
Eloise Blackwell will lead the galvanizing group of players for another season and will look to utilise all facets of this exciting squad when they begin their season on next weekend at Eden Park.
Liana Mikaele-Tu’u will be looking to put her best case forward after being recognised as a player of interest for the national squad. In 2020, the 19-year-old displayed her physicality and strong ball running on the field for the Storm before suffering a serious leg injury in the round 7 loss to Waikato.
The College Rifles loose-forward recovered from injury in time to be named on the bench for the Blues Wahine in the first ever Women’s Super Rugby match against the Waitomo Chiefs, joining her brother Marino Mikaele-Tu’u (Highlanders) as the first brother-sister duo to play in the Super Rugby competition.
Along with Mikaele-Tu’u, Maia Roos, Patricia Maliepo and Sylvia Brunt will be looking to gather as much FPC experience as possible. The teenagers had stand out seasons in 2020 and have attended Black Ferns camps in lead up to this Farah Palmer Cup season.
Eloise Blackwell will captain The Auckland Storm once more but will be joined by former Black Fern teammate and classmate, Doris Taufateau for the first time since 2016. The pair graduated from the University of Auckland with a Bachelor in Physical Education in 2013 while playing for the Auckland Storm. Taufateau is now a teacher at her former school, Tamaki College, while Blackwell is a P.E Teacher at Epsom Girls Grammar.
Taufateau was a member of the 2010 Black Ferns that went on to win the Rugby World Cup in London along with former teammate, now Auckland Storm Assistant Coach Anna Richards.
The front rower who notched up her 150th Premier game for College Rifles this season will be keenly welcomed back into the Auckland squad, bringing a vast knowledge of playing experience to a young Auckland Storm squad.
The Storm will be steered by the newly appointed Head Coach, Willie Walker for the 2021 season. Walker will cross the bridge from North Harbour Rugby where he was Head Coach of the Women’s Sevens and Assistant Coach of the Farah Palmer Cup team. With Walker’s significant playing and coaching experience, the former New Zealand Maori International is enthusiastic about the opportunity to guide this immensely talented outfit.
“Firstly, congratulations to all players who has been selected in the squad. You have all deserved your selection. The girls have had a solid lead in with a highly contested Goodyear Club Rugby season and everyone is excited to get the campaign underway against Bay of Plenty next week” says Walker.
The 2021 Farah Palmer Cup will move back to the Premiership-Championship format after trialling North and South pools last season. The Storm will be on the road to Otago, Counties Manukau and Wellington while staging home games against Waikato, Canterbury and Bay of Plenty. For the first time, Sky Sport will be televising every Farah Palmer Cup game.
2021 Auckland Storm Squad
Aleisha-Pearl Nelson (College Rifles)
Aldora Itunu (Ponsonby)
Cilia-Marie Po’e (College Rifles)
Doris Taufateau (College Rifles)
Maama Vaipulu (College Rifles)
Sophie Fisher (Ponsonby)
Cristo Tofa (Ponsonby)
Alakoka Po’oi (Ponsonby)
Eloise Blackwell (Ponsonby) (Captain)
Maiakawanakaulani Roos (College Rifles)
Vineta Teutau (Marist)
Tafito Lafaele (College Rifles)
Shannon Leota (Ponsonby)
Liana Mikaele-Tu’u (College Rifles)
Chamaine McMenamin (Ponsonby)
Luisa Togotogorua (Marist)
Patricia Maliepo (Marist)
Ruahei Demant (College Rifles)
Sylvia Brunt (Ponsonby)
Mele Hufanga (Marist)
Daynah Nankivell (Ponsonby)
Corinna Nanai Vai (College Rifles)
Princess Elliot (Ponsonby)
Natahlia Moors (Ponsonby)
Magali Harvey (Ponsonby)
Sam Curtis (College Rifles)
Taylor Curtis (College Rifles)
Abby Lockhart (Marist)
Elenoa Gukirewa (Marist)
Jennifer-Rose Reu (College Rifles)