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LAURA: To hear ‘Hilda Mariu’ over the loudspeaker in our first NRL game for the Warriors was a buzz for me. I felt so proud. I thought, ‘Oh, chur! Oh my gosh!’ She shares my surname, and now she represents my family, too.


A lot of big things have happened this year. I never thought I’d ever get married. Ever, in my wildest dreams. I never thought I’d be part of an NRL competition. Never thought I’d receive a Queen’s Birthday honour.


That was another humbling moment that happened this year. I was awarded an MNZM, a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to rugby league.


I also graduated from police college. I’m now serving as a constable in the Counties-Manukau district.


At times, Hilda and I have almost felt ungrateful, because we’ve barely had time to soak any one thing up; it’s from one big thing to the next.


Having first represented the Kiwi Ferns in 2000 (the year I took up rugby league at 19), I was meant to retire after last year’s World Cup. I’ve won three World Cups with New Zealand but we lost the 2017 final to Australia. I reflected on it, and I had unfinished business. I was selected for the Kiwi Ferns again this season.


Then the Warriors coach, Luisa Avaiki, spoke with me and I was selected for the NRL. It was an opportunity I didn’t want to pass up. I knew I was still capable of playing and wasn’t ready to hang up my boots.


We won the first NRL Women’s game in history and Hilda was the first-ever try-scorer. Perfect.



I was quite overwhelmed after the game. The circumstances we’d faced prior had really tested our resilience as a team.


Due to a storm cell in Sydney, our flight was diverted to Brisbane and we didn’t get there until midnight. It was 2am by New Zealand time and we hadn’t even eaten.


Then we had to fly to Sydney early on the morning of the game, we got to the hotel at 11am and we were due at the stadium at 1pm. To go through all that, then to fight hard and win, showed a lot of character from our team.


There was a lot of hype on the Roosters going in too, and we knew that. They had a lot of Jillaroos players, but we just focused on ourselves. It was a huge test and I was so proud of the whole club.


This major step towards a professional women’s game was a distant dream when I started playing. I played footy because I loved it. Half the reason why I continued to play it for so many years was to keep the game alive here in New Zealand, in the face of rugby union’s dominance.


Because I’ve been around for a long time and played with many Kiwi greats, I always think about the past and the people I’ve played with. All the trials we’ve been through, and the many sacrifices players made during that old-school era.


It’s a great feeling to think that those past players paved the way for this new era, where younger players will have such awesome opportunities. I feel it’s my responsibility to remind those young girls of the women who came before them, who made it all possible.




HILDA: I went over to England for the 2013 World Cup, to support my sisters and Laura.


I sat up in the stands in the final, where they lost to the Jillaroos. I said to myself, ‘I really want to represent my country and I’m just as good as those girls out there.’


I set my mind to it, committed, and made my Kiwi Ferns debut the next year in the Four Nations.


Laura has been a real influence on me in the way she holds herself, how she’s been able to maintain an elite standard of footy for 18 years. I used that experience to my advantage.


It’s an amazing thing to be able to play elite rugby league with your wife. We’re very fortunate.


It’s kicking in now, that I scored the first try in NRL Women’s history. And to be part of the first win was an awesome feeling. Everyone was stoked after the game.


It was a bit overwhelming at first, playing the first-ever NRL game. You just worry about your job during the game, but afterwards you look around and reality hits.


‘Wow. This historic opportunity has arrived and I’m able to be a part of it.’


Hopefully, it is just the start of a wonderful future for women’s rugby league – a future that women like Laura made possible.


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