The 2008 Kiwi Ferns after winning the women's Rugby League World Cup for the third straight time ... their title defence this year is being sponsored by the Vodafone Warriors. Photo: Photosport.


The Vodafone Warriors last night strengthened their commitment to grass roots rugby league in New Zealand with owner Sir Owen Glenn announcing the club will be the Kiwi Ferns major sponsor for their defence of the womens World Cup in the United Kingdom in July.


The Kiwi Ferns have won the title every time it has been held, completing a third straight triumph when they beat Australia 34-0 in the 2008 decider in Brisbane.


The sponsorship announcement at the Te Mahurehure Cultural Marae Society in Point Chevalier follows the Vodafone Warriors investment in the recently-launched College Rugby League First XIII Premiership competition, a joint venture involving the Auckland Rugby League and ASB College Sport.


The club also donated a $10,000 cheque to the Wellington Rugby League last month to help fund its junior coaching programmes and continues to be involved in a number of initiatives at club and regional levels.


In making the announcement at last nights event, Sir Owen said he and Eric Watson were determined to support and grow rugby league at all levels in New Zealand.


Weve made it clear that were committed to making the Vodafone Warriors a hugely successful club and, for that to happen, we need to make the game stronger at all levels, he said.


The Kiwi Ferns boast an amazing record having won the womens World Cup every time it has been played but theyve received such little recognition.


Were going to do all we can to help them win the title for the fourth time. Itll be a wonderful feat if they do.


Watson said the sponsorship of the Kiwi Ferns was a perfect fit with the clubs vision.


The Kiwi Ferns have proved time and time again that theyre the best in the womens game, a benchmark for the Vodafone Warriors to strive for, he said.


Their level of achievement is unrivalled and we have the greatest confidence in them living up to their standards.


New Zealand Womens Rugby League chairperson Christine Panapa was delighted with the support.


This is a fantastic gesture from Sir Owen, Eric and the Vodafone Warriors, she said.


Were so proud of the Kiwi Ferns and what they have achieved. This makes the world of difference to us and gives us greater confidence knowing the Vodafone Warriors are backing us all the way.


The Vodafone Warriors have a close connection with womens rugby league through their event and match day manager Nadene Conlon, a former Kiwi Ferns captain and one of the countrys finest players ever produced. And Vodafone Warriors community manager Petrece Kesha is a qualified referee.


The Kiwi Ferns will be special guests at the Vodafone Warriors home game against Brisbane on June 30. Theyll be introduced on the field and given a send-off by the Mount Smart Stadium crowd as they prepare to depart to England for the World Cup tournament.


World Cup champions in 2000, 2005 and 2008, the Kiwi Ferns will compete alongside England, Australia, France, Russia, Samoa and Tonga. The final will be played at Headingley in Leeds on July 14.


WOMENS RUGBY LEAGUE WORLD CUP


Finals:

2000Kiwi Ferns 26, Great Britain 4

2003Kiwi Ferns 58, New Zealand Maori 0

2008Kiwi Ferns 34, Australia 0