Following a blockbuster final at the NZRL's national women's tournament, a wider Kiwi Ferns squad has been named ahead of preparations for a triple header involving the Kiwi Ferns, Kiwis and Junior Kiwis in Auckland on October 13.
The squad of 33 includes some fresh development prospects, products of the ever-growing women's game, as well as many seasoned veterans carrying years of international experience.
Despite closing the curtain on World Cup rugby league, Laura Mariu has proven she's still performing at the top level admitting the appeal of playing in October's triple-header was too strong.
"After the World Cup I thought I'd hang up the boots on my Kiwi Ferns career but I just can't stay away. While my body still allows me I'm keen to play in that Kiwi Ferns jersey if they'll have me," she said.
She also celebrated being made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen's Birthday honours announced today for her outstanding service to rugby league.
Kiwi Ferns coach Kelvin Wright is excited to begin his journey with the squad.
"The squad I'll be working with in the lead-up to October's triple header is exactly what any coach can hope for, full of talent and rugby league smarts," he said.
"With the right support I believe we can create something pretty special as a team.
"It's great to see women from the regions putting their hand up and I'm excited to work alongside the women to ensure we have the best team on the field in October."
Preparations for the Test against the Jillaroos in October will be further enhanced by the opportunity for players to compete in the new NRL Women's Premiership in the coming months.
New Zealand Rugby League talent manager David McMeeken was singing his praises for the level of play demonstrated over the three day tournament.
"In wet, muddy conditions over two of the three days of play there was some exceptional football on display," he said.
"The players and staff were a credit to all the regions represented and there was a great environment created around the venue from them all, despite the conditions."
KIWI FERNS | WIDER SQUAD
Akarana: Alice Vailea, Crystal Tamaru, Georgia Hale, Karley Te Kawa, Lara Diamond-Brahne, Ngatokotoru Arakua, Shontelle Woodman, Annetta-Claudia Nuuausala, Lisa Edwards.
Canterbury: Masuisuimatamaalii Tauasa Pauaraisa.
Counties-Manukau:| AieshaLeigh Smalley, Amber Kani, Apii Nicholls-Pualau, Hilda Peters, Kaylen Ikitule, Kerehitina Matua, Kimiora Nati, Krystal Rota, Langi Veainu, Laura Mariu, Lavinia Tauhalaiku, Louisa Gago, Onjeurlina Leiataua, Raquel Anderson-Pitman, Teuila Fotu-Moala, Sarah Filimoeatu.
Auckland Vulcans: Ma'atuleio Fotu-Moala, Tanika Jazz Noble-Bell.
Wai-Coa-Bay: Honey Hireme, Kanyon Paul, Lakiila Gudgeon, Te Whetumarama Nuku.
Wellington: Acacia Te Iwimate.