Rugby: Community rallies for Northland's Farah Palmer Cup debut

Until now, Northland have been conspicuous in their absence from the Farah Palmer Cup.

The province only restarted its senior women's club rugby this season, so local players have been forced to chase dreams in other regions.

Driven by passion, commitment and plenty of mileage, that's all changed.

The players arrive in Kaikohe from far and wide, travelling from as far south as Piha and an hour north of Kaitaia for training.

Some drive for six hours on Thursday nights, so a feed is laid on at the only full team training they can manage each week.

"We've got girls messaging the group chat at, like, midnight, saying they've just got home" lock Taylah Hodson-Tomokino told Newshub. "Everyone is always checking they've got home safely.

"It's a good family vibe in the team."

Northland's arrival couldn't have happened without the passion of these amateur players.

It's been a long time coming for the coaches - former Black Ferns Cheryl Smith and Susie Dawson.

Smith was forced to play her provincial rugby for Auckland.

"For a lot of the girls, it's coming home," said Smith. "They've waited for years to be able to put on the Cambridge blue."

And that takes plenty of sacrifice.

"When they come to training, it's out of their pocket. They have to organise their families, just like me.

"It's really lucky we have supportive whanau."

Black Ferns hooker TK Ngata-Aerengamate is the captain. The Kaitaia school teacher feels it's a major step in women's rugby exploding up North.

"There are girls watching on TV wanting to be like us," said Ngata-Aerengamate. "Because the talent is real up there."

The current crop of trailblazers are showing the women of the north were born to play, with warm-up wins over Taranaki and North Harbour.

"That's just because of their bullrush at lunch time, in primary, in their bare feet," Ngata-Aerengamate. "It's just really physical.

"For Māori , it's the biggest tribe in Aotearoa."

They'll do whatever it takes to make a name for Northland in the Farah Palmer Cup.

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