NRL 2022: Triple international Honey Hireme-Smiler makes history with trailblazing NZ Warriors commentary

Rugby and league legend Honey Hireme-Smiler will make history, when she commentates NZ Warriors' first home match in three years.

She’s believed to be the first woman to commentate an NRL game.

Hireme-Smiler admits to Newshub that she's nervous before the match at Mt Smart Stadium, but is grateful to still have her supportive wife by her side, seven months after Rochelle was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

She's as comfortable behind the mic, as she was behind the oval ball - which is pretty comfortable, given she's a triple international in league, rugby and sevens.

Newshub was there when she called her first international women’s league match, as the Kiwi Ferns - her old team - nailed Mate Ma’a Tonga.

Her performance was the perfect build-up to Sunday's history-making call, when the Warriors take on Wests Tigers at Auckland. 

"I’m definitely nervous," said Hireme-Smiler, 41. "I just really want to do a good job.

"I know I'm not everyone’s cup of tea and that’s cool too, but I’ve had some really good feedback. I want to bring my own flavour to the commentary box and call it as a I see it, I suppose."

She knows she is at least one person's cup of tea, though - wife and biggest supporter Rochelle.

"I think she will be awesome," said Rochelle. "She’s natural, really good in front of the camera.

"She’ll be awesome this weekend. She’s got this, yeah."

While celebrating Hireme-Smiler's success, the couple are also dealing with devastating private heartbreak. 

Rochelle has inoperable stage four bile duct cancer - she was diagnosed just two years after Hireme-Smiler's beloved mum died of gut cancer.

Honey Hireme-Smiler (right) and wife Rochelle
Honey Hireme-Smiler (right) and wife Rochelle. Photo credit: Newshub

"I was definitely full of anger with what happened with mum, because it was just so fast, so aggressive," said Hireme-Smiler. "Then, to hear just about the same words come from the doctor and this time it’s my wife, I just thought, 'what have I done to deserve this'.

"I guess I felt sorry for myself."

Said Rochelle: "I was trying to keep it together, because I could see how broken she was, and then it was like, 'how do you tell your kids?'" 

But this family is determined. Once they dealt with their shock, they decided to deal to the cancer.

"We just aren’t giving up," said Hireme-Smiler. "We are living with that 'we aren’t going to let this one beat us this time'."

Said Rochelle: "I try not to make it feel like the demon, I try not to think that I've got cancer.

"I just think this is something that I’ll overcome, another challenge in your life, and I'm not going to let cancer get the better of me."

Honey Hireme-Smiler in action for the Kiwi Ferns
Honey Hireme-Smiler in action for the Kiwi Ferns. Photo credit: Photosport

Rochelle’s undergone surgery and seven bouts of chemo. The treatment has taken its toll, but Hireme-Smiler knows just how strong Rochelle is.

"As the treatment got more and more, I definitely saw the change," she said. "Walking out of chemo, sort of hunched over, freezing and just wanting to go straight to bed as soon as she got home, it just got harder and harder.

"It’s just tough, tough to see people suffer."

The loving, sporty couple have been together 10 years - Hireme-Smiler doesn’t want a life without her wife.

"She means the world to me. I think everyone sees Honey as this tough athlete, rugby league player and stuff, but behind that, she’s been the one that’s kept me strong and kept me believing in myself.

"As you get older and keep playing, you lose a lot of confidence and self belief, and when we lost my mum, she just picked me up and is always there for me, just a best friend, you know.

"I just could never imagine living without her."

Every day, they say, is for living, Plans are still being made.

"We chose to not think about the 'what if' and when," said Hireme-Smiler. "We are just so grateful to wake up every day and see her, and try to make the most of every day.

"You know, you see the moment and you appreciate the moment, as opposed to, 'let's do this and move on', and often I sit back and think these moments are precious."

Sunday's historic commentary will be another precious moment, but really, nothing beats hanging together, at home with their puppy, just being.

Join us at 4pm for live updates of the Warriors v Tigers NRL clash