With the Women’s Club Rugby season now behind us, the focus shifts to this weekend’s opening round of Bunnings Farah Palmer Cup, and while the 2021 Pride squad contains 14 players from the Tia Paasi Memorial Cup Final, there is a healthy mix of new players amongst the 30-strong squad. The team also welcomes in a new management and coaching group, led by former Samoa Number 8, Zak Feaunati, who expects his squad to come together and put in a good performance each week.
“It’s important that we are building week by week and improving. The new players have settled in well and the leadership of our more experienced players and Black Ferns has been great, it’s also a good challenge for them knowing they need to perform and lead by example. Ultimately we want to have 30 girls ‘Pride ready’.”
After a competitive club competition, the door was opened for players to trial. The squad had six training sessions before a wider training squad was announced, within a week, that squad was cut to the final 30, announced at the beginning of July after an internal trial.
Last weekend, the squad travelled up to Waikanae for a pre-season hit out against the Manawatu Cyclones. Despite a 38-5 defeat, Feaunati said there were plenty of positives to take.
“We got a lot more out of it than we thought, obviously the result wasn’t to plan but this was our first real hit out and their third, and that showed in some parts with combinations and connections, which at times cost us. The following day we had a review and some team building, we’re excited for week one.”
“From a coaching perspective, we just want the girls to realise that they are here now and it’s another level and a change. We are doing whatever we can to get these girls up to the level we are looking for, wanting to see a change in attitude and mindset. So far it’s very pleasing what we have seen in terms of the attitude and progression the squad is making.”
The Pride begin their campaign this Sunday at Jerry Collins Stadium, taking on Otago at 11:35am. The match will also be broadcast on Sky Sport. This is one of three home games for the Pride, who will also be involved in a doubleheader at Sky Stadium on Saturday, August 7th, with another 11:35am kick-off before the Wellington Lions begin their NPC campaign.
This Sunday is also a double-header, an exciting opportunity for Women’s rugby. After the Pride match, the Western Bays Women are taking on the Hutt Valley Women in a Battle of the Haywards. Kick-off is 2:05pm.
After a disrupted season in 2020 due to Covid-19, the team will be looking to improve on a third-place finish in the South Pool, with a 3 win-2 loss record. This season the competition goes back to the standard Premiership and Championship format, in which the Pride will compete in the Premiership. The last time the competition played out this way in 2019, Wellington finished 3rd, losing to Auckland in the Semi-Finals.