In a LEAGUE of our own…

My 7 year old daughter used to have a ‘fixed’ mindset. She’d try something and think, “Well I am either good at it, or I’m not”. More often than not, she never nailed it on the first go and would get so frustrated. Then the cycle would begin: frustration, believing it’s too hard, giving up and failure. It was very disconcerting as a parent to see that she was mixing up ‘failure’ with her notion of self efficacy. I always thought my perfectionist daughter would play an individual sport like running or tennis because of the way she was wired.

Imagine my surprise when one saturday morning she asked if she could join the Linwood Keas Under 8’s Rugby League Team. It changed everything.

She cried at the first training. Gripping my jersey so hard I wondered if she would ever join the flanks. She cried at the second training and said she’d never go back. I was fast losing faith and patience. But her coach Aga Fiso, the Linwood Keas premier captain and Canterbury Bulls veteran welcomed her, gave her a big hug and asked her to run next to him for the next 3 drills.  She met the two other girls in her team, whose actions gave my daughter evidence of her own potential. Shiloh, can spot a gap in the defense, is Usain-ly quick and has that magical Shaun Johnson step down to an art. Corday is the strongest girl in the competition, eats up the metres for her team and smilingly carries 3 or 4 players in her paths of destruction.  They too welcomed my daughter and her team have continued to allow her to borrow their bravery, and wear their bigger shoes with which to leave deeper prints.

I don’t know why I was so shocked she wanted to play Rugby League. Her uncles play for the Linwood Keas, Aranui Eagles and the Catalan Dragons, her cousin plays for the Warriors Under 20’s and I play for the Papanui Tigers Premier Womens  Rugby League team.

One of my best friends Vicki Campbell coaches our team. She is a beast of an athlete who has represented NZ in Rugby League, and Samoa and Niue in three other codes, but I’ll leave that for my next blog. We both love community, developing potential and of course Rugby League.We are priviliged to build our Papanui Tigers Womens team on the player-elected values of Integrity, Aiga/Whanau, Teamwork and Excellence.

Our Papanui women do not concede victory, we are playwrights of power, a flood of new actors telling new stories: like training 6 times a week in pursuit of a black jersey, proud speakers of Te Reo, representing Samoa in their Olympic 7’s bid, raising young families, women of faith mending broken families,  overcoming mental illness, migrating from America, artists, juggling undergraduate and postgraduate university studies, getting a trade, working rotating shifts, youth workers, teaching in primary and secondary schools, managing firms and pursuing business ventures.

Papanui Tigers Team


Do not be fooled by the pretty faces and make up being on fleek. These young women I suit up with for Rugby League on Sunday afternoon have played an 80 minute game of Rugby on Saturday for the Suburbs Angels.  They are #Beauty and #Beasts who run at lightning speed and despite being small, they tackle anyone that dares to run it straight.

2016 now has a 5 team competition, and the game is set to flourish even more so in this post-quake environment. Woolston has the greats like Debbie Chase who continue to lead the way, and local hero Mary Brennan was immortalised with the 9’s Tournament trophy aptly named in her honour. Matriarch Jasmine Tuli has been instrumental in driving the Linwood women’s team and Celebration Lions has used rugby league as a ministry outreach for women. Burnham Chevaliers have great female role models who serve our country in the NZ Army, like the image below of Cantabrian Sekolasitika Wong.

Cola Image

In this textbook arena of the league field, toughness knows no gender.  With every Spartan hacking past of the opposition, with every drive of the shoulder on defense, these measurable displays of power are data points of preparation, or lack thereof.  In this arena women who dare greatly are maps of potential and possibility.

Just think of the  NRL 9’s matches between the Kiwi Ferns and the Jillaroos, what an exhilarating and powerful display of footy! In the South Island, the Auckland contingent are held in such high regard. Personally I am such a fan of Teuila Fotu-Moala, not just for her fierce skill but #ThatHairThough!

NRL Auckland Nines - Day 2, 7 February 2016
Teuila Fotu-Moala of the Kiwi Ferns makes a run at Renae Kunst of the Australian Jillaroos during Day 2 of the NRL Auckland Nines Rugby League Tournament, Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand. Sunday 7 February 2016. Photo: Anthony Au-Yeung /

Canterbury Rugby League appointed Shane Collins as its CEO this year. She has represented NZ in hockey and her connection to the rebuild and regeneration of Christchurch and her emergent leadership approach of developing from a grassroots and managerial level is exciting.

Sorry ’bout it Ms Raelene Castle, who if you don’t know, now you know..she is the CEO of the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs. Beating 3,300 applicants to get this job, her competitiveness and inspiration has lifted the lid for so many women.

Raelene Castle

With this culture of positive role models within rugby league, any young lady looking may use these as plot points to find her way to greatness. Any young lady looking may use these as a fashion designer of her own making. Any young lady looking may erect the stage and recite the monologue of her own destiny.

My 7 year old still has a long way to go. Their team still runs together as a pack sometimes instead of spreading out defensively. But her Keas team has made her realise: she can learn anything, she can challenge herself and most importantly, her ‘fixed’ mindset has now shifted to a ‘growth’ mindset where effort and attitude determines everything.

Thank you Aga and the Keas under 8’s management team.

And to our Papanui Tigers aiga, thank you for teaching me,”League is so much more than belonging, it’s about breaking perceived limits and building something together, that makes belonging matter…

Til next time x

Daisy Speaks









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