Moves are afoot to reintroduce women's club rugby in Northland from as early as next year with a view to fielding a team in the Farah Palmer Cup.
All regions except Northland and Southland currently have teams competing in the Cup— the equivalent of the men's Mitre 10 Cup— and the Northland wants to be the next province to participate in the top women's rugby comp in New Zealand.
More so since women's rugby has enjoyed exponential growth on the international stage, especially the success of world champions Black Ferns Sevens, and the stellar performance of New Zealand women's 15s team that is currently touring Europe and play France early tomorrow.
Lailani Perese, Aleisha Pearl-Nelson, Eloise Blackwell, Hukerenui's Charmaine Smith, Kaitaia duo Aroha Savage and Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate are the Northland players in the touring party.
Whangārei-based Harono Te Iringa is in the Black Ferns wider training group and plays for Counties in the Farah Palmer Cup due to a lack of pathway in Northland.
"Having a Northland team in the Farah Palmer Cup is long overdue and hopefully we can build women's sport up here because there's so much talent," Te Iringa said.
The 22-year-old started playing club rugby for Horahora, then plied her trade in the New Zealand schoolgirls' comp and once that died down, she went to Counties.
"To get recognition, Northland girls have to go to play in Auckland. I'll definitely play for Northland if we compete at the national level."
She plays lock, flanker and No 8.
Northland Rugby Union women's development manager Scott Collins said a series of meetings has been planned over the next two weeks around the region to update the community on how to get more young girls and women into rugby and the resources to support their participation.
The only pathway into the Black Ferns for Northland-based players, he said, was for them to play for other provinces because of an absence of club competition in Northland.
"Women's rugby went away quite a few years ago but this year we got seven teams throughout Northland to compete every fortnight just to get the interest going," Collins said.
Those teams are Te Rarawa from Ahipara, Kaikohe, Dargaville Old Boys' Sports, Wellsford, Marist, Horahora and Kamo.
"Some years ago we used to have 10-12 women's teams competing in the local club rugby but it's been a long time since we've had age-group domestic comp specific to girls and we want to introduce that as well.
"Late teens, mid-20s women's rugby is the age group that's missing and we want to tap into that because there's a ton of talent at secondary school age group."
Collins said coach and player development, elements of high performance to be able to compete at a national level, and facilities at clubs like changing rooms needed to be looked at as part of re-introducing women's domestic comp.
Neighbouring clubs with few women players may be able to put one team and women's matches could be played as curtain-raisers to the men's games, he said.
"Northland is an untapped market in women's rugby, but the recent absence from the game has slowly been overturned as the region has seen opportunities presented for senior and teenage players in 2018.
"We still have a lot of work to do and since we are pretty much starting from scratch we can continue to shape what Northland women's rugby looks like moving forward."
Collins said the Farah Palmer Cup would connect junior rippa rugby through to the pinnacle team for Northland.
He said the Northland rugby community has been calling for such an opportunity and that his vision was to make the region a premier women's rugby province.
Northland's women's rugby had success this year, claiming the Blues U-18 girls XVs title recently in their first year back in the competition.
Sevens speedster Portia Woodman is the highest-profile women's rugby player from Northland. Females interested in playing rugby or getting involved can get in touch with Collins on Scott.firstname.lastname@example.org or 027 283 6185.