Former Black Fern Cheryl Smith (nee Waaka) will be the mastermind behind Northland's inaugural Farah Palmer Cup (FPC) campaign as the team's head coach.
With the number of registered female players in Northland growing faster than any other province between 2017 and 2018, Smith has stepped up to guide Northland through its first venture in New Zealand's domestic women's rugby competition in September.
As an under-15s coach and coach of Kaikohe's premier women's team in Northland's returning senior women's competition, Smith said she could see a crop of players ready for the domestic level.
"I was asked to coach this year at club level and from there, I could see a lot of talent and potential for a FPC Northland team," she said.
"I have always been passionate about rugby and I'm keen to give back to Northland rugby through this coaching role."
Smith will be paired with former teammate and ex-Black Fern, Susan Dawson, who will be an assistant coach.
In addition to being the coach of Northland's Kamo Hawks women's team, Dawson had been a Northland's premier women's development coach and had recently coached the Pakistan Rugby Union women's team.
Dawson said she wanted to share her experience from playing and coaching in New Zealand and abroad with players in preparation for the Women's Rugby World Cup in 2021.
"Rugby has taken me all over the world, and I can't wait to help the players of today get as far as they can, and see what we can do here in Northland this year and as we head into the World Cup," she said.
Eleven Women's Rugby World Cup games will be hosted in Whangārei in 2021. Northland Rugby chief executive, Alistair McGinn said it was a great time to see experienced Northland players return to help the game's development.
"Our entry to the Farah Palmer Cup has been a highlight for the women's game in Northland so far and builds on the strength of a growing community of successful female players," he said.
"The FPC is still an amateur tournament so being able to secure these two former Black Ferns is great for the game in Northland."
The Farah Palmer Cup side will take centre stage in a double header with the men's team at the Northland Events Centre at Wahine Day on Sunday, September 22.
The Northland women's team will take the field against North Harbour before the Taniwha play their Mitre 10 Cup game against Bay of Plenty.
Farah Palmer Cup
The Farah Palmer Cup (formerly known as Women's Provincial Championship until 2016), is the highest level domestic women's rugby competition in New Zealand and is named after the former Black Ferns captain, Farah Palmer.
This contest is held annually from September and managed by the New Zealand Rugby Union, or NZRU.
The competition was first introduced in 1999, with a total of 14 teams competing initially. The number of teams increased to 18 in the year 2000, but has had as few as six teams.