Rugby champion

World Cup-winning rugby captain and the first woman elected to the New Zealand Rugby board

Born in Te Kuiti, Palmer played a range of sports as a youngster, but although she played rugby socially it wasn't until she moved to the University of Otago to study physical education that things got serious.

By 1994 she was playing regularly for Otago, initially as a prop, then hooker. She later played for Waikato and Manawatu.

Her New Zealand debut came in 1996 against Australia and the following year she was named captain of the Black Ferns, marking the occasion with a 67-0 win over England.

New Zealand won the 1998 World Cup under her leadership, and again four years later. In 2005 came the International Women's Personality of the Year award from the International Rugby Board.


She retired after beating England in the final of the 2006 World Cup, with a win-loss record any All Black would be envious of. New Zealand lost just once in her 35 tests and she captained New Zealand in a record 30 tests.

Palmer completed her PhD in 2000, and in 2001 moved to Palmerston North to work in sports management at Massey University. She also did research on how leadership and culture affect success in rugby.

In 2014 she was one of six women inducted into the IRB Hall of Fame and two years later the women's provincial championship was renamed in her honour.

In 2016, Palmer became the first woman to break through the until-then staunchly male domain by being elected to the New Zealand Rugby board.