Lose taking rugby by Storm

NZ Herald:

Mangere College’s Lose Mafi is rapidly making a name in women’s rugby.

Funny what can spring from chance meetings. Two years ago, Mangere College student Lose Mafi watched on at the school’s sports awards as Black Ferns captain Fiao’o Fa’amausili addressed all the promising young sports stars.

Now the 17-year-old year 13 student is playing senior rep rugby for the Auckland Storm in the Farah Palmer Cup alongside Fa’amausili, one of the most durable and respected figures in the women’s game. The two are also clubmates at Marist.

“Watching Fi, she loves the sport and is so passionate about it. She makes me want to be that person and be a better player and role model. She’s not only a Black Fern, but she’s a good lady outside the environment,” says Mafi, a humble, quiet student more at ease talking about the 36-year-old rake than herself.

Fa’amausili first played NPC for the Storm the same year Mafi was born, an indication of her longevity and Mafi’s youth.

Mafi is not the sole schoolgirl to make the Storm in recent times. Others include current players Onjeurlina Leiataua (out of Papatoetoe High) and Kiritapu Demant (out of EGGS). That duo has kicked on to full Black Ferns representation.

Mafi is slight in stature, but she can play and has plenty of pace on the wing. Her three games in the Farah Palmer Cup have yielded two tries, including an important five-pointer in the 29-25 victory over Canterbury last weekend.

“Making the team was beyond what I expected. My original goal was to get into the Auckland secondary schools team, so making the Storm was a big thing for me,” Mafi says.

Fa’amausili gave her the heads-up the Storm selectors had their eye on her, so she upped the ante at training. While she plays mainly at halfback for Marist and Mangere College, she says the transition to the wing has been made easier by the Storm environment.

“The women are welcoming and supportive. Going into the team, I thought I was below all of them. They showed me that it doesn’t matter what size I am,” Mafi says.

Coach Dean Bickerton took her aside and was able to instil some confidence in her at the first training. She hasn’t looked back.

Now she is rubbing shoulders with Olympic silver medallist Tyla Nathan-Wong. Sevens is an option for Mafi, who is keen to head to the US with the Marist sevens for a tournament early next season.

From April to August, Mafi’s rugby routine is a busy one. Aside from training, she will play for Marist on a Saturday, have church and training on a Sunday, and then is co-captain in the Mangere girls’ team which plays in the developmental 10s grade on Monday nights. The younger girls in the school side look up to Mafi.

“There are some very young girls in the juniors. They are still learning, but this season they showed me a lot of passion. They surprised me with how well they did.”

The Storm host Otago at Colin Maiden Park on Saturday, and Mafi is sure to be in the mix.

By Campbell Burnes

Photo / Getty Images