Eddie Ioane (left), Sandra Ioane and Joe Stanley at Ponsonby Rugby Club after becoming a lifetime member in 2018. Photo: Ashley Stanley.
When the women of the Blues and Chiefs run into Eden Park in Saturday’s Super Rugby fight, they owe thanks to the women who went out before them, like All Black mother Sandra Ioane.
Thirty years ago, the Ponsonby women’s rugby team, the Fillies, played Marist on the runner-up field at Eden Park in an Auckland club final.
There were bags of loyal supporters in the crowd. But not many, says Sandra Ioane, one of the original New Zealand women’s representatives.
“Let’s put it this way: When we were playing, the bloody seagulls were watching us. And then you had to fucking pay for your friends or family to come with you, ”says Ioane (née Wihongi), who founded the Black Ferns team in 1989.
It’s far from being in the stands at Eden Park and watch their two sons Akira and Rieko play for the All Blacks or Super Rugby.
But the first Super Rugby women game between the Blues and the Chiefs this weekend at Eden Park Number one could be the turning point for women’s rugby in New Zealand.
« I’m taking your hat off, congratulations. Because I never thought we’d have a great game, « says Ioane.
So has a lot changed? While the crowd seems similar to the late 80s, the significant moves locally and internationally are a strong sign that there will be bigger changes in the game. Hopefully the next generation can visibly change within the next 30 years.
Two Kiwi women who lead from above are Kate Sadleir, General Manager of Women’s Games at World Rugby, and Cate Sexton, New Zealand’s Rugby Director of Women’s Portfolio.
They both shared their enthusiasm for the historic super -Franchise match with Rikki Swannell on Sky Sports The Conversation and for the recently announced global competitions World Rugby – the World XV and a regional tournament for New Zealand, the US, Australia and Canada.
« It’s fantastic, » says Sadleir from the Super Match. “I mean, New Zealand clearly had a special place against the Covid pandemic because they could keep playing. I had the chance to meet some of the most important women across the country over the weekend and everyone is excited for the new event to start. “
Sexton discussed plans to expand the Super Games and what the future of rugby could be for women in New Zealand.
» Absolutely working towards a different national competition that is in a semi-professional environment would take place, « says Sexton. « With the new global calendar, we’re looking for another way for players to put their hands up to be selected for the national team. »
The current provincial competition, the Farah Palmer Cup, is the only level between Club rugby and the national team.
There is so much to consider when you think about where the game was when Ioane played where it is now.
With a full club day at Ponsonby Rugby on Saturday Ioane will most likely watch the super game while she’s working – she’s still at the club as an administrator. She’s been in the role for a little over five years but originally started helping the junior club.
Saturday blues captain Eloise Blackwell is also a proud Ponsonby member. Last year, Blackwell – a physical education teacher at Epsom Girls – was part of the Fillies team that won its first championship title since Ioane’s team. At that time, Ponsonby dominated the club scene in Auckland for almost 10 years and won the championship title from 1986 to 1993.
Ioane came to Ponsonby from the far north. She moved from Kaikohe with her family of 10 when she was 12 years old. « We came to Ponsonby from the bush and lived in Ponsonby until I was 30, » she says.
It was athletics and any other sport she could hold in her hands when they were up north. But the move to the big smoke led the lock / loose forward to rugby.
Friends who lived across from Ioane passed their parents’ fruit shop on Ponsonby Road and asked them to play rugby. She already played contact with them and netball and basketball on the site.
« That’s how I started, » says Ioane, who has befriended players like Paddy Pao from Auckland. “For us it was more of a sociable thing. It wasn’t a big problem, just a group of girls getting together and having fun. And well, I didn’t go. « She married former Ponsonby rugby and Manu Samoa player Eddie Ioane.
Before she started playing for Ponsonby in the late 1980s, Ioane knew that rugby was a boys game. » But I have a few training sessions visited and I really enjoyed it. Well, it was a lot of walking and so I could run until my heart was satisfied. And then when I got to the physical things I was in my element. Getting rid of all of my frustration and anger problems « She laughs.
According to Ponsonby Records, Ioane » was seen as extraordinary by people who saw her play. She was agile for a castle and gifted with rare abilities. She had all the qualities one could look to a modern close striker. ”
Ioane played for New Zealand at the RugbyFest tournament in Christchurch in 1990 but failed to make it to the 1991 World Cup in Wales, and a number of Fillies players were selected for the 1991 Tour including Christine Papali’i (mother of Silver Fern Phoenix Karaka) and Nina Sio.
But Ioane was a single mother at the time, and although she continued to train with the team, she couldn’t afford to leave (she now has a Masters degree in Sports Marketing).
« Because a lot of us girls lived together, I personally think that’s why we were so good, » said Sandra Ioane.
She continued to play rugby for Ponsonby, Auckland and New Zealand until she launched the boots in 1993. She switched to Eddie, who played rugby in Japan (she didn’t know when she was going, she was pregnant with her eldest son Akira). The family stayed abroad for almost eight years.
These days the Ioane family can be found back at Ponsonby Rugby (Eddie is also the club president). When asked why she continues to be involved in the sport, Ioane says that she and Eddie had to be volunteers if the boys were to play rugby. Daughter Ruffie also played rugby for the club.
Even when the boys went to high school and played First XV for Auckland grammar on Saturday mornings, they were at the club with their parents on Friday night to cook the barbecue for the presidential class drinking running water or doing whatever was necessary. « We have been very committed for ages and for a day, » says Ioane. She and Eddie were honored with a lifetime membership in 2018 for their services to the club.
For Ioane, the best thing about gaming was the social aspect. “The camaraderie. Since a lot of us girls lived together, I personally think that’s why we were so good, ”she says. “Everyone was just very close. And I think it just paid off in the field. That was my best part of playing. “
One of the standout moments for Ioane was Eden Park, who played for New Zealand. “Most of the Fillies girls have come. That was a highlight for us because it was just great to see that we had so much support, ”remembers Ioane. « And of course they weren’t the quietest at the best of times, so that was a buzz for me. »
Next Saturday, Blackwell and her blues team along with the Chiefs players hope that they too will have support in the stands for this historic game. The seagulls are also welcome.
* The game Blues vs. Chiefs in Eden Park will be broadcast live on Sky Sport 1 from 4.15pm. Kick-off is 4:35 p.m.
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