The Petone Women’s team, earlier this season.
- By Adam Julian
Lauina Masoe jokes Wellington women’s rugby is like the Chronicles of Narnia – “follow the Lion wherever it goes.”
The veteran front-rower has been a player and manager since 2000 helping sustain the very existence of competition.
Presently with Petone, Masoe is helping the Villagers roar loudly in 2023. On Saturday Petone defeated Paremata-Plimmerton 48-0 to guarantee a share of the first-round Rebecca Liua’ana Trophy with Marist St Pats. It’s the first time since 1993 Petone has captured first-round spoils. MSP captured the silverware for the first time.
“A win is a win shared or not,” Masoe proudly said.
“We’re happy with the results and the way we’ve been tracking. New talent and new coaches bring fresh ideas. We still have many original players with experience and that mixed with the up-and-comers creates magic on the field.
“Shannon Nightingale, Fred Fereti, and Mo Mackey have done an outstanding job as coaches to bring us together and create something new and exciting. We’ve got a great balance between attack and defense.
“If I had to pick an individual standout it has to be Justine McGregor. She’s a young player with so much potential and could be a future Black Fern. She’s 17 and has already played for the Wellington Pride.
“Justine has been a co-captain with us this season. She walks the talk, and we want to build people up. What better way of doing that than throwing them in the deep end.”
Petone beat MSP 46-17 on April 8. Tyler Bentley-Tuari (3) and Harmony Kautai (2) ran amok scoring a handful of tries combined.
Since then, MSP has won six consecutive matches and scored 65 tries. Third-placed Norths had the measure of Petone on May 6.
“Norths had a whole lot of experience in their forwards and took it to us that day. We were a little shaky, nerves and mistakes getting the better of us,” Masoe admitted.
Petone score a sweeping first half try against Paremata-Plimmerton on Saturday to take them to a 15-0 lead at halftime. Then score their first try of the second half, their bonus point try, which ultimately sealed the shared first round for them.
“It’s an even competition this year. MSP are a very strong side with threats across the park and Ories with Ayesha Leti-I’iga are always a threat.
“When I play against Ayesha now, I just stand there and watch in awe. I’m an old forward, it’s not my job to stop her. One of the good things about being old is I can choose which breakdowns I go to. If I can’t make it, I dictate to the youngsters.”
Masoe started playing rugby at Heretaunga College. There were two fixtures a season against Upper Hutt and Taita. She joined Stokes Valley in 2000 (Todd Blackadder was All Blacks captain) before linking up with Avalon where she won a Tia Passi Memorial Cup title in 2007.
Coach Joe Collins switched to Petone in 2008 and took a cohort of players with him including Masoe. When the Village collapsed Wainuiomata was the only Hutt team worth their salt. In 2012 and 2016 they won Tia Passi titles. Masoe rates the latter of those two triumphs as the highlight of her career.
“There’s more noise about the women’s game today which is great but the reality is things are still tough. Wainuiomata has combined with Hutt Old Boys Marist due to a shortage of numbers. Sometimes we’re short at Petone, that’s why I still play.
“There is growth in high schools which is really encouraging but being a manager is like having a second full-time job. There’s a lot to think about and do but the support of the community is amazing. I think the Black Ferns World Cup win has made the whole women’s rugby community prouder and more active.”
Masoe works for New Zealand Post and cares for her mother who suffers from dementia.
The second round kicks off this coming weekend.
The top four teams play for the Tia Paasi Memorial Trophy in a double round-robin and the bottom four for the double round-robin Izzy Ford Cup, ahead of playoffs in both grades.