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Patsy Schwalger reaches 200 games for Norths

Patsy Schwalger heading to the tryline in a recent match against Poneke at Kilbirnie Park. Photo: Andy McArthur.

  • By Adam Julian

Patsy Schwalger is a winner. In her illustrious Northern United career, she has won eight Rebecca Liua’ana and eight Tia Paasi Trophy titles.

Ironically her 200th game on Saturday resulted in a narrow 28-35 defeat to Oriental Rongotai, but it was an occasion to celebrate, nonetheless.

“You can’t have a fairytale all the time. We were up at halftime but Ayesha Leti-I’iga fired up and did her thing in the second half,” Schwalger says.

“There were a couple of mistakes and moments of immaturity that cost us but I’m excited by the progress we’ve made this season. We basically didn’t have a pre-season but we’re improving each week.  It was humbling to share some memories of my career with my friends and family.”

Leti-I’iga scored three tries to expand her tally to 187 in 74 matches. Schwalger identified the Black Ferns winger as the “best contemporary player in her position.”

Schwalger has been playing prop or hooker with or against the best players in the capital since her debut against Avalon in 2007. Long time teammates Dawn Patelesio, Izzy Ford, Nina Foaese, Sanita Levave and Aimee Sutorius are talents Schwalger holds in the highest regard.

“Every championship team is special, but I think what’s helped us be there or thereabouts year in and year out is our experience. We know what to do to get our mindset right for big games and trust patterns and routines that work.

“Last year is a case and point. We don’t always get it right. Twice we were pumped by MSP but come the final we were at full strength and knew what we had to do.

“The most satisfying championship was in 2015 when we won both trophies. That year Jerry Collins died. He was such an inspiration for Porirua and his three sisters Brenda, who’s now our coach, Helen and Tiana played for us.”

Tiana and Schwalger scored tries in the 24-22 victory over Ories in the Tia Paasi final. Ories coach Lui Aukuso was all class afterwards saying.

“It’s great we could play this game at Jerry Collins Stadium. It was hard to lose, but I’m sure Jerry will be up there smiling.”

Patsy and the winning Norths team in 2015. Photo: Hugh Pretorius. 

Norths pack has often been feared. Mau Tavita, Tepora Samia, Tia Sa, Jax Vaovasa, Ann Aliva, Lisa Karaka and Black Fern Moana Aiatu are just some of the big names she has packed down with over the years.

Schwalger is encouraged by the increasing speed and fitness of the women’s game but worries a “disparity” in depth between clubs and “rugby IQ” has decreased.

“When I started it was more even. There are still three or four good teams, but the gap between the strongest and least strong has widened. I think there are several reasons for that which include falling numbers in club rugby generally and a greater number of sports to play.

“The game is quite robotic now, hit two pods and then spin it wide, it’s readable. There’s less razzle dazzle because the girls aren’t playing touch or are over coached or are too fearful to take risks in case, they make mistakes. I think we need to encourage players to think more on their feet and build resilience.”

Norths will require resilience this weekend when they take on joint first round winners Petone. Norths beat Petone 24-12 in the Rebecca Liua’ana Trophy on May 6. Petone will be looking to bounce back from a 24-19 loss to Marist St Pats last weekend.

Results in 2023 haven’t been predictable. Norths beat Ories 47-27 in their first meeting on April 8.

Pasty is a product of Bishop Viard College. She has served on the junior and senior committees as well as fulfilling coach, manager, referee, communications, and bar staff roles. Her brother is former All Black prop John Schwalger. His daughter and Patsy’s niece Phoenix has recently been selected in the NZSS netball squad.

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