Rusty Matua orchestrated one of the greatest female rugby league seasons on record in 2018, while players raised under his coaching also played a key role in the NRL Women’s Premiership. Here’s our one-on-one with the coach on all things women’s league.
You went undefeated with the Manurewa women’s team this year. What does that season mean when you look back now?
It was a milestone achievement. We lost 11 girls from our grand final squad the year earlier. We picked up some girls from Papakura and those new girls were outstanding; our rookies had a great season in particular.
You worked with some brilliant players again this year – who stood out?
From a player point of view Krystal Rota and Christyl Stowers. They lead by example, they help the girls a lot. As a coach it’s a wonderful thing to watch players like that. That was a big part of why we were successful, due to people like that who drove the culture.
On the whole the Auckland women’s comp was the closest it’s been in recent memory – what did you make of it?
The best season for some time. That’s in regards to the top four being so close. In an unbeaten season we had five games we won by two points. That makes it even more satisfying. The players love it, the crowd loves it, everyone wins with that kind of footy.
That was a testament to the quality and consistency of the footy in Auckland women’s league this year.
Let’s talk the introduction of the NRL Women’s competition. Your thoughts on the first year?
It was great for the game. Almost all the feedback I have seen online was positive. I just thought they delivered what I thought was always going to be the scenario we would get. I thought the Broncos were outstanding in their style of play, and with bringing so many Kiwis girls across. I thought the Warriors dropped the ball there letting some of our best Kiwi girls go over to Australian clubs.
Where does that competition need to go from here?
They have got to look to extend it. From what I hear there will be another two teams coming in, I believe it’ll be the Rabbitohs and Sharks. That means the competition will be extended too. That’s what we are hearing so far.