16 Nov 2017

Fourth title a must for Kiwi Ferns

11:47 am on 16 November 2017

The women's Rugby League World Cup kicks off in Sydney today with New Zealand's team determined to prevail despite limited preparations.

The New Zealanders have a strong tradition in the event which is now heading into its 5th edition.

Kiwi Fern Laura Mariu breaks through the Jillaroos, 2017.

Kiwi Fern Laura Mariu breaks through the Jillaroos, 2017. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The Kiwi Ferns have won the tournament three times, but hosts Australia are the defending champions and favourites for this year's six team tournament.

It's been a long road to the World Cup for the New Zealand women's rugby league team - starting on the training field.

Like their rugby cousins, the women don't get paid to play for their nation but this group of 24 women are making all the sacrifices necessary to reclaim the World Cup.

The Kiwi Ferns have won three of the four previous tournaments and are the world number one side but hosts Australia won the last World Cup in 2013

New Zealand captain Laura Mariu was on the team that lost in 2013 but she says redemption isn't on her mind.

"We've got a new team this time round and it's just a matter of building towards this. We've got new things happening in the women's game and I'm sure with this group of girls and the commitment that we've shown, hopefully we'll get the result that we want."

Atawhai Tupaea of the Kiwi Ferns is scragged by a Jilaroos player.

Atawhai Tupaea of the Kiwi Ferns is scragged by a Jilaroos player. Photo: Photosport

Unlike the men, who get a week between games, the women only get three days off and are based in Sydney for the majority of the tournament.

Resources for the tournament are so scarce the Kiwi Ferns don't know anything about their opponents in preliminary play - Canada, the Cook Islands and Papua New Guinea.

Coach Tony Benson says it's made preparations more difficult but his team are used to adversity.

"We wouldn't want it any other way, we need a reward for the hard work and sacrifices that have been made, even tonight (at training) we've got a mother who has a sick daughter in the car and that girls is at training every night with a video in the back of the car to watch, it's amazing what they'll do to be at training and to do their own training in their own time as well."

Benson says the challenges they've faced in the build up to the tournament have galvanised the team and they're determined to be the ones lifting the World Cup trophy once the final whistle blows.

To do so they'll likely need to beat Australia who hold bragging rights for winning their last trans-Tasman encounter on ANZAC Day.

Australian captain Steph Hancock expects big challenges from the usual suspects.

"England the last couple of World Cups, they are just brutal, just nag, nag, nag, nag, nag, and obviously the Kiwis are always physical."

The tournament runs alongside the men's event and the Kiwis coach David Kidwell says he's been following the womens team and knows they can go well.

"We really send a message out to the Kiwi Ferns to wish them the best of luck, the training that they've put in, the hard work, they're definitely feeling confident and I know they can turn it around, just like us."

Kiwi Fern's Nita Maynard

Kiwi Fern's Nita Maynard Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The Kiwi Ferns first match is against Canada this afternoon.

The teams involved are Australia, New Zealand, England, Canada, the Cook Islands and Papua New Guinea.