10 Aug 2020

Honey ponders delay to Warriors NRLW debut

3:51 pm on 10 August 2020

New Zealand rugby league star Honey Hireme-Smiler is still waiting to debut for the Warriors and says there is lots to weigh up before she commits to playing in the National Rugby League women's competition this season.

Kiwi Ferns captain Honey Hireme will play for the Warriors this season.

Honey Hireme-Smiler Photo: Photosport

The Warriors want to have a team in the competition, which is due to start in October, but chief executive Cameron George says a full side from Auckland will not relocate to Australia to take part.

Instead individual players are faced with deciding whether they can afford to leave their jobs and families for around 10 weeks to be based in Sydney and playing in a Warriors team that will bear little resemble to the side that took the field last season.

Potential New Zealand-based players have been training twice a week for the last four weeks in Auckland - making the most of getting full access to the Mt Smart facilities while the men's team is based in Australia.

But Hireme-Smiler says the implications of a necessary move across the Tasman for the required time still plays on their mind.

"At this point I know there are five or six who have given definite yes that they are ready to go over and travel, but I know also that there's a handful that have given definite no and then everyone else is still sorting their situations out.

"A lot of the ladies that have made themselves unavailable is just due to families, some of them have got young children and to just move away from them for 10 weeks is just unrealistic.

"What they've [the club] said is they'll get a confirmed number of ladies that are available and willing to sign a contract to go and then they'll make the numbers up from players that they're already starting to look at over in Australia that they've identified that they may want to look at pulling in."

A few Australia-based New Zealanders have also signaled their interest in taking part.

But Hireme-Smiler says she is still on the fence about her own involvement.

She started her NRLW career playing for the St George Illawarra Dragons in the inaugural season of the competition in 2018, before being lured home.

Last season the Kiwi Ferns captain did not take the field for the Warriors after she put her career on hold to care for her mother Caryn who had a rare form of stomach cancer.

Caryn died in September last year and Hireme-Smiler says the club were very supportive during that time.

Hireme-Smiler says she is still "100 percent" committed to pulling on a Warriors jersey - whether it be this season or next.

"I really wanted to be able to make my debut for the Warriors this season so that's probably what is really driving me actually is to give back to the club who supported me through such a difficult time."

Kiwi Ferns co-captain Honey Hireme

Kiwi Ferns co-captain Honey Hireme Photo: © Copyright Andrew Cornaga / www.photosport.nz Photosport Ltd 2018

At 39, Hireme-Smiler knows age might catch up with her but she says she came out of lockdown in good physical shape after undergoing shoulder surgery following the World Cup Nines.

Whoever does make up the Warriors team will be facing an uphill battle, Hireme-Smiler says.

"We are definitely on the back foot if we have to take a handful of players here, then grab the rest from Australia then throw together a team and try and really compete in this competition, so it is definitely a big ask and it is going to be a difficult task for the team."

The 2019 Warriors captain, Georgia Hale, had hoped that a Warriors team would be New Zealand-based this year, but she accepted that the travel restrictions were out of the club's control.

Hale had not ruled out playing for the Warriors again in 2020, saying in July that she "loved my time in NRLW so far and I would really love another opportunity to be a part of another season".

However, another Kiwi Fern, Jules Newman, announced she will not be taking part in the NRLW this season.

Newman, who has also played rugby union for North Harbour, debuted for the Warriors last year and made a rapid rise up the rugby league ranks.

Jules Newman.
NRL Holden Women's Premiership

Jules Newman Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Newman ruptured her ACL and was on the road to recovery after six months of intense training, but opted to make herself unavailable for selection for the Warriors.

"Even though I am fit and ready to hit the field, I have come to the realisation my health, safety and equally my security is bigger than the game itself," Newman said on Instagram.

"I am hoping our global pandemic improves as I don't intend for this to be my last campaign with the NZ Warriors women.

"I would like to wish my sisters all the very best returning to rugby league alongside friends and enjoy the pathway from there."

For the players who do chose to stay back, Hireme-Smiler says New Zealand Rugby League's new national competition is a good alternative.

"For me I'm trying to view it as it's a win-win, if I go to the NRLW then great I get to play, but if I don't then I get to stay back here and help grow the game back in New Zealand and play in the national competition for my province Upper Central.

"So it's just weighing up all those options and it's kinda looking like New Zealand is the safer option to stay in our country versus travelling abroad, that's for sure."