We’re just under a month away from the 2022 National Women’s Championships to be held in the Gold Coast on 9-12 June and preparations are in full swing, as experienced campaigner Tiana Kani prepares to lace up the boots once again.
While there are plenty of fresh faces around the squad, Kani has been a mainstay in the group over the years and has been instrumental in helping grow the women's game down in Victoria both on and off the field.
The Werribee Bears player alongside her sister Georgina were part of the inaugural squad that travelled to Darwin in 2015, with the current squad coming a long way since then.
“That initial trip to Darwin was a tough one, we literally went away with a team of 14 and ended up having our coach Luisa Avaiki jump on and be our 13th player for us by the end,” Kani said.
“From then to now it’s come a long way, not just as in team-wise but facility wise, as we didn’t have the training grounds we have now.
"We now get to be at La Trobe with the field and the gym plus all the staff like the physios and strength and conditioning coaches at our disposal,” she said.
Kani said she’s witnessed a big change in the way that women’s rugby league is being viewed both in Victoria and the rest of Australia, with the quality and standard of footy rising alongside the number of girls looking to get involved.
“From a professional viewpoint a lot of the women are starting to take on the nutritional and recovery advice from the coaching staff, compared to when we first started we never really took in any of that, to be honest,” she said.
“Having the chance to go away to last year’s championships and seeing how professional it all was and being treated like proper athletes, it was a big eye-opener for a lot of us and now we’re trying to implement that back into the squad down here in Melbourne,” Kani said.
“We’ve had a lot of new faces this year which is good for the squad but also just for rugby league down here in Melbourne.
"There’s a lot of girls come from union which is really positive as we can make a bigger and better opportunity for women to embrace the game and create the chance to get an NRLW team down here,” Kani said.
“Another big change for us is being able to perform under the Melbourne Storm logo, it’s been really good and has seen everything run a lot smoother now we get to all train in the one location.”
The girls have been put through their paces so far during the training camps, with strength and conditioning programs put in place to ensure the girls can perform for the 20-minute halves required at nationals.
“We’ve been put through the hard years so far, there’s been plenty of strength work but especially running as we have to get used to the fitness required that comes with the speed of the game at national champs,” Kani said.
As for the squad’s expectations heading into the tournament, Kani highlighted the importance of creating a thriving and positive culture amongst the group, especially for the younger players, all while still looking to achieve the best they possibly can.
“We obviously want to perform well but again we’re not going to put too much pressure on ourselves and especially for the new girls, we want to create a welcoming environment and not scare them away in their first campaign,” she said.
“Just for the young ones it comes down to commitment and organisation, ensuring that they appreciate the opportunity that they are being given because when we started we didn’t have anything like that and had to really pave the way for what they have now,” The Werribee Bears player said.
“Squad’s like these will help them out so much, if they want to get where Hailee-Jay Maunsell [Current NRLW player] is then they have to commit and put in the work to make it happen,” she said.
We thank Keiser for their support of our female pathways program, providing the opportunity for all athletes.