By Levi Matautia-Morgan - firstname.lastname@example.org
Following the hype of the men's Rugby League World Cup match between Tonga and Samoa, Kiwi Ferns Coach Tony Benson believes the Pacific can boost the attraction toward women's rugby league.
The Women's Rugby League World Cup kicks off next week in Sydney and Benson believes the involvement of more Pacific teams would make the competition bigger and better.
“It would create events and parties like we had last week [Toa Samoa vs. Mate Ma’a Tonga]," he says. "Obviously the New Zealand team's made up of people with Samoan, Tongan and Cook Islands heritage just like the Kiwis are, so there’s a lot of opportunity for that and I think that’ll be a quick step forward for growth in the international women’s game.”
Kiwi Ferns. Photo/ New Zealand Rugby League.
Benson coached the Junior Kiwis from 2003 to 2005 and says the women's teams are a force to be reckoned with.
“They're just dedicated rugby league players and athletes who work hard and they deserve to be on the world stage," he says. "I think anyone watching our game will see that they’re fantastic to watch, very entertaining, very committed, tough and they’ll put on as good of a show, if not better, than the men."
In terms of the Kiwi Ferns' rank in the competition, Benson says the Aussies are their biggest threat.
“Australia’s the one who’s putting the strain and stress on us to get to that level because a few years ago we used to be dominant," he says. “The Australian’s have put a lot of money and time and science into their team and they’ve set the benchmark now. They’re setting the standards and we’ve got to get up to them.”
Australia beat New Zealand in the last World Cup final in 2013.
The Kiwi Ferns will kick-off the competition against England in Sydney on November 16.