Office Supervisor at Jewellery Co. & Co-Owner Zealous CrossFit
NRL Player (Womens Warriors)
Samoan / European
I was born in Waikato and spent most of my school years in Newcastle, Australia. I move back to NZ and lived with my Nana in Avondale and various places in Auckland and I now live in Te Atatu.
You recently made history becoming the first Mum & son duo with your son Isaiah representing in the NRL at the same club - can you tell us a bit about that journey?
It was a dream goal. It was a hard path to get conditioned and league fit. Life has been challenging, fitting it all in and bringing the energy each day. That's when I reflect on how grateful I am for the opportunity. I think of my son and husband and making them proud. I'm embracing the journey. Doing whatever it takes to be the best I can and represent well.
You retired in 2010, was it a hard decision to decide to come back out of retirement and what helped motivate you once you'd made the decision?
The seed was planted when I first heard about the NRL for womens. I had attended a Tangi for my first coach Mr Ngawati. He was a great coach, hard coach and taught me so much and we had a reunion at the tangi with some of my team mates that I grew up with - friends that are like sisters for life. I asked Lui (Luisa Avaiki) the NRL Womens Warriors coach if I could be a trainer and she said "put your boots on". The next day I turned up at Richmond Rovers league for training. I knew then, it was going to be a hard task. My son Isaiah also made a comment to his girlfriend "my mum's putting her boots on again, you need shoulder pads, mouthguard ". I agreed and said "yes, I still have it all, just need to find gear".
There were many reasons that motivated me - a death makes me want to live, while I'm living to be the best I was created to be, one life, one opportunity, my son and husband, family, represent my age, the past players & present players, pave the way for the future, that people find inspiration in what I'm doing. It all encourages me to keep going! The Lord has willed it.
You've been an international rep in Rugby, Rugby League & Tag - which sport would you say is your first love or fave sport and why?
League has always been my first love. The training, team & game. The challenge, contact sport & getting good stats.
How did you find your experience with the 1st ever Womens Warriors team?
It was an amazing experience. I really loved it and we were treated so well, they (the NRL) really looked after us - probably the most well looked after in my whole sporting career. It was a grind tho and we got a taste of what the guys went through before they went fully professional, training as well as holding down jobs.
What are some of the biggest challenges and lessons you've learned as a Pasifika woman playing Rugby & Rugby League
As an islander, the food and occasions. For islanders the way we eat and the time away from home and missing the many occasions. The idea of playing a rough sport with bruises and injuries, and still keep going back to play.
How has your upbringing & culture shaped you into the woman you are today?
I'm physically tough. I have good strength - Taro legs. The much needed hidings growing up prepared me for the game. Proud of my island side. A lot of love.
Who or what is your biggest inspiration and why?
My son Isaiah Papalii & my husband Jerry Papalii. People inspire me. As long as they are giving their best each day. I enjoy seeing people walk, run, cycle and move. Enjoy watching documentaries, autobiographies of people that have deared to dream and pursue. Creative people also inspire me, people who can sing or dance, people that read, the list goes on... as long as they tap into what they are here to do .... People are interesting.