Nine Counties Energy Heat players earn Super contracts for 2024

Nine Counties Energy Heat players earn Super contracts for 2024

A total of nine Counties Energy Heat players have earned Super Rugby contracts for the 2024 season in a huge boost to the province.

The three players that were part of the successful Chiefs Manawa side in 2023 return with Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu, Hazel Tubic and Mererangi Paul joined by Black Ferns star Ruby Tui at the Hamilton-based outfit. 

Joanna Fanene-Lolo was unavailable due to injury – she would have made 10 players had injury not curtailed her chances.

Grace Gago and Jaymie Kolose both return to the Blues next season but are joined by Counties Heat teammates Rebecca Burch and Paris Mataroa, who have been rewarded after outstanding FPC campaigns this year.

Leilani Perese is back with the Hurricanes Poua once again.

“After the success of the 2023 Super Rugby Aupiki season, it’s certainly exciting to see the competition grow again in 2024,” said Women’s High Performance and Pathways Manager Peter Shaw. “With double the matches on display from 2023, it’s going to provide our players more opportunity to showcase their talent, but most importantly to spend more time in a professional environment.”

Shaw was most proud to see first time Super players Burch and Mataroa earn contracts.

“Bex has been the without doubt most consistent player at Counties Manukau in the modern era. She missed out on a spot in the Aupiki competition last season which was frustrating for all of us.

“An intelligent, hard-working, and versatile forward who can play across the tight and loose, fans of the Heat will know Rebecca well as she has played almost every minute of every game for Counties since 2018.

“Expect to see her bring a ton of experience, leadership and “Waiuku toughness” to the Blues pack. I know the Blues have seen the value we see in Rebecca and she ticks a lot of boxes for them in terms of the people they clearly want to bring into their environment.

“Paris is a young and passionate player who the Blues have signed after she spent time with them as a training squad member in 2023. Look for Paris to bring speed off the mark, a high level of fitness and aerial ball skills. She can play in the second row but also on the side of the scrum where she shifted to in the FPC this season.

“I’m very proud of Paris as she has come through the Counties pathway program from U18’s and into our Academy program over the last two years. She has developed into a young player capable of taking the next step into Super Rugby. “She went agonisingly close to selection in 2023, but has been patient and focused on her key development areas of her game. Keep an eye out for her big smile on the field as she clearly enjoys every minute of her rugby.

“I can’t wait to sit down and watch the Chiefs Manawa and Blues go to battle with a potential eight Heat ladies lock horn for the battle of the Bombay’s in 2024. I encourage everyone to get out and support Super Rugby Aupiki. It has a unique flavour of running rugby, anything can happen from all over the park. It’s certainly a spectacle to enjoy.