On the eve of the second NRLW season, Kiana Takairangi took some time to reflect on the road that has led her to making her long-awaited first grade debut with the Sydney Roosters.
It’s been a unique journey for Kiana, a journey that includes American football, a bid to play for the Rugby League World Cup, a season ending injury and an outstanding comeback.
But let’s start at the beginning.
Kiana was born into a rugby league family, with brother Brad playing in the NRL and even making his debut with the Roosters.
You would think that Kiana would have grown up with league running through her veins, when in actual fact she didn’t play her first game of rugby league until she was 24 years old.
“Before I played rugby league, I was playing American football over in the States,” Kiana recalls.
“I came home mid-season from the States in 2016 and the Cook Islands were holding qualifying games for the upcoming World Cup.
“I hit up a friend and asked if I could jump in and have a game, even though I’d never played before.
“She told me to come and give it a try, we trained, had a game, played another game and we ended up qualifying for the World Cup.
“I went back to the States to finish the American Football season, then came home and played for the Cook Islands in the World Cup.
“It was a bit intimidating cause I felt like I was jumping straight into the deep end, but that’s how it all got started.”
Ahead of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup, Takairangi was a sure starter for the Women’s Cook Islands team.
Now with a new-found hunger after missing out on the inaugural season, Kiana has been hit with a new level of excitement since joining her first NRLW squad.
Sport can be cruel though and Kiana felt the wrath of that during her World Cup campaign.
“I broke my leg playing in the World Cup which pretty much wiped me out for all of last year.
“I played the end of the Club season for Cronulla, but it was just the last three or four games.
“My leg didn’t heal properly and it forced me to take some time out and missed out on a squad for my first NRLW season.
“I was so eager to get back to learning more about the game after the World Cup.
“It was so motivating and it inspired me to learn more about the sport and get better, but the injury really knocked me back.
“Now I’ve played a full pre-season with Cronulla before the Harvey Norman comp, and from there everything’s been good.”
Now with a new-found hunger after missing out on the Inaugural season, Kiana has been hit with a new level of excitement since joining her first NRLW squad.
“I’m really excited, and even more excited that I’ve been selected to play.
“We’re pretty stacked in the backline, so it’s going to be a lot of fun working with these girls.
“Me and Shonny (Stowers) have been forming a nice combo on the right along with Zahara (Temara) now that she’s back at training.”
Takairangi was one of the star performers throughout 2019, scoring selections for the Kiwi Ferns and becoming one of the highly touted stars heading into the second NRLW season.
When it came down to selection though, there was only one option for Kiana.
“I was backing the Roosters last year watching the comp, so I definitely started as a supporter.
“It’s been a goal of mine to get to this Club.
“There was a little bit of interest, but I was holding off and waiting for the Roosters.
“Once I got the call from Rick Stone, it was a done deal.”
The dream debut becomes a reality when she lines up for the Sydney Roosters in Round 1 on Saturday afternoon.
Match: Roosters v Warriors
Round 1 -
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
- Nine Network