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'Liz will open the door for more to come': Roosters sign first US player

Sydney Roosters coach John Strange believes the signing of US Rugby 7s star Liz Tafuna is set to open the door for more North American athletes to join the NRLW.

Tafuna, who took part in last month’s NRL talent combine in Las Vegas, is the first player recruited from North America to play in the NRLW and will arrive in Sydney in June to begin training with her new team-mates for the upcoming season.

The news of the 21-year-old’s signing comes after Canadian forward Megan Pakulis and US back MarCaya Bailous played in the National Championships and toured NRLW clubs following their selection from the combine.

Pakulis and Bailous are hopeful of joining Tafuna in this season's NRLW, which begins on July 25 when the Roosters travel to Newcastle to take on the back-to-back premiers at McDonald Jones Stadium. 

Las Vegas combine winners Megan Pakulis and MarCaya Bailous toured the Titans, Raiders and Knights after playing at the National Championships.
Las Vegas combine winners Megan Pakulis and MarCaya Bailous toured the Titans, Raiders and Knights after playing at the National Championships. ©NRL Photos

Strange had not considered signing an American player before the NRL’s decision to stage a talent combine on the weekend of the historic double header at Allegiant Stadium and he predicted more would follow Tafuna to the NRLW.

“There are so many athletes over there who come through the college system and it is all really professional so no matter what sport they do, they learn good habits and dedication,” Strange told

“They teach them resilience so not only are they good athletes but they are mentally strong as well.

“Now it is just a matter of understanding this game but because they have got that mindset of wanting to learn and pushing themselves to be their best, I believe this will open the door for a lot of them to come over.

“When they see Liz playing here, they will know it is achievable, as well.”

Liz Tafuna at the NRL talent combine in Las Vegas
Liz Tafuna at the NRL talent combine in Las Vegas ©Jackal Productions

While Pakulis and Bailous were selected as the two female combine winners, Tafuna caught Strange’s eye after he began researching the athletes who had entered the day of physical and skills testing in Las Vegas.

Born in New Zealand and raised in Utah, where she began playing rugby union, Tafuna represented the USA Falcons in 2022, while she also played college basketball for Lindenwood University in Missouri.

“I started researching the different players who had entered the combine and Liz stood out to me due to her speed, footwork, ball skills and toughness,” Strange said.

“She is a 7s player so I knew she would have good skills - they all do at the top level - but she also got a scholarship to play basketball so that suggested she had good hands and good feet as well.

“I’m not concerned that she hasn’t played rugby league before because I believe she has all the physical attributes to play at the highest level and after speaking with her I know she has the attitude to put the effort in to learn.”

Before finalising the deal, Strange spoke to Tafuna for more than an hour and came away convinced that she was committed to making a long term career for herself in the NRLW and would be an asset to the Roosters.

Tafuna, who has Tongan and Māori heritage, listed herself as a winger, centre or prop on her application for the combine and Strange said he was unsure what position she would play.

“I can’t wait to start working with Liz," he said. "I’ll be doing some zoom meetings with her before she leaves America so she can hit the ground running when she arrives at training in June.

“We will start with the size of the footy field and by the end I’m confident she will understand how to play multiple positions and become a great asset to our team.

“I was very open and honest with Liz when I spoke with her that with hard work she can have a great impact on this year’s NRLW competition and I expect her to contribute, along with our whole squad, to what we are building here at the Roosters.”



Acknowledgement of Country

Sydney Roosters respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.