The second instalment of the Harvey Norman Tarsha Gale Cup has given under-18s girls yet another chance to excel in Rugby League, with budding female players across Sydney, Newcastle and Canberra taking the opportunity with both hands. One player, however, has travelled further than most.
Mereana McManus Ta’Ase turned heads in her first game for the Wests Tigers last Saturday; several tough carries helped the Tigers lift to their first-ever win in the competition as they downed defending premiers Penrith at Panthers Stadium. McManus Ta’Ase would have hoped to have made the game worthwhile, too – she’d travelled almost 900km to get there.
Having grown up in Melbourne, McManus Ta’Ase’s introduction to Rugby League came in 2017, following a stint playing OzTag. Competing in the NRL Victoria Women’s First Grade competition with the Casey Warriors last season, McManus made the decision to leave her immediate family in pursuit of the NSWRL’s junior representative system.
“In Melbourne, the opportunity for female league is not as good as in Sydney,” McManus Ta’Ase tells NSWRL.com.au. “Once I played women’s (Rugby League) there, I was like ‘hey I want to go further.’
“My aunty lives here (in Sydney) so she said I can come stay with her and I can come try out here.”
Having tried out for the side late last year, McManus Ta’Ase earned selection and was a valuable addition to the side in the season opener. The 17-year-old knows she’s already come a long way.
“In my first trial I wouldn’t even last five minutes in the first half, so my fitness has really improved and my tackle technique is way better than before,” McManus Ta’Ase adds. “I think I did all right, others say I did really good but to me it’s just another game.
“There’s a few mistakes I could have fixed. At the moment talking on the field is not my biggest strength.”
While NSW is at the centre of the growth of the women’s game, McManus Ta’Ase’s story proves it exists beyond the state’s borders – a fact coach Paul Bent has been pleased to learn.
“I’m so glad she decided to come up, ‘Mere’,” Bent says. “What can you say? The power, the strength, the all-round good person. I couldn’t be more proud of her and it just proves that there’s some good talent around Australia.
“She just showed up at our trial game – and we’re the lucky ones for that.”
The sky is the limit for McManus Ta’Ase, whose dream is to represent the New Zealand Kiwi Ferns on the international stage. For now, she will continue to improve in the Harvey Norman Tarsha Gale Cup; the Tigers next face the Knights on Saturday at Leichhardt Oval, kicking off at 2:15pm.