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Dancing with Wolves  - Mary tells why she loves the game

There are women who juggle a lot, and then there’s Mary Tuarae-Epiha from the Concord Burwood Wolves.

She has been a trainer, volunteer, manager, assistant coach, and coach of the Balmain District club for nine years – as well as being a wife and mother.

As everyone celebrates International Women’s Day on 8 March, Tuarae-Epiha and the Wolves are proof that Rugby League is the game for all.

After coaching the Under 17s boys in 2022, Tuarae-Epiha has moved onto Under 12s girls in 2023 while also helping out with the Under 14s-Under 16s girls.

“I wanted to juggle both the boys and girls, but we couldn’t get an Under-18s boys’ team up this year so I’m with the girls,” she told

“And because I played Rugby League myself, I have always been passionate about the girls’ game so we’re doing a big push this year as other clubs around us have Under 14s and Under 16s development in place for girls.”

The Wolves play in the NSWRL Conference Competitions and Tuarae-Epiha has been a boon for all the teams she’s been a part of at the club.

Tuarae-Epiha grew up playing netball, softball and touch football, where she represented the Cook Islands at the 1995 World Cup in Hawaii. Returning from there she began playing Rugby League for the Richmond Rovers in Auckland… on a dare from family members.

“They said, ‘You should have a go at tackling’ and I just loved Rugby League,” she said.

“I can still remember my first try, my first hit-up and my first experience of getting smashed.”

She moved to Australia and her coaching journey began…unexpectedly.

“A very close friend asked my husband to coach, and I just tagged along,” Tuarae-Epiha said.

“When our kids were born and started to play, I helped out at the club and fell into it that way.”

This is her ninth season with the Wolves in a variety of football department capacities and her record speaks for itself: four grand finals and three premierships.

“But there’s a whole network of amazing people around me and I’ll never forget that,” Tuarae-Epiha said.

“I just like bringing everyone together and utilising their strengths.

“I know I’m not the smartest football mind in the game, so that’s why I love that you’re always learning no matter how long you’ve been in the game.

“I’m just grateful that enough people believed in our vision at Wolves – especially the board – and what we wanted to achieve as a team because it definitely hasn’t been easy.

“But the achievements by the boys have been well worth it.

“I’m hoping to share that experience in the female space.”

One of several mentors is former New Zealand Test player and Wests Tigers, Canberra Raiders and St George Illawarra Dragons forward, Bronson Harrison.

“He’s done so much for me since I started coaching in Sydney,” Tuarae-Epiha said.

“I’m involved in Rugby League because it’s my way of giving back to the game and the community around it, which has given me so much – life-long friendships, an extended Whanau (family), amazing memoires and opportunities to be a part of some great teams,” she said.

“The best thing about footy is the people – the players, extended families, officials, club management, and all the other coaching staff.

“We all have one thing in common and that’s the love for Rugby League. My life has been blessed because of that.”

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New South Wales Rugby League respects and honours 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.

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