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The Under 16s girls team from Brothers Penrith Junior Rugby League Club played a friendly against a visiting Tonga U16s side last weekend in what is now likely to become a regular trans-Pacific event.

The girls were presented with special Brothers Penrith’s pink ‘Women in League’ jerseys along with baskets of Australian treats, while traditional Tongan cultural gifts were also exchanged.  

“We worked with the Tongan boys last year, when they brought out an Under 16s team,” club president Troy Cooper told

“We hosted them for two weeks and from that Tonga has been trying to expand their girls program.

“We were told it’s only been the past two years that girls Rugby League there has been up and running.

“They wanted to spread the game and they also wanted to reward the girls that have been putting in the hard work over the past 24 months – sort of the pioneers for Tongan women.

“It was massive. The girls in Tonga now have the same opportunity as the boys.”

Cooper said the Tongan boys team was looking to return to Sydney in 2025 and the girls in 2026.

“We are also looking at potentially sending a Brothers Penrith girls team over to Tonga next year,” he said.

Members of the Brothers Penrith U16 girls and a Tonga U16s. Photos: Supplied
Members of the Brothers Penrith U16 girls and a Tonga U16s. Photos: Supplied

Rugby League in the greater Sydney area has a healthy Pasifika population in both the men’s and women’s game.

The Mate Ma’a Tonga senior women’s team, which played in last October’s Pacific Championships, included True Blues Tiana Penitani and Vanessa Foliaki along with former NSW Under 19s stars Cassey Tohi-Hiku and Tegan Dymock.

Penitani, who formerly played for the Jillaroos, said she wanted to give back to her heritage and help grow the women’s game in the Pacific.

Initiatives like that of Brothers Penrith and the Tongan Rugby League last weekend will also play a part.

“The girls felt right at home and most had relatives in Sydney so they all came to watch too. The atmosphere was terrific,” Cooper said.

“Some of the girls had never left Tonga before and now they’re in Australia playing Rugby League matches.

“And they were a very competitive team. You could see the coaching that has been put into the players because they weren’t a crash and barge style – they had all the passing and running skills you would want to see.”

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