The Port Taranaki Whio kicked off their representative season with a team launch at the Port Taranaki Centre last night.
More than 50 players, management, Taranaki Rugby board members and Port Taranaki staff gathered to celebrate the Taranaki women’s rugby team’s second season back in the Farah Palmer Cup national provincial championship, following a four-year hiatus.
Long-time Taranaki Rugby supporter Port Taranaki is the naming rights sponsor of the Port Taranaki Whio, the Taranaki women’s sevens team, and the secondary school girls’ competition.
Speaking at the launch, Port Taranaki chief executive Guy Roper said he was proud the company was able to support women’s rugby, which is growing and developing year-on-year.
“Port Taranaki has an association with Taranaki Rugby that goes beyond 20 years. We are really proud to be associated with this game and truly believe that our sponsorship goes beyond the dollar and is about supporting the community,” he said.
“When we finished our principal sponsorship of the Taranaki Bulls last year, we wanted to continue in some way and were delighted to be able to put our name to the Port Taranaki Whio.
“I commend Taranaki Rugby for supporting and promoting women’s rugby from girls’ and secondary schools’ rugby, to club and representative level. And it’s great to hear that the standard of women’s rugby in Taranaki is improving, which is encouraging for the future of the game.
“We wish the team all the best and look forward to supporting you, and watching you wear the jersey with pride,” Mr Roper said.
Taranaki Rugby chief executive Jeremy Parkinson said women’s rugby continued to improve and that was, in part, thanks to Port Taranaki’s support.
“We would like to acknowledge Guy and the team at Port Taranaki for their continued support of Taranaki Rugby and the Whio – it is greatly appreciated.
“The standard of women’s rugby has picked up this year. We’re running a really progressive women’s programme that is very inclusive, with the players operating in gym cycles with the Mitre 10 Cup men’s team and gauging themselves against those players. We’re the only province in New Zealand doing that,” Mr Parkinson said.
“We want to commend the players for their dedication and wish the Port Taranaki Whio all the very best this season.”
Port Taranaki Whio co-captain Jalana Smith said the team was looking forward to its second season back in the competition.
“We really appreciate the support from Port Taranaki. Every single player in the team is proud to represent Taranaki and Port Taranaki,” she said.
Following a pre-season tournament and a match against Waikato development, the Port Taranaki Whio kick off their Farah Palmer Cup campaign against Otago, in Dunedin, on 8 September.
The team’s first home game is against Tasman at Yarrow Stadium on Saturday, 14 September. The Whio also play Northland at home, at the TET Stadium in Inglewood, on Saturday, 28 September. Their other regular season matches are away to Hawke’s Bay (20 September) and North Harbour (4 October).