The World’s Top 10 Female Rugby League Players
Women’s rugby league is on the verge of a new era, with the move into a semi-professional environment thanks to the introduction of an NRL-run competition from 2018, which follows on from the success of recent women’s Tests at the NRL Auckland Nines and 2017 Women’s Rugby League World Cup.
Let’s take a look at the top 10 female league players in the world right now.
10 – Amelia Kuk (Papua New Guinea)
Former Papua New Guinea rugby sevens representative
A brilliant athlete oozing pace and evasive running, Kuk is the type of player who turns half chances into four-pointers and constantly puts opposing defensive lines under duress.
A multi-talented player who has already represented both the Jillaroos and PNG Orchids, there are few who go close to footing it with Kuk when she hits the gas, a point she displayed on a number of occasions at the 2017 World Cup, while her footwork at the line makes her tough to take down.
Still a relative newcomer to the 13-aside game, the Queensland representative’s best footy is likely still in front of her.
9 – Amy Hardcastle (England)
2017 Women’s Super League and Women’s Challenge Cup winner
England’s standout player at the 2017 World Cup, the powerfully-built centre is a lethal attacking weapon with a proven record of finding her way to the try-line.
With over eight years of top-flight league under her belt now, Hardcastle reads the game well in defence, making good decisions to help keep her edge together, while combining supreme balance on the ball with an impressive turn of pace.
The Bradford Bulls’ star backed up a big 2017, which saw her win the inaugural Women’s Super League and the Women’s Challenge Cup final, with a consistent tournament down under for the Lionesses, while she led England to victory over France earlier in the year with a spectacular hat-trick of tries.
8 – Krystal Rota (New Zealand)
2017 Auckland Player of the Year, former New Zealand touch and tag representative
Consistently one of the Kiwi Ferns’ best performers over the last five years, Rota is a workaholic No.9 who regularly makes over 40 tackles a game in the middle of the park.
A brilliant defender in a technical sense, Rota can dictate the speed of the ruck, not dissimilar to the way Cameron Smith does in the men’s game, while her physicality means she can also dominate the initial contact.
Such is her dedication to the game, the single mother of two would often squeeze in training sessions while her ill daughter would sleep at the hospital next door, along with holding down a job. In 2017 Rota was rewarded for a stellar season, which saw her help the Manurewa Marlins to the Auckland title, by being named Auckland Women’s Player of the Year.
7 – Honey Hireme (New Zealand)
2013 Women’s World Cup Player of the Tournament, 3x Women’s World Cup tournaments, former New Zealand rugby union and rugby sevens representative
At 36 years of age Honey Hireme had no right to still be among the best wing options for her country, let alone to dominate the entire World Cup with her attacking feats.
Hireme scored 13 tries in four games at the 2017 tournament, breaking the line a ridiculous 19 times, on her way to being shortlisted as one of the top three players in the competition. A dual union and league international, Hireme is a natural athlete with pace and power, and has a wonderful technical understanding when it comes to the art of beating opponents one-on-one.
After numerous failed attempts at retirement, Hireme hasn’t ruled out sticking around to be part of the newly-created NRL women’s competition.
6 – Georgia Hale (New Zealand)
2015 Auckland Women’s Player of the Year, 2016 RLPA New Zealand Representative Women’s Player of the Year, 2016 NRL Auckland Nines Women’s MVP
In a New Zealand side renowned for their overall size and physical approach to the game, Hale is a breath of fresh air who brings clever pre-contact footwork and ball skills, up there with the best in the game.
After bursting onto the international stage as a dummy-half, Hale has developed into a premier playmaker, and despite being a shock omission from the Kiwi Ferns’ side for the World Cup final, is widely regarded as one of the world’s finest attacking talents.
At her best when she takes the ball to the line, the former New Zealand touch and tag representative’s major value actually comes in the way she can organise a team, barking her forwards around the park with authority.
5 – Caitlin Moran (Australia)
2017 Women’s Premiership Player of the Year
Anyone who watched an Australian Jillaroos game at the 2017 World Cup will have heard the name Moran a lot, in a testament to the involvement and impact of this 21-year-old playmaker.
A dogged competitor who hits much harder than her diminutive frame should allow, Moran has the toughness to defend in the middle of the park along with the creativeness to pull the strings in attack. Her kicking game was a key weapon for Australia right through the World Cup.
Among the youngest members of her side and already a key figure, Moran has the opportunity to make Australia’s No.7 jersey her own as the semi-professional era arrives.
4 – Kezie Apps (Australia)
2014 Illawarra Player of the Year award, 2016 NSW Blues Player of the Year, 2016 Women’s Dally M Medal winner
In a very short space of time Apps has amassed one of the most impressive CV’s in women’s rugby league, and positioned herself as the best attacking edge forward in the world.
A rangy back-rower with gentle footwork and quick pace off the mark, the Bega Roosters product is tough to contain in one-on-one situations, while her 183-cm frame means she’s generally able to get into positions to fire offloads too.
On the other side of the ball she is also one of the most reliable tacklers going around. Apps was untouchable in 2016, being named the best player in the game, while she enjoyed a strong World Cup campaign despite suffering a serious injury earlier in 2017.
3 – Simaima Taufa (Australia)
2017 Women’s Dally M Medal winner, 2017 NSW Blues Player of the Year
The current Women’s Dally M Medal winner, Taufa is an uncompromising middle forward who chews through work with ball in hand.
The best part about her game is consistency, with very little gap between her best and worst performance, a point which is reflected in the fact that Taufa has been shortlisted for the Dally M for the past three seasons.
In addition to helping Mounties to the minor premiership in the Sydney comp in 2017, Taufa celebrated winning the Auckland Nines and Anzac Test with the Jillaroos, winning players’ player honours in the latter, before being crowned NSW Player of the Year and topping it off with a World Cup triumph.
2 – Teuila Fotu-Moala (New Zealand)
2014 Auckland Player of the Year, 2015 New Zealand Player of the Year, 2017 Women’s World Cup Player of the Tournament
A powerhouse forward with an insatiable hunger to get her hands on the ball, on her day Fotu-Moala is unmatched in terms of the sheer amount of damage she can cause.
Renowned as one of the most-feared tacklers in the women’s game, prompting Darren Lockyer to dub her ‘Jukebox’ because she has all the hits, over the last couple of seasons the second-rower has refined her craft around gap-running, in addition to improving her overall strength on the ball, to become just as deadly in attack. Having already scooped the two biggest female league awards available in New Zealand in consecutive seasons, Fotu-Moala’s World Cup Player of the Tournament gong confirmed her standing as one of the elite.
Still only 24, she serves as the captain/coach of her Otahuhu side in the Auckland competition.
1 – Ali Brigginshaw (Australia)
2017 Women’s World Cup Final Woman of the Match, 2x Women’s World Cup tournaments
The best playmaker in women’s rugby league, with her footy intelligence on another level, especially when the pressure comes on.
A horror triple leg break suffered while trialing with the Queensland side in 2015 looked to have ended her career, but two years later she completed a remarkable comeback by leading the Jillaroos to their second World Cup title, starring as the best on field in the Women’s World Cup final.
Her decision-making late in tackle counts is her major boast, with an accurate long and short kicking game, and the ability to adapt on the spot to help her side get the best result. Equally adept at ball-playing at the line or zipping through herself, Brigginshaw is a menace when her team gets on a roll.