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The first ever Women’s American Flag Football team representing Aotearoa is set to make its international debut in San Diego, America this month. Women have only been playing American Flag Football in NZ since 2020 and in the last year, the sport has seen a 57% increase in female participation - welcoming the development of a National program.

Newly formed in January, preparations are in full swing as the team gear up to attend Flag Football’s premier tournament series and Championship called ‘The One’. Twenty-five athletes make up the National Women American Flag Football High Performance unit and 10 elite athletes have been selected to compete in their first international and create history for the sport. Among the athletes selected for the first NZ Women’s American Football tour - Sia Matai, NZ’s most decorated Women's American Football player; Courtney and Taylor Leauanae, sisters who have elected American Football as their chosen sport over their promising basketball careers; and Ellie McManaway, a Tauranga Policewomen who trialed and was selected for the national high performance unit before ever playing an American Flag Football game.

Flag football is a variant of American Football where, instead of tackling players to the ground, the defensive team must remove a flag or flag belt from the ball carrier ("deflagging") to end a play. The sport has a strong amateur following, with several national and international competitions each year and is most popularly played in America where it was invented.

For Americans, ‘The One’ is an official part of USA Football's U.S. Flag National Team selection pipeline and the only 5v5 adult tournament destination where players can be evaluated for the U.S. Flag National Team.

NZ Coach Ethan Clark explains “We’re ecstatic to be invited to participate in the series - the quality of Flag Football we will encounter will be of the highest calibre and vital in developing our National processes as we look to Intercontinentals, then Worlds 2024.”

The team of 10 NZ Women will compete in the San Diego leg of the series on 17 June, under the name Wāhine Toa, rather than the usual moniker, Aotearoa Flag Ferns. Wāhine Toa aptly sums up the spirit of the squad members as warrior women, and “we know they are going to do the name proud,” declares coach Clark.

Team List:

● Amorangi Ngata-Atkins - Auckland

● Courtney Leauanae - Auckland

● Taylor Leauanae - Auckland

● Ellie McManaway - Tauranga

● Isabeau Short-Wilcox - Auckland

● Jaqui Elmsly - Hamilton

● Lineli Vaoga - Auckland

● Sia Matai - Auckland

● Tessa Peace - Auckland

● Shona Matiu - Auckland

National Team Staff List:

● Head Coach | Ethan Clark - Hamilton

● Offensive Coach | Ben Freeman - Hamilton

● Defensive Coach | Rambo Morris - Hamilton

● Team Manager | Alex Hatwell - Tauranga

● Team Leader | Shernice Henry - Auckland


As referenced by coach Clark, the International Federation of American Football’s Asia/Oceania Flag Football Championships to be held during October 2023 in Malaysia.


Also as referenced by coach Clark, the International Federation of American Football’s World Flag Football Championships to be held during August 2024 in Finland.

For more information, please contact:

Shernice Henry, Administrator

NZ American Football Federation

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