Auckland Storm looking to bounce back from disappointing 2018 campaign

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Walker, who was previously the USA Women’s Sevens head coach, is joined by Black Ferns legend Anna Richards as backs coach and Craig Hall will take charge of the forwards. 

The 2018 Farah Palmer Cup season was one to forget for the Storm. They missed out on the finals and narrowly avoided relegation to the Championship. They’ll be determined to bounce back this year and make up for a disappointing campaign. 
Auckland have named a healthy mixture of Black Ferns and returning Storm players, as well as several newcomers. Grace Freeman and Isla Norman-Bell have been named in the squad for the first time. Freeman, who is a student at Kings College, had a great club season for College Rifles, while Howick College’s Norman-Bell had a strong campaign for Ponsonby and was an MVP at last year’s Ignite7 tournament. Other rookies in the squad include Princess Elliot, Patricia Maliepo, Abby Roache and Saphire Abraham.
Walker’s side have lost a lot of experience in former Black Ferns skipper Fiao’o Faamausili, who retired at the end of 2018. Mele Hufanga has also made herself unavailable for the 2019 season. But Auckland will have the services of experienced loose forward Linda Itunu. Despite retiring from the international game last year, Itunu returns to the Storm with a wealth of knowledge and she will again line-up alongside her sister, Aldora, who is in the Black Ferns squad, but missed the 2019 campaign with injury. Roseanne Cox returns to the Storm side after a hiatus. Cox formally played representative cricket for Auckland. 

The Storm are also well represented by current Black Ferns. Prop Aleisha-Pearl Nelson, locks Charmaine Smith and Eloise Blackwell and loose forward Charmaine McMenamin have all had significant game time in the black jersey this year, while Ruahei Demant has impressed at first five-eighth. Natahlia Moors, Kiritapu Demant and Cristo Tofa are also included in the Auckland squad. 

2018 Farah Palmer Cup result: 
7th in Premiership 

2019 Farah Palmer Cup fixtures: 
Week 1: Waikato v Auckland, Sat 31 August 5.35pm – FMG Stadium Waikato (DH)
Week 2: Auckland v Canterbury, Sun 8 September 11.35am – Eden Park (DH)
Week 3: Bay of Plenty v Auckland, Sat 14 September 2.30pm – Rugby Park, Whakatane 
Week 4: Auckland v Wellington, Sun 22 September 11.35am – Eden Park (DH) 
Week 5: Manawatu v Auckland, Sun 29 September 2.35pm – Central Energy Trust Arena, Palmerston North (DH) 
Week 6: Auckland v Counties Manukau, Sat 5 October 2.35pm – Eden Park (DH)
Week 7: Auckland BYE
(DH) – Double Header with Mitre 10 Cup match

2019 Auckland Storm Squad: Saphire Abraham, Eloise Blackwell, Moana Cook, Roseanne Cox, Kiritapu Demant, Ruahei Demant, Princess Elliot, Joanna Fanene, Grace Freeman, Sulieti Halafihi, Meriana Hokianga, Aldora Itunu, Linda Itunu, Lose Mafi, Patricia Maleipo, Charmaine McMenamin, Vainga Moimoi, Natahlia Moors, Daynah Nankivell, Aleisha-Pearl Nelson, Isla Norman-Bell, Joeannha Naime-Purcell, Abigail Roache, Maiakawanakaulani Roos, Lauren Sa’u, Charmaine Smith, Leanne Thompson, Cristo Tofa, Alanis Toia-Tigafua, Leianne Tufuga