On Saturday she scored twice in the nail-biting 29-27 victory over Waikato, a replay of the 2021 Premiership final which Canterbury lost by two points.
“The final was definitely on everyone’s mind. It was a revenge game for us and that hyped the girls up,” Mataele said.
“They threw everything at us. They’re a big side and play similarly to us. Even though we were down we didn’t take them lightly. I felt like we could pull through.”
Kendra Cocksedge scored the winning try with about five minutes remaining. Her dummy detaching from a rolling maul fooled the visitors defence. Mataele was illusive in the first half helping Canterbury to a 19-6 lead.
“I have to give credit to my insides. I ran some good support lines and they helped set me up. My favourite try this year was against Wellington. All I had to do was put the ball down. My favourite tries are the ones I have to do the least work for,” Mataele laughed.
Canterbury retained the JJ Stewart Memorial Trophy. Canterbury have held the Ranfurly Shield of women’s rugby since 2017. That year they beat defending FPC champions Counties Manukau 32-29 in Pukekohe to capture the prize for the first time since the early 90’s.
“We took JJ to our dressing room on Thursday and explained to the younger players who he was and why he’s important. JJ is very important to us. We always step up for the challenge.”
Of Tongan heritage, Mataele was born in Auckland and raised in Christchurch. She was educated at Villa Maria College and played netball.
In 2017, her final year of high school, she switched to Christchurch Girls’ High School for more rugby opportunities. All five of her siblings play rugby and her father Ratu was a regular for the Marist Premiers in Auckland.
Martha was a member of the Christchurch Girls’ sevens team who were runners up at the National Condor Sevens. Black Fern Grace Brooker and Canterbury back Rosie Kelly were members of the same team. They were coached by Pat Coady, brother of former Black Fern Olivia Coady.
“Pat was great. He taught me a lot about the game and after the tournament promised us doughnuts. At the airport for a laugh we decided we would shove one in his face. I don’t think he’s ever forgiven me.”
In 2019 she helped her Christchurch Rugby Club side complete a 14-0 record, and this year played centre in the final when they beat University 38-25.
“The environment at Christchurch is so good. It’s a great mix of youth and experience, a very caring place with strong competition for places.”
Canterbury boasts a similar culture and Mataele has thrived. Her try against Auckland happened when Canterbury was down 26-27 late in the game.
“Auckland was a good side, different to Waikato who were quite structured. Auckland’s offloading game was outstanding, they had a lot more ball runners.”
Canterbury’s next opponent, Manawatū, have only won one game in 2022. However with former Black Fern flyers Janna Vaughan and Selica Winiata in the backs they could cause Canterbury headaches, especially given Canterbury will be missing eight players to the Black Ferns who are preparing for Saturday's O'Reilly Cup Test against the Wallaroos in Christchurch.
“We’ve got leaders who aren’t Black Ferns and have worked hard on giving players greater responsibility. Girls like Stephanie Te Ohaere-Fox, Marcelle Parkes and Terauoriwa Gapper are ready and able to step up,” Mataele responded.
Martha is married to Fijian international Manasa Mataele who played for the Force in Super Rugby this year. The couple met in 2016 and ironically a year later Manasa scored a memorable try for Taranaki which helped prize the Ranfurly Shield off Canterbury in Christchurch.
Martha is a fulltime sports coordinator at Te Kura o Ōpāwaho / Opawa School.