Hirini was recognised by the Rugby Almanack for her stellar 2021 where she led the Black Ferns Sevens to gold in Tokyo and was one of New Zealand’s flag bearers at the games. It capped off an incredible year for Hirini where she received the Black Ferns Sevens Player of the Year award, the Tom French Cup for the Māori Player of the Year, and the prestigious Kelvin R Tremain Memorial Trophy at the ASB Rugby Awards.
Almanack editors Clive Akers, Adrian Hill and Campbell Burnes selected Hirini as blindside flanker and captain in the Women’s Almanack XV of 2021. Hirini follows in the footsteps of Fiao’o Faamausili (2018) and Kendra Cocksedge (2019) who have previously featured on the cover.
The gold medal-winning effort of the Black Ferns Sevens saw several players included in the Almanack's XV of the year alongside Hirini.
The XV are Cheyelle Robins-Reti, Portia Woodman, Stacey Fluhler, Michaela Blyde, Gayle Broughton, Kelly Brazier, Tyla Nathan-Wond, Liana Mikaele-Tu'u, Lesley Elder, Maia Roos, Eloise Blackwell, Sarah Hirini (captain), Aleisha Pearl-Nelson, Grace Houpapa-Barrett, Krystal Murray.
Substitutes: Georgia Ponsonby, Aldora Itunu, Phillipa Love, Joanah Ngan-Woo, Kennedy Simon, Ariana Bayler, Theresa Fitzpatrick, Ruby Tui.
Blyde and Hirini were named as the players of the year, with Kelsey Teneti the promising player of the year.
The men’s Almanack XV featured Rieko Ioane at centre to underline the strides the 24-year-old made in the midfield in 2021. His brother Akira was also named in the line-up at blindside flanker following a breakout season for the All Blacks.
The Almanack XV: Jordie Barrett, Will Jordan, Rieko Ioane, Sevu Reece, Anton Lienert-Brown, Richie Mo'unga, Aaron Smith, Ardie Savea, Dalton Papalii, Samuel Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Akira Ioane, Nepo Laulala, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody.
Substitutes: Samisoni Taukei'aho, Karl Tu'inukuafe, Tyrel Lomax, Scott Barrett, Ethan Blackadder, Brad Weber, Beauden Barrett, David Havili.
The five men’s players of the year are Jordie Barrett, Will Jordan, Dalton Papalii, Ardie Savea and Aaron Smith, and the five promising players, Corey Kellow, Christian Javan Lio-Willie, Justin Sangster, Timoci Tabaleka and Keelan Whitman.
Taken overall, and considering the upheaval that Covid-19 and its variants have caused both in society and rugby, the Almanack's role is more important than ever. It steers a way through and provides a perspective of the issues that have affected the game.
It stands out like a beacon in noting the facts of the times, all while maintaining its continuing attraction as a highly-readable treasure trove of information relevant to rugby's history in New Zealand.
Purchase the 2022 New Zealand Rugby Almanack at all good bookstores.