World Cup Windback: 2006 Black Ferns

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The Black Ferns, captained by Farah Palmer, defeated England 25-17 in the final. Having previously won in 1998 and 2002, they were going for their third straight title.

Here are the players that started in that final.

1. Diane Maliukaetau

Born in Tonga, Maliukaetau was inspired to play rugby while at Tangaroa College. She moved to New Zealand in 1999 and Davida Suasua (nee White) helped her get into the game. She played six Tests, including four at the 2006 World Cup, where she was only 19. Maliukaetau studied tourism and coached rugby at Tangaroa College. She has five children.

2. Farah Palmer

A player that needs no introduction. 35 Tests and 30 of those as captain, Farah Palmer led her respective teams to World Cup victory in 1998, 2002 and 2006. She scored in the 2006 final against England. Dr. Farah Palmer is the associate dean for Māori studies at Massey University. She became the first woman on the New Zealand Rugby (NZR) Board and chair of the New Zealand Māori Rugby Board. In 2021, she was appointed deputy chair of NZR.

3. Casey Caldwell (nee Robertson)

A natural loose forward, Casey Robertson (now Casey Cladwell) was selected in the Black Ferns squad as a front-rower. She said it was trial by fire, and that former All Blacks scrum coach Mike Cron was an awesome mentor. The girl from Wyndham played 38 Tests for the Black Ferns, 16 at prop and 22 in the loose forwards. Her Test career spanned over a decade, she finally hung up the boots in 2014, having played her debut in 2002. Caldwell works on the family farm with her three children.

4. Monalisa Urquhart (nee Codling)

The 1.78m lock helped the Black Ferns to 24 consecutive Black Ferns victories between 2002 and 2009. She started 19 of her 30 Tests and nearly missed the 2006 World Cup with a serious case of the chickenpox. She scored a spectacular try in the final, running 40 metres to score just before halftime. Urquhart spent time in France as a Finance and Operations Manager for the British Council. She has previously managed the Auckland women’s sevens team and commentated for Sky Sport.

The Black Ferns perform the haka at the 2006 World Cup in Edmonton

5. Victoria Heighway

Heighway and Urquhart started 19 Test matches together and enjoyed eight consecutive years unbeaten in the Black Ferns. Out of Rosehill College, Heighway also scored in the 2006 final against England. It was off a lineout drive with seven minutes remaining. Making her debut in 2000 as a 19 year-old, Heighway won the Women’s Player of the Year award in 2007 and 2009. Today, she is an interior designer for a home building company, having previously worked as a builder.

6. Melissa Ruscoe

A multi-talented sportswoman, Ruscoe has captained New Zealand in rugby, football, and sevens. Rusco led the Black Ferns on eight occasions. She helped set up that vital try in the 2006 final, scored by Heighway. In 2011, she became a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to women’s rugby. She has been the assistant coach of the successful Canterbury Farah Palmer Cup side since 2016. She is also a teacher at Hillmorton High School.

7. Rochelle Martin

She’s labelled as one of the toughest and most-talented loose forwards in Black Ferns history. Before the 2006 World Cup, she matched Richie McCaw’s score in the yoyo fitness test. Martin won three World Cup’s, starting at No. 8 on 20 occasions throughout her playing career. The Auckland flanker never lost a game for her provincial side. Martin works for the fire service and in 2018 was awarded an Order of Merit for her services to firefighting.

8. Linda Itunu

Linda ‘Bindi’ Itunu is a Black Ferns legend. Highly respected by current and former players alike. Itunu suffered a knee injury in 2005 but recovered in time to play her first World Cup in Edmonton the year after. She also played Sevens, appearing in 11 tournaments, and helping them to victory at the 2013 World Cup in Moscow. She currently works for the Ministry of Social Development and has ambitions to give back to the game she loves in the form of coaching.

9. Emma Jensen

Jensen has made the most first-class appearances by a female player and she’s still playing at the age of 44. For the last couple of seasons, she’s played for the Hawke’s Bay Tui in the Farah Palmer Cup. Between 2002 and 2015, she notched up 49 Tests for the Black Ferns, establishing a remarkable combination with first five-eighth and great friend Anna Richards. The duo started 19 times together in Test matches and never lost. At the 2006 World Cup, Jensen had one of her best performances in the semifinal against France, scoring 20 points in the victory. She currently teaches at Hastings Girls’ High School and last year was elected onto the Hawke’s Bay Rugby board of directors.

10. Anna Richards

She’s often labelled the Black Ferns ‘GOAT’, playing 49 Tests across two decades. She missed just four possible Tests between 1991 and 2010 and was inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame in 2014. Richards played in the first ever official Test against Australia in Sydney in 1994, she started at halfback. She claims the 2006 World Cup win was a favourite, because of the physicality shown by the English. Last year, Richards became the first woman to be awarded the Steinlager Salver for outstanding service to New Zealand Rugby. She continues to serve the game, as Player Development Manager for Auckland Rugby and assistant coach of the Farah Palmer Cup side.

11. Stephanie Broomhall (nee Mortimer)

The 2004 Player of the Year grew up in Blenheim and attended boarding school in Canterbury. At aged 16, her Mum suggested she gave rugby a crack. The Canterbury winger made her Black Ferns debut in 2003 and scored a try in every appearance at the 2006 World Cup, including the final. She has four children and one stepson and is an early childhood teacher.

12. Exia Edwards

A leader on and off the field, Edwards won three World Cup titles with the Black Ferns and was also a member of the Sevens side that won the first World Cup in 2001. A proud Bay of Plenty wahine, she scored 128 points in her 30 games for the province. In 2019, she was recognised by Bay of Plenty Rugby, receiving the Distinguished Service Award, one of the union’s highest honours. For over a decade she was a sports and events organiser for Bay of Plenty Sport with a focus on primary school children. She has also coached, at school and club level.

13. Huriana Manuel-Carpenter

Huriana and her Mum, Eliza Mihinui, are the first mother and daughter combo to play for the Black Ferns. Debuting for Auckland in 2004, Manuel went on to become incredibly successful in the XVs and Sevens game. Manuel was the leading centre in New Zealand women’s rugby for a decade between 2005 and 2014. She played 26 Tests in the Black Ferns jersey. She now runs an F45 gym in Te Atatu and has a son with husband and former Japanese international Derek Carpenter.

14. Claire Richardson

Born in Wairoa, Richardson first placed rugby at Napier Girls’ High School in 2001. She relocated to Dunedin in 2022 and played for Otago until 2007, where she remains the highest points scorer for the Spirit, with 221 points. She was a versatile outside back, starting at centre and moving to the right wing for the Black Ferns. She also played on the left wing and at fullback and second five-eighth. Richardson scored 54 points in her 24 Tests.

15. Amiria Rule

Amiria Rule (nee Marsh) had a remarkable rugby career spanning 14 years. She was only in Year 10 at school when she was selected to take part in a Black Ferns trial. She made her debut as a 17 year-old against Canada in 2000. The versatile outside back won two World Cup’s and in 2006 was named the New Zealand Women’s Player of the Year. Rule is currently a teacher at Avonhead Primary School in Christchurch.

Reserves: 16 Fiao'o Faamausili 17. Helen Va'aga 18. Kimberley Smith 19. Shannon Willoughby 20. Waimania Teddy 21. Rebecca Mahoney (nee Hull) 22. Hannah Porter (nee Myers) 

The 2021 Rugby World Cup, played in 2022, kicks off on October 8, with matches to be played at Eden Park, Waitākere Stadium and Northland Events Centre in Whangarei. Find out more information HERE.

Player information credit: stats.allblacks.com

Rochelle Martin & Farah Palmer with the World Cup trophy in 2006

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