Sport | Rugby league women

Auckland Rugby League calls for urgent action for Papatoetoe club

Auckland Rugby League (ARL) is calling on a local board of Auckland Council to better support Papatoetoe players. It says women can’t access essential facilities and players are using some of the “the worst fields in the city”.

ARL club development officer Mark Craig told the Ōtara-Papatoetoe Local Board that the Papatoetoe Panthers urgently needed better facilities, especially for the safety of its female players.

Papatoetoe Panthers chairperson Carla Makiha said: “Our wāhine should have their own autonomy at our club - it’s 2024.

“Girls are changing in public toilets or covered in mud because changing rooms are full,” Makiha told the board.

The club is based at Kohuora Park in Papatoetoe with Pacific and Māori players making up 98% of club members.

He said the park was in “desperate need of renovation”.

“It’s no secret that the further you move south [in Auckland], the worse fields get.

“South Auckland is where games are at our strongest but we’re playing on the worst fields in the city,” Craig said.

“Our changing rooms are not suitable for young women and girls across Auckland.”

He said a lack of safe facilities was a major driver for the players’ negative experience with the club.

“Lights are not fit for purpose. Our requests for bulb replacements don’t go anywhere,” Craig said.

He said players’ parents have to point car headlights at the field so games can go ahead at night.

“If we could have any one thing, it would be for lights and changing rooms to be updated,” Craig said.

Makiha said Kohuora Park has four fields but lights cover just one field.

“We have eight international teams. Without lights, they can’t train competitively,” she said.

“Auckland can be the greatest league city in the world. We’re growing great people,” Craig said.

He said the group was committed to partnering with any organisation that would help improve player facilities.

Manukau ward councillor Lotu Fuli asked ARL if it had applied for Auckland Council Sports and Recreation funding: “I don’t recall seeing an application from you.”

She added that giving feedback on the long-term plan (LTP) proposal was key for the group as well as sharing its story with the whole of Auckland Council.

Fuli said it was important to be explicit what areas were underfunded and that statistics like those from the Papatoetoe Panthers were usually not provided during consultations like that for the LTP.

Board chair Apulu Reece Autagavaia said the current LTP proposal would lead to further funding cuts but that a rates rise for the city could help with funding.

“If we go for the status quo or less [than what we’re paying], we won’t see things improve,” he responded to ARL.

Autagavaia said sports clubs were on the board’s list of priorities: “Sports clubs are an important part of many of our lives.”

“It’s just a matter of how fast funding is confirmed,” he said.

He added that they would follow up on changing rooms for female players as well as providing sufficient lighting.

Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Local Democracy Reporting