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Year for it . . . The Waitaki Wahine has had a strong player numbers at the first few training sessions this year. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE

In a pinnacle year for women’s rugby, the Waitaki Wahine is going from strength to strength.

With a new-look coaching line-up, a bunch of new players and a culture shift, the club’s future is looking bright.

Lucy Fifita has joined as head coach, with Josh Phipps, Sam Sturgess and Lemi Masoe also part of the coaching team.

Phipps coached the St Taki under-18 girls to win the South Canterbury title last year, undefeated all season. He previously helped as the Wahine’s backs coach in 2020.

North Otago Heartland captain Sturgess also wanted to offer to help.

Phipps said he enjoyed working with the team two years ago, and was looking forward to what lay ahead.

‘‘I thought it could be the start of something quite nice and it’s a bit of a fresh set up this year,’’ Phipps said.

‘‘I wanted to help out and see what we can get done.’’

Sixteen players had been turning up to training and their dedication was important — the main goal was attracting players who wanted to improve each week, he said.

‘‘I’m not necessarily concerned about the results. It’s about putting in the effort and committing to the team.’’

Sturgess said he wanted to spend the first few weeks creating a culture where everyone wanted to play for each other.

‘‘I’ve played enough rugby to know a team that has a good culture generally gets results,’’ Sturgess said.

The Women’s Rugby World Cup will be played in New Zealand later this year, so it is an important and exciting year for the sport.

Phipps said it was great to see the base of the sport growing in North Otago.

‘‘It would be a really nice thing to encourage it within our community.

‘‘If you look at years gone by, I think it’s probably been a little bit quieter, but it’s starting to grow more and more.

‘‘Especially as it’s the year for women’s rugby this year, it’s awesome to see more people are getting involved and more of a backing.’’

The coaches encouraged more players to get involved in the team.

Anyone interested in playing can join trainings on Mondays and Wednesdays at Centennial Park, from 6.15pm.