Three weeks ago, Colleen Carroll and Lora Matway had never met.
But spending nearly 40 hours together flying from the United States to New Zealand helped them get acquainted quickly.
The American imports are living out their rugby dreams, joining the Waitaki Wahine for the 2022 season. They arrived in New Zealand on April 24.
Carroll (25), a flanker and utility player, and Matway (27), a fullback and winger, joined the Wahine through mutual connection Patsy Ford, who played for North Otago in 2017.
Carroll’s older brother Blake played in Wellington four years ago, inspiring her to want to play here. Matway said New Zealand was ‘‘the place to go’’ to play rugby.
Both women were overwhelmed by their welcome from the Wahine.
‘‘The girls on the team have been so friendly and welcoming — it’s been really nice,’’ Carroll said.
‘‘It’s not easy to just move to the other side of the world, but the girls on the team have made it so worth it.’’
Rugby terminology and strategy was different in New Zealand but it had been a great learning experience so far, they said.
‘‘At the end of the day, it’s rugby. Everyone plays, just in different ways,’’ Carroll said.
Growing up in Pittsburgh, Matway started playing rugby aged 18, at the University of Pittsburgh, after being recruited at an activities fair. Before that, she had never heard of the sport.
Immediately, Matway, who is working as a carpenter at Breen Construction, knew she had found her sport and coming to New Zealand only cemented that.
‘‘Everybody’s really intuitive about it here, which is new and different.’’
Carroll’s father, Chris, got her and her four brothers into rugby from a young age. She played touch aged 4, and started tackle for the West Carroll Marauders, in Maryland, at secondary school.
After playing at Kent State University, Carroll received a division one scholarship and transferred to Notre Dame College, in Ohio, for rugby.
For the past year she has been living in Colorado, playing for the Colorado Gray Wolves.
Carroll, who is working at the Waitaki Girls’ High School hostel, is helping coach the St Taki secondary school girls’ team, alongside Josh Phipps.
‘‘It’s been really fun. I love coaching, spreading the game.’’