Five women’s players to watch in 2018

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Libby Boggs and Andy Burt     19 Dec 2017     Getty Images

Aldora Itunu
Powerful front-rower Aldora Itunu continues to improve and is set for a big year in 2018. At 26-years-old, Itunu has shown a lot of raw talent since debuting for the Black Ferns in 2015 and is now developing into a world-class prop. Versatile, strong and mobile, Itunu is efficient at set-piece time and potent with ball in hand. At the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup, Itunu showed just how dangerous she is with a hat-trick in the pool match against Canada and continued her strong form for Auckland Storm in the Farah Palmer Cup. Expect Itunu to be at the forefront for both the Black Ferns and Auckland Storm in 2018.

Gayle Broughton
Broughton burst onto the sevens scene as a 17-year-old and in the past four seasons has cemented herself as a regular in the Black Ferns Sevens. While the four years have included a number of injury setbacks, Broughton is in line for a big 2018. With the footwork, vision and speed to set the world stage alight, next year’s Commonwealth Games and Rugby World Cup Sevens should see Broughton take a starring role.

Alena Saili
Teenage sevens sensation Alena Saili will be one to watch next year. After finishing at Southland Girls’ High School in 2016, Saili was contracted to the Black Ferns Sevens as an 18-year-old in 2017. She impressed on debut at the Sydney Sevens but struggled for further opportunities as established stars led the Black Ferns Sevens to World Series success. Saili has been ear-marked as a star of the future and with the 2020 Olympic Games looming large expect to see more of Saili in the black jersey next year. 

Grace Brooker
Brooker had a breakthrough season with the Farah Palmer Cup winning Canterbury team, while still in her final year of Christchurch Girls High School. The young winger is heading into her second season with the Canterbury women’s sevens team and was a member of the New Zealand Under 18 Girls sevens team in December. Her decision-making defies her years and along with a solid work rate, offloading ability and all-round skills set, we’re sure to see Brooker in a black jersey again.

Morgan Henderson
In her first season of Farah Palmer Cup, Morgan Henderson produced a number of standout performances for the Otago Spirit on their way to the championship final. The 19-year-old loose forward is a strong ball carrier with a high work rate, her individual efforts saw her one of three nominees for the Fiao’o Fa’amausili Medal for the best player in the Farah Palmer Cup. Henderson scored her team’s only try in their final against Bay of Plenty and she is set to have a big future in the 15-aside format.