Roosters sign trailblazing American talent for NRLW

Alex Mitchell |

The Roosters’ NRLW coach John Strange hopes a surprise overseas signing can help them to glory.
The Roosters’ NRLW coach John Strange hopes a surprise overseas signing can help them to glory.

Rugby league’s American push has paid its first dividend, with USA rugby sevens talent Liz Tafuna penning a contract with the Sydney Roosters’ NRLW side.

The New Zealand-born, California-based 21-year-old will link up with the Roosters before their pre-season starts in June, after starring at the NRL’s talent combine in Las Vegas ahead of the season-opening double-header.

Tafuna, who’s played rugby union for the USA along with sevens, is in line to become the first American to play in the NRLW.

The Tricolours’ NRLW coach John Strange said Tafuna’s speed, footwork, ball skills and toughness stood out.

“Most importantly, Liz has demonstrated a huge desire to test herself in the NRLW and I have no doubt that with hard work, she can have a great impact on this year’s NRLW competition,” he said.

“I expect her to contribute, along with our whole squad, to what we are building here at the Roosters.”

Combine winners Megan Pakulis and MarCaya Bailous could follow Tafuna into the competition, each touring Australia late last month and playing in the National Championships while also visiting NRLW clubs.

Tafuna said the lack of money in American rugby made jumping to the NRLW a realistic option, believing more compatriots might follow her lead.

“I knew a little bit just from reading (the NRLW) is something that’s there, but then when they really explained it I couldn’t even imagine that for the women’s rugby game, that they can get this much security living-wise,” she told AAP at the combine last month.

“When (the combine) came, I was like 100 per cent … I’m not committed to union, I’m committed to footy.

“Any form of footy, I love it, and I love having a crack at it.”

Tafuna recalled her initial impressions of rugby league, saying it combined the space of rugby sevens with the contact of 15s.

“I may only have watched league and I know there’s more ins and outs of it … but like if you guys chuck me on the wing, I’ll give it a go,” she said.

“I know how to run hard and I know how to tackle … I was like ‘at the end of the day, that’s it’.

“After I found my footing in the first 20 minutes. I was just like, OK give me the ball, I’m gonna have a go.”

It’s a boost for the Roosters, who missed last season’s NRLW decider after being shut-out 12-0 against Gold Coast in the semi-finals.