Hautapu to launch senior women’s rugby programme for 2024 season

posted in: News, Rugby

Hautapu Sports will field at least one women’s team in next year’s senior Waikato Rugby competition, the club has confirmed.

Director of Rugby Nigel Kewish says the club’s success with men’s teams and the growing popularity of the women’s game means it’s a natural progression that Hautapu should enter the women’s competition.

“We feel the time is right, and we’re pleased to have recruited an outstanding group of coaches to launch our women’s programme,” he said.

Experienced coaching staff appointed

Head coach for the Hautapu women’s programme will be Rob Loto who has enjoyed considerable success with champion women’s team, Auckland Marist.

His assistant coach will be Isaac Isaaka, who was also at Auckland Marist.

Main photo: Rob Loto (left) and Isaac Issaka … ‘can’t wait to get started.’

Loto and Isaaka led Marist to win the prestigious Coleman Shield in 2022, and reached the Auckland championship semi-finals in 2023. A leader in women’s rugby, Marist has produced more than 30 Black Ferns.

Loto said the Hautapu club already had 8-10 players ready for 2024 but were keen to find more who could attend pre-season training from January.

“Ideally, our new players will have experience in the 15-a-side game but we’ve got open minds,” he said.

“We know there are women who have played other formats of the game, such as sevens, and we’re happy to help players with the right athleticism and desire to play, if they want to give rugby a go.”

Players need to be 16 or older to play in the Waikato women’s competition.

Coach Rob Loto: ‘We can’t wait to get started’

Loto says he and Isaaka have plenty to do before the competition starts next April.

“We can’t wait to get started,” he says.

A former Cambridge High School student, Loto played rugby for Hautapu, and moved to Auckland. But, he says Cambridge has always been home and he’s now based in Hamilton.

“And Hautapu’s my club,” he says.

“Everything has come together for this — the right club, at the right time and with the right people helping us succeed.”

Loto said a factor in his decision to lead the women’s programme was the club’s vision as outlined by Nigel Kewish and president Dave Simes.

“They’re passionate people wanting to support what we’re trying to do. We feel already that they club is fully behind this.”

Though Hautapu has fielded 10-a-side women’s teams before, the 2024 season will be the first time the club has ventured into the 15-a-side format.


If you want to learn more about our plans for women’s rugby or to express an interest in joining us, please email Nigel Kewish, Director of Rugby, at seniorrugby@hautapusports.com

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