In 2008, La Toya Mason was persuaded to join Black Ferns, Fiao’o Faamausili, Vania Wolfgramm and Renee Wickliffe at Wasps Rugby Club.
A year later, she played for the England national team against the Black Ferns in Escher, Surrey. It was the start of a career of 70 Tests that saw him part of the 2014 World Cup winning team and culminated in the 2017 World Cup Final loss against Black Fern in England.
Mason returned to New Zealand to coach Taranaki in the Farrah Palmer Cup, helping build the foundations of popular women’s rugby in the region.
“It was always my intention to return to New Zealand. When I retired I was waiting for a job. Taranaki Rugby was the first to offer a development role,” Mason explained.
“When I first arrived in Taranaki, I thought, ‘What is going on here? “Things have been bleak. We’ve made good progress in developing the game, but we still have a lot of work to do. It’s important to talk to the players to see what they think and have a good CEO and a good board that want to promote the girls’ game.”
In England, Mason worked for the Russian Broadcasting Union As a community coach, he developed the game in the Surrey area.
Hadar Mason was born and raised in Auckland Massey High School and played in North Harbor as a teenager in 2001 and 2002.
She moved to Auckland soon after where she alternated between Storm and the Brits who were in the national county championships at the time. The highlight came in 2006 when she helped her club Marist win Coleman Shield and Auckland’s seventh consecutive national title.
“Marist and Auckland were very stacked in those days, so it was very hard to look at them. When I decided to go to England, it was initially for ‘fantasy at university’ and then the idea changed to: ‘What I have to lose.'”
Mason thrived as the “loud” quarterback and “organizer” of the Wasps and was called to trial for England. She qualified for England through her four grandparents and made her debut in front of her mother, father and extended family.
England is the dominant power in the northern hemisphere. Mason was part of four Grand Slam Six Nations winning teams. In 2014, she came off the bench in a 21-9 victory for the World Cup against Canada in Paris.
“They love a carriage there. The reaction to our win was crazy. On our way back to the hotel we stopped at a pub in the corner and it was packed with our supporters. We had Sky TV on board and a press conference was held in Twickenham when we got down. We met the prime minister and some girls got a VIP tickets to Rihianna and Jay-Z’s concerts We were backstage with Madonna and it was like, “What are we doing here?”
England won the BBC Sports Team of the Year award.
“The best thing I brought back from England was a greater understanding of what professionalism is. I got better at playing rugby, rugby and life,” Mason thought.
“In England the detail work is really expected. It’s a different pace but there are a few bits about the breakdown that I didn’t really understand until I played there.”
Taranaki returned to the Farrah Palmer Cup in 2018 and failed to win a match until his 14th attempt against North Harbor in 2020. Last year they beat Tasman and closed down North Harbor and Hawks Bay. A collaborative effort involving players and management leads to improvement.
“Before the club season started, we had four pivotal days on Sundays in a row” where anyone could attend coaching classes. Neil Barnes (Taranaki men’s coach) moderated some of these sessions.
We talked about the bigger picture. If a club has a team of 30 players bye, why can’t they lay off some players to help other clubs. The important thing is that girls play as often as possible, and develop all the time.”
Taranaki lost their championship season opener to North Harbor 21-10. The slow start meant Taranaki was a lot behind at the start, but they called on bravely and won in the second half. back Danielle Muggeridge scored an attempt when she jumped for a low pass, made a pass forward, bounced off her feet and hit three defenders.
Other outstanding players included Badinley Monroe Smith, second and fifth, and winger Jacqueline Tulloch.
Next week he travels to Taranaki to Trafalgar Park is in Nelson to face Tasman, who beat them 34-12 last season.