After a stellar domestic season for giants Counties Manukau, Nicholls-Pualau was picked to replace 2016 Women’s Player of the Year recipient Sarina Fiso at last year’s Rugby League World Cup, after Fiso was made unavailable.
Apii took ownership of the number one jersey, stamping her mark as the starting Kiwi Ferns fullback for the entirety of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.
She also topped the leaderboard for kick return metres at the World Cup, racking up a massive 279 metres.
The star player was quick to downplay her accomplishments however. “I’m honoured to even be considered alongside players such as Teuila Fotu-Moala and Krystal Rota, let alone to win this award,” she said.
“There are a lot of people I have to thank for their ongoing support, including my incredible family – without them there is no way I could have dedicated as much time as I did to the sport I love.”
Other Kuki contenders up for awards were Daniel Reuelu-Buchanan for Domestic Player Premier and Steven Marsters for Domestic Player 18s.
Unfortunately, they watched on as Aaron Jolley of Waikato and Tyler Slade of the New Zealand Warriors claimed those awards. Warriors star Roger Tuivasa-Sheck took home the Kiwis’ Player of the Year trophy for his inspired performances at the team’s disappointing World Cup run.
The dynamic fullback ended the 2017 World Cup with the equal most tries scored (3), the most carries (72), and the most metres carried (626) for the Kiwis. Head coach David Kidwell says such achievements were no small feat considering Tuivasa-Sheck had recently returned from a serious knee injury.
“In some cases, it takes a fair amount of time for a player to get back to fine form following such a serious injury, but Roger did everything right and ultimately showed great leadership at the back,” said Kidwell.
“He’s a quality young man who was a pleasure to coach and I congratulate him for his impressive performances throughout the NRL season and at the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.”
- CL/Maori TV