'Really special': Joseph gets Black Ferns contract

Matatū's Maia Joseph (centre) has been awarded her first Black Ferns contract. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Matatū's Maia Joseph (centre) has been awarded her first Black Ferns contract. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Maia Joseph was almost speechless when she picked up the phone.

It is easy to understand why when Black Ferns coach Allan Bunting is on the other end of the line offering the Otago Spirit back her first Black Ferns contract.

‘‘It was definitely surprising - I wasn’t expecting it,’’ Joseph told the Otago Daily Times.

‘‘You don’t really know what to say. Overall, just really special and surprising and exciting.

‘‘All I knew is I wanted to call my parents and talk to them about it.’’

All Black Jamie Joseph in 1993. Photo: Allsport UK/ALLSPORT
All Black Jamie Joseph in 1993. Photo: Allsport UK/ALLSPORT
The 21-year-old picked up the phone to her parents Mandy and Jamie Joseph, the former All Black turned coach who is now head of rugby at the Highlanders.

And they had a similar reaction to their daughter, sharing in her excitement.

It has been a rocky road for Joseph to get to this point.

The former Columba College pupil grew up in Dunedin and played club rugby for University and Dunedin.

Joseph, who has also represented New Zealand in touch, made her Farah Palmer Cup debut for the Spirit in 2020 and played for the Chiefs Manawa in the inaugural Super Rugby Aupiki campaign in 2022, before she tore her (knee ligaments) ACL and MCL later that year.

It ruled her out of Super Rugby in 2023, but after a lot of hard work behind the scenes she returned to the field for the Spirit last year, played for the Black Ferns XV, and then debuted for Matatū this season.

‘‘I obviously had big goals coming back from that injury and worked really hard," she said. 

‘‘For it all to come true is pretty special - really proud of that. But I think it’s definitely been a goal for a long time... I’m just really happy and really grateful to be given the opportunity.’’

Maia Joseph is excited about the prospect of playing at halfback. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Maia Joseph is excited about the prospect of playing at halfback. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Joseph, who has put her education on hold but was studying medicine and based in Christchurch for a placement, spent the start of her career at halfback but made the switch to first five for the Spirit in recent years.

She reverted to halfback for Matatū this season and the Black Ferns were keen to see her develop into a world-class No 9.

Having both positions in her repertoire was important, but Joseph was excited about the prospect of returning to her roots.

‘‘I’m excited to kind of switch back into that position, but also definitely keeping 10 ticking on in the background. It’s a definitely a position I want to have, I guess, up my sleeve.

‘‘I also just enjoy both positions a lot. They’re very different, so it kind of keeps the game pretty exciting for me.’’

Black Ferns assistant coach Tony Christie said Joseph was an exciting addition to the squad and impressed when training with the Black Ferns during WXV 1 last year.

‘‘She’s not shy on hard work, really knowledgeable about the game, but obviously the most exciting part is her skillset,’’ Christie said.

‘‘Her ability to get the ball into the hands of the forwards and the backs really quickly, her speed to ruck and she’s got an excellent kicking game.

‘‘The other thing that we saw... is she’s actually a really tough person. Although smaller by stature, she definitely doesn’t lack any intent in there.

‘‘We’re really excited about her.’’

Hooker Atlanta Lolohea (Matatū), first five Hannah King (Hurricanes Poua), halfback Kahlia Awa and lock Maama Vaipulu (both Blues) have also received their first contracts.

The Black Ferns will play in the Pacific Four series starting next month and the WXV 1 in Canada later in the year.



Black Ferns contracted players

Alana Bremner, Aldora Itunu, Amy du Plessis, Amy Rule, Ariana Bayler, Atlanta Lolohea, Ayesha Leti-I’iga, Awhi Tangen-Wainohu, Charmaine Smith, Chelsea Bremner, Chryss Viliko, Georgia Ponsonby, Grace Steinmetz, Hannah King, Iritana Hohaia, Joanah Ngan Woo, Kahlia Awa, Kaipo Olsen-Baker, Kate Henwood, Katelyn Vahaakolo, Kennedy Simon, Liana Mikaele-Tu’u, Layla Sae, Sylvia Brunt, Lucy Jenkins, Luka Connor, Leaso Grace Gago Tiatia, Maama Vaipulu, Maia Joseph, Maiakawanakaulani Roos, Marcelle Parkes, Mererangi Paul, Monica Tagoai, Patricia Maliepo, Renee Holmes, Ruahei Demant, Ruby Tui, Santo Taumata, Sophie Fisher, Tanya Kalounivale