But on Monday in Samoa they made history on opposite teams, each captaining their country of heritage in the first ever women’s rugby league 9s competition at the Pacific Games.
Feterika led Samoa onto the field for the opening game of the tournament, hand-in-hand with Nati, who captained the Cook Islands.
It was an extraordinary moment for both women, the most experienced female players in the event alongside New Zealand teammate Luisa Gago, who is also representing Samoa. The other teams in the women’s competition are Fiji, Niue, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands.
“This is my first time representing the Cook Islands in rugby league,” Nati revealed. “It’s really good to be here with all the Pacific islanders. I’m very grateful to be part of it.”
“It’s a special moment for all the young kids back at home. Being raised with nothing they can come here and look up to the ones playing today. I guess it’s just a stepping stone for us women to set that platform to go back home and to develop the sport,” added Nati.
Feterika said representing her Samoan heritage was a significant milestone in her rugby league career. “Every time I put on this jersey it’s like giving back to my parents and my village and our people. There’s so much talent and we need to showcase that talent, especially for Samoa. We need to put that on the map.”
Nati’s Cook Islands edged Feterika’s Samoa 16-12 in a tight opening match of the day, and the Cook Islands captain admitted she was relieved to come out on top in that particular contest. “It was awesome. That was the one team I didn’t want to go down to because I know a lot of them, and Feterika is their go-to woman,” said Nati.
And, despite representing different teams at Samoa 2019, their motivation is shared, according to Nati. “We are all the same in putting God first, one heart and one soul, all Pacific nations coming together as ‘One in Spirit’,” she said.
Cook Islands finished the day on top of their pool with a further win over debutants Solomon Islands, while Samoa also comfortably beat Solomon Islands to finish second. In the other pool, Fiji finished top with wins over PNG and Niue, while PNG edged past Niue to claim second spot.
In Tuesday’s women’s semi-finals, PNG will face Cook Islands and Fiji will play Samoa. The winners of each will progress to the gold medal match and the losers will play for bronze.
In the men’s event PNG and Samoa ended the day as the top two ranked teams, with Fiji and Tonga also in medal contention. In Tuesday’s semi-finals, PNG will play Tonga and Fiji will face off against Samoa. The winners of each will progress to the gold medal match and the losers will play for bronze.
Day two’s action will kick off at 2pm (local time) at Apia Park Stadium. Admission is $5 on the gate, and matches will be broadcast and live streamed.