NZ captain Krystal Rota announces international retirement

Published by NZRL
26 Sep 2023

Kiwi Ferns captain Krystal Rota has called time on her long and distinguished international career ahead of the upcoming Pacific Championships.

Rota, Kiwi Fern No.124, gave almost a decade of service to the Black and White jersey, and played in the 2017 and 2022 World Cups.

Earning her initial Kiwi Ferns call-up in 2015 for the Kiwi Ferns v Jillaroos 9s match before later debuting off the bench in the Anzac Test, Rota made 15 international appearances for New Zealand.

A dynamic dummy half, Rota cemented her place in the Kiwi Ferns ahead of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup, in which was a mainstay during the tournament and in the Ferns’ gallant defeat to the Jillaroos in the final.

Rota played a crucial role in the 2019 World Cup Nines campaign, which saw the Kiwi Ferns make history, upsetting Australia 17-15 in the final.

She also received captain honours in both 2019 and 2020 to lead the Māori All-Stars against the Indigenous All-Stars.

The veteran’s leadership qualities continued to be recognised in 2020 when she was named Kiwi Ferns’ captain for the end-of-season Test against Fetū Samoa. She subsequently earned Kiwi Ferns’ Player of the Year.

Most recently, Rota led New Zealand in the mid-2022 Test against Tonga and was among the Kiwi Ferns’ most experienced campaigners at the England World Cup later that year.

She played all five matches to ultimately finish her international career with 15 Test caps gained over seven years.

Krystal Rota captained the Kiwi Ferns at RLWC2021 (Getty Images)

GM of High-Performance and Football at NZRL Motu Tony said: "Krystal's retirement from the Kiwi Ferns marks the end of an era, but her impact on the team and rugby league will remain. 

"Her dedication and talent have inspired many players, particularly our young up-and-coming female participants. We are grateful for all she has done for the Kiwi Ferns and rugby league in New Zealand. We wish her the best in her future endeavours.”

The 2017 Auckland Rugby League Player of the Year also featured in the 2018, 2019, and 2022 NRLW seasons for the New Zealand Warriors and Newcastle Knights, earning an NRL Dally M nomination for Women’s Player of the Year in 2018.

In New Zealand, she played for Manurewa Marlin and Papakura Sea Eagles; developing into one of the most prominent players in women’s rugby league and one of the country's great captains in recent years.

She won seven NZRL National Championship titles with the Counties Manukau Stingrays and captained the team to victory in four.

New Zealand fans have had the privilege of seeing Rota in the No.9 jersey and leading the team by example for the past seven years.

Rota fondly reflected on her accomplished time as a Kiwi Fern and Kiwi Ferns captain with a poem:

“An absolute honour & privilege it’s been to wear the Kiwi Fern.
Worn with passion & pride, but now it's someone else's turn.
Memories I'll forever cherish with lifelong friendships made,
The vision of playing at the pinnacle with many legends will never fade.
To represent our beautiful country in the code that I adore,
It's been a dream come true, signing out Kiwi Fern #124.”