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Kennedy Cherrington Player Diary: Game day rituals

Hi, everyone! Kennedy Cherrington here from the New Zealand Maori Ferns. I'll be sending through a daily wrap-up of everything happening in Harvey Norman All Stars camp!

It's officially game day! After a great week our attention now turns to the footy.

Game days for me have varied over the years. I used to have this overwhelming anxiety before playing in the NRLW but have learned to calm my nerves.

With our game scheduled for 5.20pm we had a bit of an extra sleep in this morning before our RAT test and some breakfast. 

I usually pack my bag the night before a game to make sure I've got everything.

My two priorities are always my boots and mouthguard because I figure you can still play and get everything else somehow if you forget something.

The girls are ready!
The girls are ready! ©Kennedy Cherrington

The rest of my bag will have headphones, apple watch, some bands, a drink bottle, a jacket, towel and a rain jacket. I've learned in the cold weather that one jacket isn't enough.

I take my wallet and I always have a muesli bar in my bag. Botille Vette-Welsh always brings a packet of salt into camp for dinner.

She's been doing it since her rugby sevens days to ensure she has enough salt in her system.

I put my phone on do not disturb and just listen to music all day. Old school RnB and rap are my go-to music. 

After the morning is sorted we go on a team walk and play a few games to help the girls relax before coming back for lunch and a bit of a coach's talk before we start to get dressed and into game mode. 

When we get to the ground I take my headphones out and go for a walk on the field to relax.

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Visualisation for me is everything so I picture myself making a tackle or scoring a try.

After a game I'm buzzing, even after a loss. I can't sleep and it takes me ages to wind down. 

I can't eat straight away especially bread. I might have a few lollies or gatorade but after a few hours I'll be starving. 

I reach out to my family as soon as I can after a game because there's usually heaps of messages waiting for me.

Anyway, I hope you've enjoyed my bit of intel this week. I'm super excited for tonight.

We have so much respect for the Indigenous girls and know they will be tough to beat tonight.

Enjoy the game and see you out there!


Day 4

We started off Friday morning with a cultural learning session, splitting into four groups - coaches included - where we spoke about four different words and what they mean to us.

It was awesome to see our extended staff, including our security guards, be involved. 

The four words are;

  • Kaitiakitanga - guidianship
  • Tikanga - Customs and Traditional values
  • Whakaiti - Humility
  • Waka - Vessel

We then explored three questions for each;

  • What do they mean?
  • Someone who displays this?
  • How can we ensure this stays amongst our group, how do we keep it growing?
Our group word was Kaitiakitanga, meaning guardianship.
Our group word was Kaitiakitanga, meaning guardianship. ©Kennedy Cherrington

Following the session we attended the NSW Centre of Excellence at Olympic Park for our captain's run (final training of the week) to tick some last-minute boxes before the game.

Captain's run is a lighter session than usual. Our captain, Corban Baxter, attended a media call involving our opposition, the Indigenous All Stars, to build up the game.

Following training, we had the remainder of the afternoon off.

Catch you tomorrow for a final update and to talk all things game day!


Day 3

After a couple of busy days in camp, we were given the day off to relax on Thursday, although some players were also given the option to go for a kick, the gym, or get some fresh air outside.

We immersed ourselves in some more cultural sessions which includes practicing our waiata performance on Saturday.

We're still yet to give it a name but will do soon. Last year we composed a waiata for our team. This year we've built on it and added actions.

Practice makes perfect!
Practice makes perfect! ©Kennedy Cherrington

The waiata talks about our journey as strong Wahine Toa, reminding us that wherever we go and do in life our bloodline cannot be tampered with.

This is the strong connection between our Maori heritage and our existence.

I'm finding that a lot of people are coming out of their shells more as the week goes on.

There's a lot more confidence around cultural understanding (including myself) which has been so amazing to see.

Around camp there are plenty of board and card games to play while plenty of the girls like to check in with their family and friends on their days off.

My preference on normal days off at home, if we're being honest, is to stay in bed all day but that's probably not the right answer here.

Enjoying downtime with Bo.
Enjoying downtime with Bo. ©Kennedy Cherrington

I love watching Netflix and look to drink as much as water as I can throughout the day.

I also have a pool now so I look to recover a lot and I've got massage guns that are helpful and rollers when I'm not too sore.

I'm a neat freak, I don't know why but my thing is I want to come back to a clean space after a game, especially if we lose.

One of the things I do avoid on my day's off is online shopping with things like clothes because I get scared something isn't going to fit.

I don't really shop, I'd rather put money elsewhere. I'm more of a window shopper.

I like to go back three or four times and then probably buy it.

I also hate food shopping, my mum is the food shopper. She does it online for me and then I go and pick it up from the local shopping centre.

Thankfully, we're being fed very well in here so food hasn't been a problem.

Tomorrow is our final day of training so I'll touch base again!


Day 2

After a jam-packed couple of days in camp, we kick-started our Wednesday with another early start that included a 6:00am RAT test and some breakfast.

With training scheduled in the afternoon, we had some time off in the morning to hang out in our team room before having a cultural session through to lunch.

These sessions are extremely important for bringing our team together and connecting us on a level to get us prepared for the game. A lot of girls have played alongside each other but with some new faces in the squad it's important to make them feel just as comfortable to express themselves.

Learning the Waiata.
Learning the Waiata. ©Stephenie Spooner/NZ Maori

Following an early lunch, we hit the training paddock.

Usually, for the NRLW we'd get to training at least an hour before we get onto the field if we can, check-in and have to have a COVID-19 test and get our temperature checked.

It's a little different being in camp.

We'll touch base as a group in a common grass area to prep for training with injury prevention – bands, rollers and tennis balls. Players will get strapped and massaged if they need but I don't usually need to (touch wood) so I just get my body loose.

We'll meet as a team again and go through some fun warm-up drills.

It all goes for about an hour.

When we get on the field we have a brief of what the aim of the session is. Training can go for two to three hours depending on how heavy the session is and if it includes gym and recovery.

After training the team is booked in for a massage while a couple of girls are heading off for a promotion at Harvey Norman which should be good.

I love our team and seeing everyone because we're so close already.

The culture and team morale are thriving and we're ready to rip in because the game on Saturday is such a massive occasion.

We have the day off from training on Thursday but there's plenty of things happening with our cultural learnings so stay tuned!

©NRL Photos

Day 1

We came into camp on Monday afternoon with a mix of new players and familiar girls from last year which was really good.

I'm particularly looking forward to spending the week getting to know Katelyn Vaha'akolo. We'd been friends on TikTok for ages but have never played alongside each other before so keep an eye out on our socials!

Coming into camp is an awesome feeling. We're very well looked after and the schedule focuses on not only the game ahead but our cultural identity. Our team room consists of plenty of space and we've got a table tennis table to ensure we're always occupied.

We were also lucky enough to have an online learning session with Therabody as soon as we came into camp, who have provided us with theraguns for the week. Theraguns help with recovery and performance and it was particularly interesting to hear the frequency they should be used.

Our Taonga.
Our Taonga. ©Kennedy Cherrington

After the session we got presented our Taonga by our Maori staff in camp and it was a special moment. They represent the strength and unity within our team and whanau (family).

It's a bit of a different camp this year with the COVID-19 restrictions in place. We must undergo two rapid antigen tests a day – one between 5-6am and one in the afternoon post-training.

On Tuesday morning, we attended the Sydney Zoo in western Sydney for an official welcoming ceremony with all four teams.

We performed the Karanga Aotearoa, a Calling to New Zealand, as part of the ceremony. After that, we got to feed some animals before going back to camp to prepare for training.

Katelyn, Rangi-Marie, Autumn-Rain and I at the zoo.
Katelyn, Rangi-Marie, Autumn-Rain and I at the zoo. ©Kennedy Cherrington

Training and diet go hand-in-hand in the game so I made sure I ate the right food before hitting the field. I'm usually quite simple with diet but it's definitely something I've got better with since being in the NRLW. I already knew what to do but it was around paying my body a bit more respect.

When in camp we are fortunate to have food provided so we can schedule our eating around training. I don't do protein shakes unless it's in camps and just drink a lot of water.

Most mornings I have either Nutri-Grain or overnight oats with berries and yogurt for breakfast. Then I look to have a 'double lunch' and I'll snack with a peanut butter sandwich or muesli bars, and then have lunch — anything with rice, whether it's chicken, beef or tuna.

Spaghetti bolognaise is my go-to for dinner but I also like chicken caesar salad, tuna pasta and lasagne.

Nita and I did some promo work at Channel Nine studios.
Nita and I did some promo work at Channel Nine studios. ©Parra Digital

As props we love carbs and I'm not going to lie after a game we love a cheat meal!

For me, it's gotta be McDonalds... my ultimate meal (look away, mum) is a large quarter pounder meal with no pickles, no onions, steamed bun with a coke and large fries. I might even add an extra chicken and cheeseburger and apple pie.

Catch you tomorrow for another update!


Acknowledgement of Country

Parramatta Eels respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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