Waimea Old Boys players Stephani Mitchell, 30 and Jess Foster will represent Bay of Plenty in this year's Farah Palmer Cup national provincial women's rugby competition. Photo Jacob Page

Stephani and Jess to play for Bay of Plenty

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American-born Stephani Mitchell has come a long way from her days at university in Kansas where she walked up to a bunch of women carrying “an odd-shaped ball” and asked what it was for.

Next week the Waimea Old Boys prop and her team-mate, No 8 Jess Foster, will head off to join the Bay of Plenty women’s team in this year’s Farah Palmer Cup national provincial rugby competition.

“I was sick of playing soccer and wanted something new so I saw this group of women carrying around this odd-shaped ball and they told me it was a rugby ball.

“I started playing then and there.”

The 30-year-old met her Kiwi partner while playing the game in Oregon and she has been playing for Waimea for the past four seasons.

She had a friend in Rotorua who was looking for players to face an Australian Invitational team earlier this year and after the match, Stephani was asked to trial for Bay of Plenty.

She dragged Jess along for the ride and both made the cut.

“This is the rugby Mecca of the world,” Stephani says. “I knew I always wanted to play [in New Zealand] at some point but didn’t think it would happen this fast.”

Jess and Stephani will be two of six Tasman women’s players likely to play in the FPC this season.

Jess is a No 8 who will also provide lock and loose-forward cover.

The 24-year-old says she started playing when she was five to keep up with her brother and has loved the game ever since.

Tasman pulled its team from the national competition several years ago but both women would like to see a Tasman team make a comeback. “We have some excellent players here but the only opportunity to improve is to leave the region, so it would be good if there was a pathway for top players to stay put.”