The Western Force have added three more players to their 2024 Super Rugby Women’s squad with Hannah Palelei elevated from the Fortescue Academy and Hera-Barb Malcolm Heke and Braxton Walker re-signing.
The front-row trio are the latest to pen deals with the Force, adding to the forward pack that includes Black Ferns duo Harono Te Iringa and Pia Tapsell, new recruit Alapeta Ngauamo, 2022 Rebecca Clough medalist Tamika Jones and Wallaroos lock Michaela Leonard.
The elevation of 23-year-old front-rower Palelei, who plays her club rugby for Wanneroo, comes after she made her Super W debut in Round 2 last year, playing three games in 2023 as a reserve. The exciting local prospect was part of the Force’s inaugural Women’s Academy last year and will continue to grow in the senior squad.
Fearsome Kalamunda hooker Malcolm Heke, who turns 24 next week, debuted for the Force in 2019 and has played 13 games across three campaigns, starting all bar one game over the past two seasons.
Prop Walker, 24, played 15 games in New Zealand from 2017 to 2020 with her provincial side Bay of Plenty, before moving across to Australia, debuting for the Force in Round 1 last season with two games in 2023.
Force head coach Dylan Parsons said: “Hannah is a real young prospect coming up as a front -rower. She’s still pretty new to the game but through her attitude, attention to detail and effort to keep trying to get better, we’re really excited about her potential.
“She’s another front-rower competing for spots with the added experience of a debut last year in Super W. She’s one for the future and one of those we want to see playing for the Wallaroos at the 2029 World Cup.
“Hera-Barb is someone who has been in the program for a number of years now and was our starting hooker for the majority of the season last year.
“She’s one of the most feared defenders in the competition. She can make a highlight reel with her tackles. We’re really excited to be able to reward her efforts over the last couple of years with one of these contracts.
“Braxton got good minutes last year in Super W. She’s in that competitive group to add depth competing across the front-row which is so important to how we want to play.
“The front row is one of the most demanding positions in the team. It is one where you need to depth to compete for spots but also, touch wood, if injuries occur you’ve got good quality to be able to step in and perform at a Super Rugby W level."
The Force open their Super W campaign on Friday March 15 from 4:30pm against the Melbourne Rebels at HBF Park.
Prior to that, the Force women will face Japanese club Tokyo Sankyu Phoenix in two pre-season trial games from Friday 23 February from 4:30pm prior to the Force men’s Super Rugby season opener at HBF Park.
Memberships are on sale now, including the offer of free Junior Memberships.
2024 Western Force Super W squad: Sheree Hume, Tamika Jones, Natsuki Kashiwagi, Saelua Leaula, Nicole Ledington, Michaela Leonard, Hera-Barb Malcolm Heke, Alapeta Ngauamo, Hannah Palelei, Trilleen Pomare, Pia Tapsell, Harono Te Iringa, Braxton Walker, Samantha Wood - Seneti Kilisimasi, Siutiti Ma’ake (PacificAus Sports scholarships)