Fields to Force: Palelei's Journey from Swimmer to SuperW Semi-Finalist

Thu, Apr 18, 2024, 1:30 AM
Rugby WA Media
by Rugby WA Media

A plethora of local women will represent the Western Force in this week’s Buildcorp Super Rugby Women’s Semi-Final. 

As the Western Force compete in their first Buildcorp Super Rugby Women’s final since the team’s inception in 2018, many local girls will have their opportunity to show the incredible talent coming out of Western Australia. 


One of such talents is Hannah Palelei, who made her debut with the Force in 2023. In 2024, Palelei was elevated from the Western Force Academy on a full contract as a front-rower. 

A different journey to most, Hannah was a competitive swimmer for many years, and only began her journey with rugby two years ago, in 2022. 

“I had a lot of family involved in rugby, playing both union and league,” Hannah shared. “I didn’t play, but I was always around it.” 

After taking a break from swimming, Hannah came to rugby with the desire to join a team sport.  

“I started because one of my best friends was involved in rugby, and she was always trying to get me to come down.” 

“I decided to give rugby a go, because I’d been involved in that through my family, and because everyone had always seemed so friendly, and it felt like a big family environment.” 

“I went with my friend to Wests-Scarborough and played 10s, then 15s. From that, I was able to do the preseason with Western Force, and then into the Academy.” 

“I played for Wanneroo last year, as Wests didn’t have a 15s team playing, but this year I’ll be going back to Wests.” 


Making her debut for Western Force while still in the Academy is a highlight of Palelei’s journey with the sport, so far. 

“My greatest memory so far was debuting for the Western Force last year in the third round. I went over to Melbourne with the team as the 24th Reserve, but then one of the girls got sick, so I was a match-day reserve.”  

“I only went on and played for two or three minutes, but it was such an amazing experience, running out on the field at a massive stadium in front of the crowd. It was such an amazing experience, playing for may state, and really made me want to continue to make it professionally, maybe play for the Wallaroos one day.” 


As a born-and-bred Perth local, the opportunity to play for WA through Western Force is important for Hannah. 

“It’s so important to represent WA. I’ve grown up here, I’ve always been a Perth girl, since forever. It’s cool to get to run out for my state.” 

“The Western Force program, and Dylan [Parsons, Western Force SuperW Head Coach], have done a really good job at teaching us about our history, both as a club and a state. We've learnt a lot about the Marlee, which is the symbol for both Western Force and RugbyWA.” 

“Getting to know the history of WA and what we’re representing, it makes it a bit more special to represent the state.” 


Hannah is part of Western Force’s history-making SuperW squad, who will be making their finals debut this Friday April 19, at HFC Bank Stadium in Suva, Fiji. 

“The team is looking so good at the moment, the energy is really good, the girls are all getting around each other Everyone’s effort is there, and we’re all excited to go into the semi-finals.” 

“I’m really excited to play, I’ve never played against Fiji, so this is my first time playing against them. With the help of my teammates on the field, I think we have a good chance at beating them.” 


Being two years into her journey with the game hasn’t stopped Hannah from reaching high and accomplishing incredible feats. Her advice for players like herself? 

“Take every opportunity with both hands. WA is doing a really great job at giving the opportunities for young women to grow in the game. Take every opportunity to grow and take every bit of feedback you can. Take it on board, take every bit of feedback from coaches and teammates.” 

“I’ve had a great support system of coaches, players, family like my Dad who played rugby, and friends. Take as many opportunities as you can that come up.” 

“Just enjoy the game, too. The love of the game makes you passionate and want to play alongside your friends and family. Being passionate gives you drive and makes you want to win, so just love and enjoy the game.” 


The Fortescue Women’s Premier Grade kicks off on May 11, and is set to feature an abundance of Western Force SuperW players in its ranks, including superstars like Hannah Palelei.  

To watch them in action before then, the Buildcorp Super Rugby Women’s Semi-Finals kick off this Friday at 12.35PM, with the Western Force Women taking on Fijian Drua at HFC Bank Stadium in Fiji. 

Registrations are still open for the 2024 rugby season here in WA. To find your local club, head to