TRILLO METALS WOMEN’S CANTERBURY BULLS WELCOME JOSEPH MIKA AS 2024-25 HEAD COACH
Following a highly promising NZRL National Premiership campaign last year, the Trillo Metals Women’s Canterbury Bulls’ 2024 progress will be guided by CRL Women’s Premiership-winning coach Joseph Mika.
Mika, a former Canterbury Bulls rep and Linwood stalwart, coached the Keas’ women’s team in 2023 – culminating in their second straight grand final victory. His elevation to the provincial head coach role comes at an exciting juncture with the women’s rugby league’s flourishing locally, nationally and internationally.
“The game’s growing for the girls and they need experience, they need people in that environment to teach them – they’ve got great skills and motivation, and they’re keen to learn,” Mika enthuses.
“I just wanted to be a part of it. There’s a lot of talent around the clubs and it’s not just coming from the women’s [premiership], it’s coming through the grades as well – 18s, 16s and even 14s, these girls are so talented and can go a long way.
“[We want to] give them the opportunities and resources for them to succeed.
“I’ve been fortunate to be part of [the Keas’] winning streak [as a player] and also having my own wins with the women’s team. I’m looking forward to taking all that experience and energy and putting it into this campaign at the end of the year.”
Mika capped a memorable 2023 season personally by taking up a position on Jed Lawrie’s SENZ Men’s Canterbury Bulls staff for their NZRL National Premiership campaign and picking up the NZ Masters Cup Club Coach of the Year gong at the CRL Awards.
He has stepped down as Linwood’s women’s coach but will continue to help the team during the 2024 club season, as well as assisting with the Keas men’s team’s title defence and coaching Canterbury 13s.
CRL CEO Malcolm Humm underlined Mika’s commitment to furthering his coaching skills as a key element of the appointment as Trillo Metals Women’s Canterbury Bulls coach, which is for two years.
“We have been impressed by Joseph’s coaching in the women’s senior competition in 2023, where he won the grand final with the Linwood Keas, whilst he was also part of the SENZ Men’s Canterbury Bulls coaching team,” Humm says.
“Joseph is a keen learner and this was demonstrated in November, when he was thoroughly engaged in the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs coach and player development clinics held in Christchurch.
“Given the rising status of the women’s game and the opportunities that exist for our wahine, Canterbury Rugby League believe Joseph Mika is the right person to support both individual development and the Trillo Metals Women’s Canterbury Bulls team’s development.”
While the Te Wairau-coached, new-look Trillo Metals Canterbury side went winless in 2023, there were hugely encouraging signs in each performance – particularly in producing outstanding second-half comebacks against Counties-Manukau, Wellington and Auckland Vulcans.
The valuable experience gained by a host of representative rookies will put last season’s squad members at the forefront of the selection discussion, though Mika emphasises there is plenty of scope for more newcomers to debut for the Trillo Metals Women’s Canterbury Bulls in 2024.
“[The 2023 players] will definitely be considered again this year and [I’m] hearing through the grapevine there are women coming from other codes as well to give the game a go,” he says.
“I’m excited to get out there and watch the talent and see what the clubs have got to offer.”
Mika is confident the team is capable of closing the gap on the traditional powerhouses from Auckland as early as this season.
If the Trillo Metals Women’s Canterbury Bulls can nail the basics, he says, the level of natural talent in their ranks will make them a formidable proposition for any opponent.
“My style of coaching is to have that culture, that safe environment, get everyone to trust each other – the players trusting the coaches as well and feeling comfortable.
“It’s all about doing the small things right. It’s not about the big plays or fancy stuff, it’s the one-percenters on the field and at training as well … catch-pass, play-the-ball, tackles.
“If we do those things, we have an opportunity throughout the game to score good tries and win some games.
“Auckland have been the leaders for a while now and I think it’s time for our women to get to that point and win some games. It all starts from training and I’m here to win, I don’t want anything less – we’ve just got to do the small things right and we’ll gradually get better.”
Meanwhile, Mika is still buzzing from the experience of assisting the SENZ Men’s Canterbury Bulls cause in September and October last year.
It provided him with the confidence to throw his hat into the ring for the head coach responsibilities with the women’s provincial side.
“I thought Jed hit the bottom of the barrel when he asked me, to be honest,” Mika jokes.
“I was overwhelmed and so excited … the experience, especially with Andrew Auimatagi there and Jed obviously, Corey Lawrie, we had all these quality coaches and players in the Bulls.
“Unfortunately we didn’t get the results but I learned so much off Andrew, Corey and Jed – different coaches, but what I took in last year I’ll be taking into this [Trillo Metals Women’s Canterbury Bulls] campaign and I’m blessed to have had that opportunity.
“It’s one of the reasons why I took on this role.”