Canada may be seen as the ultimate underdogs at the forthcoming Women’s World Cup, though the Ravens have one experienced ace up their sleeve in the shape of Laura Mariu.
Mariu, who is a three-time World Cup winner with New Zealand, will mark her sixth tournament appearance if she takes to the field against Papua New Guinea on Tuesday.
The 41-year-old rugby league stalwart is the only player to have competed in every Women’s World Cup. However, while her past five tournament appearances came in New Zealand colours, Mariu will represent her mother’s Canadian heritage in the 2022 event.
When asked what sparked the switch in allegiance, she told Love Rugby League: “I had my last test match with the Kiwi Ferns in 2018 against the Jillaroos, the Australian side. Unfortunately, I sustained an injury, I dislocated my shoulder so that put me out.
“Then there was some miscommunication and I never heard back from NZRL. That prompted me to make a decision as to whether I should go elsewhere.
“Fortunately for me, my mum was born in Canada and they gave me an opportunity to represent my mum, to represent Canada. From there, I made contact with the Canada Ravens to start the process.”
How playing for Canada came about
Mariu revealed how the pandemic prevented her from linking up with her new team-mates ahead of the World Cup.
She said: “In this day and age in the women’s game you need an agent. But I just went in direct. I heard about the try-outs and found what the coaches contact details and pretty much made contact from there. That’s pretty much how it all unravelled.
“I didn’t make it to Canada due to Covid and not being allowed out of the country (New Zealand). I actually never met the team or went through the processes of try-outs. It was just a matter of me maintaining game time back home, and following whatever the coaches expected from us.”
Mariu’s first hit-out with the team took place last week as Canada lost 8-6 in a warm-up clash with Ireland.
Looking back at the game, the three-time world champion said: “That was the first time playing with the girls, trying to figure out those combinations, understanding where players play.
“I wasn’t going in with many expectations, I just wanted to get a feel for the team and how I fit in with their style.”
Laura Mariu looking forward to historic sixth World Cup
Mariu is now looking ahead to a historic sixth World Cup outing, though despite Canada’s underdog status, she has urged her side to believe.
“It’s a stepping stone but ultimately when you go into a World Cup situation, you want to win,” she said. “You do whatever you can at whatever cost.
“It’s a difficult one. I’ve been part of campaigns with the Kiwi Ferns when in the early days we were on a winning streak. We won our first three World Cups, and then on the latter end we came second to Australia.
“In terms of Canada, it’s about trying to formulate that belief that anything is possible. With my experiences at World Cup campaigns, it really comes down to who gels the best during that time. It’s a key focus for me coming into this squad.”
Canada Ravens will kick off their campaign against Papua New Guinea at Headingley Stadium on Tuesday, November 1.